Saturday, 24 November 2012

Summer Puddings

 I have been finding it really interesting both reading other blogs on the MAPP this week, but also draft AOLs.  Picking up on Adesola's blog this week, looking at how we work, I find it really interesting to see the different approaches we all take, not only in our learning and teaching, but in how we approach documenting that learning.

Finding your personal narrative has been the first step in putting pen to paper and writing your first AOL, for some of you, for others, thinking of the specific area in your practice and delving right in with what that stands for professionally, what that encompasses for you now, and then working the process back through a more historical account that embraces your learning journey along the way.

Both approaches (along with others) are fine.

Some of you have been questioning your AOLs along the lines of 'is this right?'.  One of the (many) aspects of teaching and learning in HE which excites me is the diversity it can embrace, the room for finding your own way through the pathways you choose.  The MAPP not only allows for, but really promotes this independent journey, and embraces the different routes you have all taken in teaching and learning at its core.  Equally individuality in your presentation of these AOLs and your ROL in general is embraced.

There is no right or wrong as such, and our role as advisors on this programme is really to support your journey, encouraging and guiding you in reflective practice and writing with an understanding of expectation in academic contexts.  Please remember that in addition to your advisor, you should be referring to your module handbooks when approaching written work.  The handbooks are written to support you within an academic framework of learning, and act as a starting point for resources and literature which you should refer to in order to further your understanding and your writing through each module.

Do make reference to your research, beyond you.  Whilst you are the source of much knowledge and experience and are at the core of your learning through the MAPP, there is a wealth of information around you also, offering support to your learning and allowing you the possibility of contextualising what you have learnt through experience within an academic framework - what the MAPP is all about.

As you really get into the writing part of your modules now, and are heading towards assessment of your learning through this writing in the form of your RoL essay, try to integrate theory with practice.  Refer back to the Introduction to Module One handbook at this point, how have the tasks helped you to identify different areas of your learning and develop an understanding of knowing how you know what you know?  How might theories on learning support what you are now observing of your practice through reflection?

Begin to blend your learning and the presentation of it.  To draw on Hopal's cooking analogy from an earlier blog, try to produce something more along the lines of a rich summer pudding than a lemon meringue pie...layers of different fruits merging together over time, wrapped in/surrounded/supported by bread (which has also absorbed the juice of the fruits), not too separate entities of lemon and meringue merely co-existing in time.

: )

Friday, 16 November 2012

Communities Learning...

Wow... this week has been non-stop BUT, has afforded me so many opportunities to observe learning, teaching and learning, communities growing through learning and teaching and learning through minds, bodies and spirits.

I thought I'd share this with you in two areas:

Firstly, I ran a Community Dance Module on the first year BA Dance Studies programme at mdx this week, which involves artists that I have invited in, sharing their practice during a day of workshops with the students, in which the students participate practically, observe, question and evaluate.  I enjoy doing the same, in a two-fold approach, observing them in their learning, participation, observation, questioning and evaluating, watching artists and students learning from this sharing of movement based experiences.

We were joined this week by Suzie Birchwood, artistic director of Act One/Arts Base

Simona Scotto and the Company of Elders from Sadler's Wells

Anna Daly, an Early Years movement specialist and former Community Dance Artist with Ludus Dance

(I include these links for your interest, should you wish to delve a little deeper into other practices, which may differ from your own also.)

The week was inspirational on many levels, and I felt privileged to observe fundamental patterns of learning in practice, to witness a community of students (still very new to each other, being in week 6 of their term) bonding, growing in confidence, communicating, accepting, respecting each other through moving together, taking inspiration from the artists working with them, having eyes, minds and bodies opened to 'new' experiences, alternative ways of being not only as dancers, but as individuals.  In curriculum terms the week/module aims to introduce community dance practice to students, equipping them with a knowledge of community dance in theory (historically/socially/politically) and in practice through engaging with a range of different practices in dance.  In practice the module address learning in a much broader sense, it inadvertently creates its own 'community dance'.   This, to me is invaluable in terms of the students learning and is the reason I love this week each year.  To be a part of this unique learning journey with the students and to be reminded through the artist's facilitations each day of where my heart lies within life long learning through moving.

The second part to my wow week, came in the form of the Practice as Research presentations I attended yesterday.  Led by Professor Vida Midgelow, the presentations each 30mins in length were by current performance PhD students at mdx.  Here I was pushed to question practice; my own and that of others in the field of dance/performance.  I observed (in one presentation) 'nothingness', 30mins of silence and space established by one artist/performer.  I sat with 7 others in the studio, a space I inhabit daily with a variety of other bodies, usually with me as the teacher/facilitator/choreographer, and yet during this 30mins I took in new information about the physical space, about the tensions within it, space/tension between bodies, relationships between 'performer' and observers, and between observers.  It was an unexpected opportunity to look, to listen, to sense, to feel, to reflect and to evaluate and not DO.  I enjoyed the experience, not of the 'performance' itself necessarily, but of my experience of being.  Being present in that moment, absorbing information from what accompanied me in that experience, the space, the performer, the other observers, and being able to reflect upon and evaluate that experience, and my learning within it.

I wonder if any of you have had similar experiences with your AoLs or your research inquiries, if not, perhaps look at how you can create that time and space, possibly silence of some kind in your practice in your lives to allow those moments; the experience of just being for yourself and that of learning through the observations you make of your student's learning...

Do share those moments through your blogs along your journeys...


Sunday, 11 November 2012


With your RoLs well under way now, (module ones) and research methodology's building (module twos) I thought it may be a good time now to invite you to share a little of 'your current practice' with each other, as YOU define it today, based on the learning so far from your RoLs and feeding in from Adesola's blogs this week also..

You may like to look at this through your blogs, and/or in person if you are able?

I blogged last week about a Practice as Research day that my colleague, Prof.Vida Midgelow is hosting on Thursday Nov 15, at the Hendon Campus, this would be a great opportunity for you to come and share something of your work in a practical environment (no writing involved!) if you would like to... Vida's aim is to build a community of artists, teachers, choreographers who engage in PaR and offer opportunities in terms of time and space for informal sharing of your areas of practice/research.
If you have something that has come to the fore of your mind through the process of drafting your AoLs, maybe Practice as Research is one of your titles, something which you actively engage with, or maybe it isn't a title yet, but in reviewing your learning you are seeing patterns emerge reflective of the context of your learning in this way?  Areas of research in terms of your teaching practice, how you relate to teaching and learning as an individual, or maybe an interest to flesh out in the studio a research idea you're grappling with in words?  The session is open to you as artists enrolled on the MAPP, alongside being open to current PhD students at Mdx.  It will be an informal session, giving approx 30mins to each person wishing to share something of their area of research/practice, with opportunity to observe, comment, feedback within a supportive environment.
The session will run from 10am-2pm, please do let me know if you would like to attend, observe, contribute at all in person.  I appreciate this may not be possible for many of you, and if you can't make it in person, please do think along these lines in your blogs this week and share within our on-line MAPP community.

Happy practice, research, moving, reviewing and learning for the week ahead...

Friday, 2 November 2012

Which hat(s) did you wear today?

Really interesting to be reading/talking through some of your thoughts on your AoLs this week.  I am reminded by them, of just how many hats we wear as dancers!!  The ability to change hats (at speed, and not always at will) is a skill I believe we develop through experience hand in hand with the ability to inhabit those hats.  To move from being teacher, to administrator, to counsellor, to choreographer, to careers advisor, to technician, to production manager, to mum in a single day is quite a feat and yet I (and from the looks of it, I am not alone) can do this on a daily basis!
Making sure we embody what these hats mean to us and are present in the moment whilst wearing them is vital, that the shifting of hats doesn't equate to the diluting of each role is (another) responsibility we carry.

The same needs to apply to your AoLs; understanding what each area means to you, how and what you have learnt in that area of your career and how you attribute value to it as an individual strength in your practice.

I am a big fan of colours, and colour-coding information in order to make sense of it.  If I am preparing a written paper, I will get all of my research together, lay it all over my lounge floor and get busy with the highlighter pens!  Anything relating to education - blue, to choreographic practice - green, to performance - yellow and so on.  It then really helps me to see what research sits where, where different themes may integrate and to lose the research that maybe turns out not to be so relevant.

It may be something you want to try in order to see more clearly your individual AoLs and later to compile your RoL.

Do share your thoughts on hats, colours or anything else that comes to mind here!!


Practice as Research

Some interesting sharing of practice amongst the post graduate dance community at Middlesex coming up this month...

Dear all PhD and MA candidates,

I would like invite you to share your practice in a half day event of PaR research.  The event is an opportunity to meet with your peers and is intended to offer a supportive environment in which to show your work and test out ideas.

Thursday 15th November  10am-2pm, Hendon, College studio

As it is rather late notice and will take place in the college dance studio, all technical requirements must be minimal and self managed  - a sound system, laptop and projector will be provided.
I expect that each presenter will have approx. 30 mins (including discussion) which will give us time for 5 presentations.

Do note however that that there will I hope be another similar event in the new term enabling more technical arrangements to be facilitated.

Please let me know if you would like to present by MONDAY 5th NOV.

Very best

Vida L. Midgelow
Professor, Dance and Choreographic Practices
Middlesex University