Saturday, 23 February 2013


Hoping that you've all had good and productive weeks, and schedules that have allowed for some time to think, reflect and assimilate learning also...

Those on Module One - thanks for sharing initial thoughts this week on beginning your MAPP journeys, hopefully you've had a look through your CV and current Job Description this week, please send drafts of these to your advisor via email so that we can feed into your reflections on yourself via your practice past and present and discuss areas that have been significant in your coming to this point in your career.  Please don't forget to attribute value to unpaid as well as paid roles, to experiential as well as accredited learning routes, to question what experiences have shaped and influenced your journeys, to question how you have learnt what you now consider you know, and question what you know you do not know.  To begin to reflect on your learning through different roles, different phases in your career.   Question, how did you get here, and where is here?

Modules Two and Three, it has been great to read and join your discussions on Linked-in this week, keep unpicking the notions of positivist and non-positivist approaches understanding them as they stand in themselves as well as in application to research in dance.  Question where you sit within these proposed systems...Why?

A question raised recently by the Higher Education Academy is that over the use of touch in dance teaching and learning.  I have been approached this week by a student questioning the use of touch within a dance class, describing an incident in which she felt uncomfortable with a teacher using a hands-on approach in giving a correction.  She asked me whether teachers should ask a students permission before making physical contact with them in class.

Quite a difficult issue, whilst physical contact is widely considered part of everyday practice in the field of dance, training, choreography, is still an issue with carries ethical considerations and needs responses.

I came across a report, written by Fiona Bannon, commissioned by the Higher Education Academy, entitled Relational Ethics, Dance, Touch and Learning, thought I would share it with you and be interested to hear your views on the subject too.


1 comment:

  1. Hi Helen. I cannot access the document you mention; it is taking me to a drive page but no recent shared files. Can you post it via another method or send it to me? I would be very interested to read it.

    Such a tricky area all this. Where I currently work we have a printed document which discusses the nature of correcting and the right to state that you object, and in my previous job we had a form that the students were asked to sign, giving their consent or objecting, which also acted as a disclaimer of sorts, given that it was read and signed and filed. No student I have worked with has ever refused to be touched.

    However, I do think that no matter how cautious and aware one is as a teacher, you can never truly know what the student thinks about your ‘connection’ with them, be it physically or how you interact with them.

    For instance, I am so careful to say ‘belly button through to spine’ or similar, as a reminder to engage the abdominals – I personally would get most anxious if anyone were to mention that I had a ‘stomach’ and that I needed to ‘suck it in’, ‘get rid of it’ or any other unsubtle way of describing it, (both of which I have heard before) as I have battled with an eating disorder since the age of 15. The thought of being touched there, even as a gentle reminder, would send me into a high state of paranoia and I would see a pregnant elephant in the mirror! I tend to avoid that if I can, opting for verbal reminders and if I do make contact I never mention anything about the stomach; more the posture, the core, the alignment of the pelvis etc.

    I have observed so many classes as a part of my job, and the range of contact varies tremendously. Some teachers, mostly ballet teachers, think nothing of being really hands on when correcting, and some teachers rarely, if ever, make contact with any student. Tap teaching does not really require that much hands on correcting – working with the feet perhaps to describe the technical achievement of a wing, but for me, sometimes making a student really aware of where they should or could be feeling a muscle or a how to achieve a position in a ballet class can only be achieved with contact. Partner work is best taught with contact – not just partner to partner but sometimes with the assistance of a teacher, in a difficult lift or to strengthen a connection whilst in practice.

    I have heard of some most inappropriate ‘correcting’ which was (I hope) intended as correction, but which seems to border on the obscene. I hasten to add here this has only ever been from teacher colleagues describing teachers they had in the past, and not my current students!

    I suppose that I suppose that the students understand (and remember that my students are all over 16) that my intentions are correction only, are aware that it is normal to be touched for correction purposes, and that you will have to come into contact with other dancers too when working on contact or partner work. However, we are always made aware at work if there has been an incident that may have caused a student to feel uncomfortable with contact and I adjust accordingly.

    One thing I am really careful about is if I put the students in pairs to carry out feet exercises, working with each other and involving touching each other’s feet. I am really aware that some people cannot bear to touch feet so I always check this first. The last thing I want is for students to have to face their nemesis in my lesson!

    I am not sure that any teacher can get this right with every student, but it is our duty to be accountable and clear within why we do what we do in all areas of our work, but most especially when it could be misinterpreted and potentially harmful. Getting the balance right is hard. Too much ‘Is it ok if I touch you’ could start to sound like there is pleasure to be gained, and too much touching without adequate explanation to ensure understanding of the correction is ambiguous. I guess I know my intentions and have to ensure that my students understand them; I want them to improve.