The Learning Spiral
‘The Learning Spiral ’ is a report by Annette van Zwoll on Janet Smith’s intervention at European Dancehouse Network Atelier on Dance Training, organised at Dance Ireland in Dublin on 29/30 June 2018.
‘All the work I do is missionary’
Janet Smith – director of Northern School of Contemporary Dance, Leeds, Great Britain
The Northern School of Contemporary Dance’s mission is to provide different pathways to enable aspiring dance artists, regardless of background or personal circumstances, to shape the future of dance. The NSCD is the only UK conservatoire for dance outside of London, and to fully commit to it’s mission, it has set up an as innovative as effective model to reach potential dance artists way beyond the obvious target groups and support them from pre-vocational training to post graduation. This long-term commitment is called the Learning Spiral, and is a continuous growing and widening body of artists and activities that are all intertwined and connected.
It starts with the Centre for Advanced Training (CAT) that aims to: ‘help identify and assist children with exceptional potential, regardless of their personal circumstances, to benefit from world-class specialist training as part of a broad and balanced education. This will enable them, if they choose to proceed towards self-sustaining careers in dance’
The CAT scheme was launched in 2004 and offers pre-vocational dance training to 13-17 years old. Dance experience is not necessary; enthusiasm, talent, drive, ambition, commitment and determination are the main requirements. Eight hours a week (2 evenings and Saturday), the youngsters receive a highly qualitative dance training focusing on technique, creative dance and choreography, performance, dance health and well being and cultural activities such as theatre and gallery trips, workshops and volunteering opportunities. Successful applicants are able to access highly specialist dance training, whilst continuing living at home. The best thing is: The CAT schemes are funded and free of charge, therefore open to all. And the CAT scheme is performed on a national level, with 12 institutions involved, so also geographically in reach for all as well.
Although usually NSCD expects 80% of the students of CAT to access conservatoire or vocational training, the CAT scheme mainly aims at making talented youngsters aware of their talent and giving them chances to be part of a professional dance education, which can help them in their further careers, whatever they may choose. But how to reach that talent in the first place? (Former) Students of CAT are actively engaged in the Widening Participation Model. They go and teach workshops in schools, and will give out ‘you’ve been spotted’ cards. These cards are a recognition of a kid’s talent and an invitation to apply to the CAT scheme. It’s a way of helping talent coming through. At the same time, activities of CAT are made visible in the different localities by side specific and outdoor projects. An example of this was ‘The Boys project’ in which the male dancers of CAT were presenting mostly urban dance in a shopping mall, connecting to youngsters there and making them aware of the existence of CAT. This peer-to-peer approach has proved to be very effectively.
After the CAT-scheme students can enter a one-year access course in preparation of an in-depth professional study. It focuses on technique, creative and performance experiences, critical and reflective practices and independent study skills. Also here, the connection with secondary schools is intensive, with students providing workshops at schools and with schools coming to performances.
From that, the spiral continues into an undergraduate provision; a 3-year BA programme focusing on the development of versatile, individual dance artists. The BA contains of 5 curriculum strands: technique, creative practice, performance, research and teaching. These students are invited regularly to teach in the CATscheme.
Part of the philosophy of the Learning Spiral is to help and nourish students after their graduation as well. Postgraduates have several pathways to choose. The postgraduate company Verve yearly exists of 14 dances, offering them experience with a wide repertoire of different aesthetics, a broad range of choreographers and national and international touring. Within the company, there is an acceleration of learning and a sharpening of one’s own voice, due to the different aesthetics and working methods offered. NSCD also organizes postgraduate apprenticeships with partner dance companies on a national and international level. The students can follow an apprenticeship that creates possible job opportunities.
Last but not least, NSCD offers a one full-year MA dance & creative enterprise or 2-year part-time programme for graduates as well as professionals on various stages of their career to gain a broader perspective on the arts sector, realise their ideas and find potential markets for their work.
Again, students in the post-graduating pathways are invited to teach at the CATscheme or the BA. This is part of the spiralling: on every level student teach on other levels. This not only enhances ones teaching capabilities, but also creates a vital community of peers, a local ground for dance and body of dance activities that are all intertwined. This way, on a local level, NSCD co-creates an environment for dance artists to stay and strive.
Practicing Dance: A Somatic Orientation
‘Practicing Dance: A Somatic Orientation’ is a report by Annette van Zwoll on Jenny Coogan’s intervention at European Dancehouse Network Atelier on Dance Training, organised at Dance Ireland in Dublin on 29/30 June 2018.
‘Somatic practice to dance students it what vegetables are to children’
Jenny Coogan, professor contemporary dance at the Palucca Hochschule Dresden, Germany
Apart from being an experienced choreographer, dancer, researcher and contemporary dance teacher, Coogan has been a certified teacher of the Feldenkrais Method (FM). She is using FM as a practice and creative catalyst in both dance facilitating and dance making. Within the Palucca Hochschule Dresden she conducted, together with a team, a research to find out the potential for the coexistence of a Feldenkrais pedagogical oriented practice alongside the existing training of conservatory institutions.
Throughout one academic year, she implemented five phases in blocks of 4 to 12 weeks, in which slowly strategies of FM became part of regular (daily) technique classes and workshops. The research team started from the similarities of FM with technique classes: both are built on permutations resulting from variation and repetition and the act of questioning is of high importance to both.
At Palucca, it was the first time teaching and research took place simultaneously. Where the first phase was focused on the introduction of Feldenkrais and on slowly getting the students to get to know the concept behind it, the fifth phase researched FM as a choreographic tool. Throughout the study there was a focus on bodily awareness, an enrichment of the anatomical principles, self-reflection, autonomy and collaboration and this build-up of knowledge was used as a toolbox to create work.
Especially at first, there was a high resistance of students to FM. The study challenged the students to deal with novel situations in terms of class structure, personal relationships, expectations for studio practice, the nature of the movement material, and individual decision-making processes. A thread throughout the study was finding novelty in repetition. Although repetition in dance training is ever-present, within this study the students were invited to experiment with energy expenditure and create awareness on the impact of ease, lightness and pleasure. They were invited to attune their own movement, to listen to information received through their sensorimotor, to move with intention, to reduce tempo and force, to find nuances, to shift their focus from goals to experimentation, to trust their own thoughts and be open to uncertainty. The teacher – student language was fuelled with questions that aimed for the students to make their own informed choices. Although the physical material was often considered too slow, too detailed and unsatisfying, the most frustrations came from this different mental state that was provoked: the constant focus on self-reflection, self-learning and self-direction was considered mentally tiring. At times students responded to questioning with phrases such as “Tell me what you want!”. The students encountered discomfort as their familiar modes of practice were disrupted. But fourteen out of the nineteen students persevered and the appreciation grew, and was especially noticeable after a moment of free time from school, e.g. after a holiday:
“When we were doing a lot of Feldenkrais in that period of time I didn‘t find it beneficial at all. But now coming back and distancing myself from it, I can actually see how it helps me and why certain things are easier now. But unfortunately at that time I was just not so into it, now I appreciate it a lot more. I think other people might feel the same.” (student)
“I had some really strong sensations about it. But now… It just feels really nice and normal and I’ve integrated it in my body. I even feel more when I do really physical things, like in other classes.” (student)
FM, and somatics in general, takes you out of your normalcy, while you are not being sure what the value will be. But the applied research made the students engage with dance from multiple perspectives and evoked them to make their own informed choices. Through time, this generative power was recognised and valued by the students. Now, they tell the younger students to hang in there and not to give up, because it will be worth it in the end.
More on this can be read in the recent publication, Practicing Dance: A Somatic Orientation (Logos Verlag Berlin) (link to: https://www.logos-verlag.de/cgi-bin/engbuchmid?isbn=4213&lng=deu&id=)
Three spheres of activity
‘Three spheres of activity’ is a report by Annette van Zwoll on John Jasperse’ intervention at European Dancehouse Network Atelier on Dance Training, organised at Dance Ireland in Dublin on 29/30 June 2018.
‘Develop and nurture a creative community, that’s the most important thing’
John Jasperse, director of Sarah Lawrence College – New York
Having been a student there once himself and turned into an experienced and recognised choreographer, John Jasperse took over the role as director of dance at the undergraduate and graduate program of the Sarah Lawrence College (SLC), in Yonkers, one of the suburbs of New York. Founded in 1926 as a women’s college, Sarah Lawrence has always been a liberal arts, but class-based, college highly influenced by the theories of John Dewey, who aimed for experimental learning and critical thinking. What does that mean in current days? Current days, in which dance companies and performances are in decline, but in which dance has become increasingly popular through competitions like ‘so you think you can dance’. Current days in which dance artists embrace not only a huge variety of aesthetics but also increasingly develop socially engaged practices, present in non-traditional spaces and work with a multitude of disciplines. Current days in which dance artists are faced with a neo-liberal, economical driven context and face less and less security.
SLC is aiming to be of relevance for students now and in the future. Therefore Jasperses aim is to educate students in three spheres of activity that are all intertwined: as a producer of artistic work, as a participant in the labour economy and as a citizen of the world. But how to do that? A lot seems to come from acknowledgement. Acknowledgment:
- that students will exist in a very different, dynamic professional field than the teachers have knowledge of.
- that students are longing for different kind of dance aesthetics, and the acknowledgement of the hierarchy that currently exists between them.
- of the history of the different dance aesthetics, the broadness of cultural appropriation and influence of imperialism and colonialism.
- of a changing demography of students in terms of class and cultural background (e.g. in 2034 the US is anticipated to become a ‘majority-minority’ nation, meaning that no single ethnic group will form a minority anymore)
The ambitions of Jasperse are high and his enthusiasm contagious. In everything he does he tries to touch upon all those three spheres. With that he aims to implement the guiding principles of including multiple, diverse traditions, of having interdisciplinarity in focus, of empowerment of the students individual and creative voices, of encouraging self reflection and critical thinking and catalysing new forms of knowledge. He tries to intertwine those in all parts of the curriculum and by doing so nurture individual voices as well as creating a community. Practically this results in:
- The restructuring of the curriculum by decreasing hierarchies between genres: contemporary dance, ballet, African diasporic dance, somatically based forms, but also butoh, hip-hop, vogue and bharatanatyam are taught and given equal importance.
- Creating synergy between movement practice, creative work and analytic studies; apart from the movement courses ,history, anatomy, dance theory and pedagogy classes are given as well as improvisation & composition classes and dance & media (e.g. lightning) classes. There is a strong commitment to placing equal focus on artists and arts from Euro-centric and the African Diaspora and Global South traditions.
- A focus on the relation to other disciplines by supporting interdisciplinarity and nurturing the potential of working with other art forms as well as encouraging students to think and work beyond the boundaries of the traditional theatre space.
- Capitalizing on the asses of the location: the proximity of New York allows SLC to interface with the local dance scene and artistic communities, and at the same time it makes it easy to invite national and international artists from different dance aesthetics and disciplines. Also, the presence in Yonkers invites the students to explore dance in innovative ways to cross-historical class and racial barriers.
- Investing in the practical aspects of making it work: grant writing, budgeting, project planning, funding outreach, social media.
The complexities of implement a model are high and lay among others in the size of the institution, that offers many programs partly competing with one and other, practicalities and the tension of organizing an intense MFA for only six students while at the same time implementing this model for the undergraduate program that is available to all students. But the internal culture is changing and there is a strong wish to be relevant for the current and future dance sector and for educating students into the three spheres of action.
Facilitating meta-learning in somatic yoga
‘Facilitating meta-learning in somatic yoga’ is a report by Annette van Zwoll on Caroline Ribbers’ intervention at European Dancehouse Network Atelier on Dance Training, organised at Dance Ireland in Dublin on 29/30 June 2018.
‘I don’t know yet’ Caroline Ribbers
What if you don’t know? You try to find out. While being active in the Dutch dance field as co-ordinator of the Master Choreography in Tilburg, choreographer and dancer, Caroline Ribbers got pregnant and got a baby girl named Nova. Nova was diagnosed with a heart deficiency and Ribbers stopped all her professional activity at first. A life changing experience and when Nova got better, a new career lay ahead of her. Currently, Ribbers mixes her work as somatic yoga teacher and re-designer of the curriculum for Fontys Dance Academy in Tilburg, the Netherlands, with a PhD reseach.
The research pivots around the pedagogical problem: how to empower students to take ownership in somatic yoga? How to facilitate meta-learning (learning about learning, autonomous learningbeing aware and taking control over one’s own process, autonomous)?
To stay of relevance for a work-field that demands much more self-regulation and initiative, Fontys is in the process of developing a new curriculum that shifts its focus from a teacher and outcome centred paradigm to a student development paradigm. The five core principles are focus on a whole person development, working healthy, craftsmanship, education in motion and an inclusive learning environment. These principles also imply students responsibility and ownership of learning. Ribbers research therefore not only relates to her somatic yoga classes, but can be a possible methodology implemented in the whole curriculum.
Ribbers designed a prototype that she will repeatedly test and sharpen within her educational settings of Fontys.
Introducing meta-learning carefully and progressively
- be creating a safe learning environment
- by alternating between learning subject (the student) & subject of learning approach (the learning system)
- by alternating between implicit and explicit meta learning (exploration between making the meta-learning explicitly visible through e.g. feedback sessions and assessments or weaving it through more subtle and gentle)
Connecting somatic yoga to other curricular activities
Somatic yoga was not part of the curriculum, but is becoming so. The aim is to have it function as a practice of meta-learning which the students can also implement in their other classes.
Somatic yoga self-learning tool-kit
How that will look like is still to be decided upon, but you can think of concept maps, visuals and learning strategies based on the principles and philosophies from somatic yoga that can be applied by the learner as best suited to him/her.
Creating a witness within yourself that can step back, doesn’t get carry away and watch over oneself with distance. Challenges: how to introduce students to it and how to apply it in teaching practices?
A peer meta-learning strategy
Facilitating an environment in which peers foster meta-learning and share their somatic self-learning strategies and reflect on it without the teacher being involved.
The testing of the prototype has just started and so far it has been challenging to put learning about learning on the foreground. Students expect something within the context of this institution and have to address skills that are normally not addressed within the educational system. Changing the culture and way of working goes slow, even with the principles of the new curriculum set out, but the facilitation of Fontys of this research underlines the importance given to it. There is still a lot uncertain, but Ribbers is patient, takes her time, and keeps returning back to the process to gain more and more info.
New Board of Directors
The General Assembly decides in Düsseldorf to elect Pia Krämer, from O Espaço do Tempo Montemor-o-Novo, as new President. Paul-Eric Labrosse, Bettina Masuch, Hazel Hodgins, Roberto Casarotto, Marc Olivé and Kerstin Evert are also elected as Board members.
The network celebrates the last conference of the EU funded project. Organized by tanzhaus nrw Düsseldorf, “Inventur 2” offers a cross-sectoral and across genre analysis of the current situation of contemporary dance and the performing arts.
36 network members
The General Assembly in Barcelona votes in favor of a new member: Dance Base – National Centre for Dance Edinburgh (UK), the 36th EDN member.
The network celebrates in Olot (Spain) the conference “How to make dance relevant: examples and practices”, the third and last of a series of events around the idea of relevance that included a meeting in Athens in December 2015 and the Atelier “The Relevance of Dance” in Amsterdam in March 2016.
22 European countries
The General Assembly in Athens votes in favor of 5 new members. Sadler’s Wells London (UK) and Dampfzentrale Bern (CH) are now full members. The new affiliated members are Kino Šiška Center for Urban Culture Ljubljana (SI), Dansateliers Rotterdam (NL) and Trafó-House of Contemporary Arts (HU). EDN is now an association of 35 members from 22 European countries.
Walter Heun, director of Tanzquartier Wien (AT), is elected as President.
The General Assembly in Vienna agrees to change the statutes of the association. The Individual Membership status is eliminated and two new positions are approved: the Honorary Members and the EDN Ambassadors.
STUK Leuven (BE), Tanec Praha (CZ), Hrvatski institut za pokret i ples/Zagreb Dance Centre (HR) and Dance City Newcastle (UK) are welcomed as new members. EDN has now 30 dancehouse members.
Karene Lyngholm and Bertram Müller, former EDN presidents, accept to be Honorary Members.
WORKING FOR THE FUTURE
Coinciding with the General Assembly in Barcelona, the members participate in working groups to develop the future contents of the network’s activities.
EDN ACHIEVES THE SUPPORT OF CREATIVE EUROPE
EDN becomes an EU funded project. The network starts working to become a reference of contemporary dance networking in Europe.
ONE STEP FORWARD
The General Assembly meets in Faro and decides to ask all affiliated members to become full members and engage in reflection on new criteria and plans for the future of the network.
The General Assembly agrees for the network to focus on the sustainability and relevance of dance as a new vision in the coming years.
O Espaço do tempo Montemor-o-Novo (PT), Dansmakers Amsterdam (NL) and Tanssin taly ry. Helsinki (FI) join EDN as affiliated members. Bertram Müller (former president and former director of Tanzhaus NRW Düsseldorf), Virve Sutinen (former director of Dansens Hus Stockholm) and Marc Vlemmix (former director of Danshuis Station Zuid Tilburg) become individual members. EDN is now an association of 30 members.
Francesc Casadesús, director of the Mercat de les Flors Barcelona (ES) is appointed as the new president.
Communicating Dance gets underway led by CSC Bassano del Grappa (IT). Funded by the Leonardo Da Vinci Lifelong Learning Programme, the project supports young choreographers and journalists as future leaders.
A LEADERSHIP PROJECT
Dance Ireland Dublin (IE) leads Léim, an innovative project funded by the EU Culture Programme with the participation of 10 young professionals to undertake collective, professional leadership development.
The European Video Dance Heritage project starts, led by Maison de la Danse Lyon (FR). On the context of the digital revolution, this initiative funded by the EU Culture Programme seeks to encourage and support cooperation to improve the visibility and circulation of filmed dance: common European culture heritage.
VISIT TO TILBURG
The directors visit Tilburg in the framework of the third modul-dance conference. Unfortunately, the local authorities decided to change the project for Tilburg’s use for dance and Danshuis Station Zuid resign from the network.
DANCE DIALOGUES AFRICA
The project Dance Dialogues Africa starts with the vision of embarking on long-term cooperative relationships between several dance centres in Africa and Germany.
K3 – Zentrum für Choreographie | Tanzplan Hamburg Kampnagel (DE) joins EDN as affiliated member and is the 25th member of the network.
KLAP Maison pour la Danse Marseille (FR), Dance House Lemesos (CY) and DanceEast-Jerwood DanceHouse Ipswich (UK) join as affiliated members.
A MAJOR INCREASE
The modul-dance project starts with the participation of 20 European dancehouses from 16 countries. Its aim is to support development, mobility and exchange for dance artists across Europe and to extend cooperation with institutions beyond the network. It is one of the biggest projects funded by the EU Culture Programme.
Modul-dance represents the next step for EDN as it centres on the fundamental basis of the network’s aims.
CSC Bassano del Grappa (IT) and Tanzhaus Zürich (CH) join EDN as affiliated members and Karene Lynhgolm, former director of Dansens Hus Oslo (NO), founding member of the association and former chair, joins as an individual member. EDN now has 21 members.
THE NETWORK EXTENDS
CND Paris (FR) becomes a legally incorporated member. The association now has 18 members.
The Chin-A-moves project ends having created a successful model for the development of strong relationships across diverse cultural and political contexts with activities extending beyond the official timeframe of the project.
The network adopts the legal framework of an association with 16 members in Barcelona on 25 May 2009.
The founding members are ADC Geneva (CH), Art Stations Foundation Poznań (PL), CDC Toulouse (FR), Dansehallerne Copenhagen (DK), Danshuis Station Zuid Tilburg (NL), Dansens Hus Oslo (NO), Dansens Hus Stockholm (SE), DDRC Athens (GR), DeVIR/CAPa Faro (PT), HELLERAU-Europäisches Zentrum der Künste Dresden (DE), Maison de la Danse Lyon (FR), Mercat de les Flors Barcelona (ES), Tanzhaus NRW Düsseldorf (DE), Tanzquartier Wien (AT) and The Place London (UK). Dance Gate Lefkosia Cyprus (CY) joins as affiliated member and Mary Brady, former director of IDC Cork (IE) – one of the founding members, joins as individual member.
Karene Lyngholm resigns as chair of the EDN association and Bertram Müller, director of Tanzhaus NRW Düsseldorf (DE), is appointed as president of EDN.
The IDEE project ends. It served as a real test for the network resulting in a highly successful experience of cooperation among dancehouses.
The network develops step-by-step, members learn how to cooperate among themselves and beyond the association. The first example is the Chin-A-moves project, which is launched under the leadership of Tanzhaus NRW Düsseldorf (DE) to nurture connections between young independent artists from both Europe and China.
OSLO HAS A NEW DANCEHOUSE
Dansenshus Oslo, which since its establishment in 2004 has been working on a new dancehouse project, opens a new building.
The beginning of IDEE, a 3-year project led by Tanzquartier Wien (AT), which sets out to work with emerging choreographers to help them make connections across Europe and to contextualise their work for international audiences.
FIRST STEPS: SHARING & COOPERATING
Directors from 7 dancehouses meet to discuss ways of cooperating as a group to promote the mobility of dance artists in Europe, to increase audiences and to support the strong development of dance art using the resources that each institution has to offer. An informal network with was created with articles of association.
The dancehouses cooperating with this first step were CDN Paris (FR), Dansens Hus Oslo (NO), Dansens Hus Stockholm (SE), Institute for Choreography and Dance-ICD Cork (IE), Tanzhaus NRW Düsseldorf (DE), Tanzquartier Wien (AT) and The Place London (UK).
Karene Lyngholm, director of Dansens Hus Oslo (NO), is appointed chair of the EDN association.