Article excerpt

The purpose of this symposium is to present research related to the teaching of dance in higher education. All three papers make use of ethnographic tools of observation and/or interviewing in order to describe and analyze dance teaching. Two papers examine ideas, attitudes, and knowledge underlying teachers' decisions about what and how to teach dance. The third paper describes a common approach to dance teaching which the author suggests may foster negative outcomes. The content of this symposium may be significant in helping dance teachers in higher education reexamine their own teaching practice and the ideas and knowledge underlying it.

Modern Dance Teaching:

A Case Study in Negative Reinforcement

This paper presents findings from a research study on the teaching of modern dance technique, undertaken at Teachers College, Columbia University in 1991. The case study focused on the behavior of a male modern dancer teaching dance technique in the context of a college dance program for young adult students. It was assumed that such teaching approaches might be typical or common in dance. The collection of data for the study was based on the observation and audio-taping of four dance technique classes, one videotaped class, a taped interview with the teacher, and interviews with three of his students. The teacher's verbal and physical behaviors in the videotaped class were analyzed and compared to stated and implied pedagogical goals. Student behavior and feedback were also noted and interpreted. The pedagogical paradigms suggested by Mossten (1972) formed a basis for analysis. As might be expected, the teacher declared that his goal was to support the creative development of the dancer as artist and individual. This goal, the researcher argues, suggests the use of student-centered teaching modes. The findings on the teacher's verbal behavior were as follows: comments in the imperative mode -- 27; as negative feedback -- 21; as positive feedback -- 3. Thus, the teacher's behaviors fell predominantly within the "Command mode," or teacher/content-centered styles of pedagogy. Further, his feedback to students was overwhelmingly negative rather than positive. The findings from this case study suggest that typical approaches to the teaching of dance technique may not support the creative and personal development of dance students, but may rather foster dependency and conformity, and promote the formation of negative self-concepts.

The Convergence of Ballet and Modern Dance:

Ideas, Attitudes, and Methods

This paper examines the thoughts and attitudes about the convergence of ballet and modern dance by presenting the viewpoints of three ballet teachers. It also presents some of the methods employed by these ballet teachers to incorporate modern dance training aspects into ballet class. All participants were professional dancers and have taught advanced dancers on the college level. Rather than present hypotheses to be proven, this study's intention was to consider each individual's point of view as their own. An interpretive methodology was employed; the teachers were interviewed individually by the researcher. The interviews focused on questions that allowed the teachers to discuss their thoughts on the increasing affinity of ballet and modern dance and to speak about why and how they assimilated the two techniques in a ballet class. Several pre-determined questions were used as a framework for conversation during the interviews. However, through the use of dialogue, the interviewees were allowed to emphasize those aspects which they considered important. Tape recordings of the interviews were transcribed and used as the primary source of this ethnographic research. The data was analyzed and organized into these three categories: the ballet teachers' opinions on why the convergence was occurring, their reasons for adopting modern dance training concepts into ballet class, and some specific modern dance training aspects they incorporated. …