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...



  1. Helen it is wonderful to read your enthused account of your learning. I would never achieve 30 mins of silence I am sure as I am a noisy soul, but sitting at my computer and bringing together my learning has given me the chance to not DO but to reflect, think, evaluate, appraise and even to celebrate a tiny bit and I have found this whole process much more valuable and usable within my current work than I thought I would at the start. I feel at peace with the module after being a little uneasy about the tasks ahead and as the end of it starts to be in sight I can appreciate that the time I have spent in my little home office has been a pleasurable sojourn in a way - not busy in the now, but reflecting on the then and being able to justify such reflection. So... I am a convert... and happy to be MAPPing!

  2. That's great to hear Janet..pleased you're finding the balance and an ease with approaching the module/context of learning for the MAPP...It does take time, and affording ourselves that time is often a rare thing, but so valuable when we do, and I find, then makes for being more productive in many ways..
    more tomorrow..