Making Connections: Improving Movement Skills by Integrating Knowledge from Dance Disciplines
Howton, Amy D., JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance
Dance specialist Rebecca Enghauser (2003) has emphasized that, in the dance class, motor learning begins when the student replicates the movements presented. Demonstration is usually a necessary accompaniment to verbal instructions, suggesting that dancers routinely engage in multiple learning styles, including visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. Enghauser also addressed "random practice," where movement appears in different combinations that then produce better and longer-lasting skill learning. Therefore, relating similar movement from different disciplines should help produce long-term learning. The analysis required when processing these similar, although perhaps outwardly different, movements provides additional and more enduring learning opportunities.
In recent years, there has been a greater focus on standards. National dance standard four for K-12 (National Dance Association, 1996) calls for students to apply and demonstrate "critical and creative thinking skills in dance" (pp. 21, 25, 30). The national standards are often used in private as well as public school settings. The Center for Teaching Excellence at George Mason University (n.d.) states that students who are good critical thinkers "engage with the subject matter in a number of ways" and are "informed by multiple inputs." Clearly, connection-making is improved by examining similar material in different ways, and critical thinking has been identified as a necessary skill for both dancers and athletes.
So what should the educator think about when teaching a specific technique, such as ballet or jazz, to a student who is also learning another dance form, such as hip-hop or modern? It is crucial to know what the student is learning, has learned, or will soon learn in the other disciplines. How do different disciplines approach particular movement skills and philosophies? It is important to help the student make connections among disciplines, instead of expecting these connections to happen automatically.
Educators are sometimes deflected from seeing the similarities in various movement approaches because, at first glance, they do not appear to be similar. This is especially problematic if the educator is not equally grounded in multiple disciplines. Stylistic attributes may obscure the similarities between a standing ballet movement, for example, and a seated movement in modern dance. Table 1 makes some connections among major disciplines, including some sports, and also suggests exercises that could be adapted from one technique to another in order to help students with the critical-thinking process of making connections across disciplines. For the suggested exercises that are similar, the educator might focus on the differences, such as how a student could treat a plie in heels differently from one in ballet slippers or bare feet. This process becomes more complicated when the student is engaged in an activity other than dance. It is, of course, unrealistic to expect the dance teacher to be knowledgeable in all possible forms of human movement. However, some basic connections should be made.
Table 1. Movement Connections Among Major Disciplines Ballet Modern Dance Jazz Dance Other Movement Plie/character Plie, often in Plie in shoes Lunging for ball plie parallel with heels (tennis, position baseball), squats (weight training) Battement tendu Brush, turned Brush Pointing foot in out or parallel floor exercise or on a balance beam (gymnastics) Rond de jambe/rond Traveling leg Fan kicks Roundhouse kicks de jambe en circles; (martial arts) tournant; skitters developpe en ronde; renverse Arabesque--use of Back-leg Back Balance beam, barre, pique and extension extension--low rhythmic penchee, grand (Graham exercise and high gymnastics battement and that develops brushes developpe en the extension to arriere the back while sitting on the floor), cave turns Pas de bourree Grapevine Jazz pas de Grapevine (line bourree dancing, folk dance) Waltz Triplet Jazz triple Waltz (Cajun (Giordano); dance, ballroom cha-cha dance) Attitude--RAD Seated Seated Gymnastics barre exercise fourth-position fourth-position exercises exercises and stretches Turns--various Turns using body Turns from/in Spin kicks turned-out weight as parallel; use of (martial arts), positions and impulse ball-change in spins (ice preparations preparation skating, snow-boarding, throwing) Sissonne; Bent-leg jumps Leaps and Long jump, pole assemble turning jumps vault Grand jete; saut Leaps (various Leaps (various Leaps (ice de chat bent-and bent-and skating, straight-leg straight-leg gymnastics, combinations) combinations) hurdles)
It is not always possible to present a variety of exercises from different styles during one class, or even on successive days, and all the students in a class will not have the same experiences, especially if they are taking classes at different studios. …