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TTT Budapest, 2013

Tamás Bakó and Viktória Varga

Pedagogical Approaches to Contemporary Dance in Art Education. The Role of Art in Dance Pedagogy

As a research topic, we questioned how can we establish within our own pedagogical practice the focus point, the right tool or method that leads students to their own future art-making, to their clear self-image? “What is the role of art in dance education? How do we teach art while teaching dance?”

We wanted to understand our own art education through the following questions: - What kind of creation and performance practice allows us to connect to the field of contemporary dance? - What kind of transformations do we notice in the methods of our own pedagogical practice? - How does this relate to the notion of art?

We wanted to discuss the above-mentioned questions by putting three different methods into practice:
- the verbal introduction of the research team’s members, presenting their professional background,
- transmitting our approaches to art pedagogy by teaching each other, and
- common creative work in which our methods become tools for creation in real time.

For further research and sharing, besides the international group of teachers, we established a local group composed of young dancers.
The conception and schedule we built was redefined at the beginning of our common work. While getting to know each other, we looked for some common ground of motivation and interest surrounding the main topic.

During our first discussions, we soon arrived at the following conclusion: We can dive into the original question by trying to forget the traditional teacher-student image. We felt that an open laboratory context better suited our interests and intentions. To create a basis for our research, we chose the Open Learning structure known and used in contemporary dance.
In order to analyze our topics and be effective, the two groups worked both separately and together.
Our discussions led us to 3 basic questions:
- What is art?
- What is the mission of art education?
- How can we bring all this theory into practice?

During the week we found 3 models that can be seen as answers to the 3rd question:    
I. 10 minutes classes
We established a class structure in which each of us taught for 10 minutes. All the 10-minute classes together became one long co-teaching session. We did not decide in advance about the order or the content of the 10-minute periods, and this is how “flow-teaching” was created.
One of the most exiting conclusions was that this accelerated time and its density. It put the content of the class in the foreground, and the usually fixed roles and habits did not influence the learning process. Accordingly, the multiple roles of teacher and student rotated in short intervals. In this manner, the role schemas where dissolve.

II.    Models for Open Learning Structure
We arrived at another model through the method of “Open Space” used in contemporary dance and improvisation. We believe that this structure includes the free use and reinterpretation of both teaching and learning processes.

The process:
The process starts with common movement and alignment. Then we provide half an hour of open space where all of us become students, somehow finding how we can chose our own teachers, clarifying in ourselves what we really want to learn. The next half hour is the opposite of the first: everyone gets to experience the role of the teacher. After this process, we had a short period of reflection time to ourselves. At the end, we all shared our observations. This model afforded an opportunity to experience other roles. We could be present in the space as a witness or as a free mover, widening the possibilities to connect to what happens in the space.
Where did we arrive?

Are we able to create an environment where – without the pressure of responsibility – we can live and experience creativity, attention toward each other, co-operation, personal time and space within the context of our motivation, interests and personal attitudes? According to our views and experience, an Open Learning Structure can create such a supporting, inspiring and motivating atmosphere in which the needs of individual learning strategies and the power of personal creativity can appear, integrating the personal and environmental conditions.

III.    Presentation
The closing event of the week brought about another open learning format or model. Preparing the presentation of our conclusions for a wider audience, we sought a format that would mirror the experiences of our research in the most faithful way.

We wanted to create a structure where we let the participants experience the result of our research and in which everyone could freely connect to what happens in the space according to his or her own interests.

The space was an installation of sounds, images, books, as well as a performing space and a playground for open learning structures.
This experimental way of creating contact led to an open space for active participation and for creative self-expression – for receiving, interacting and experiencing several way of learning.
Concerning our question, “How can we transmit art within our teaching practice?”, we formulated the following thoughts:

Contemporary dance is a non-defined category, since most of its topics deal with research of the unknown. As in creation, the method is experimentation, and so the teaching practice should also remain a constant experiment. Because both its creative and pedagogical aspects are merged, we found that models like Open Learning Structure can work well for us. In this kind of learning format, creativity, analytical ways of thinking, experimentation, non- hierarchical perspective and a different vision of knowledge itself – all become part of the learning process. The process of receiving and a self-reflective attitude are redefined.

The exploratory aspect of contemporary dance led us to the well-know thought: Art cannot be taught – only the tools of art, its technical approach, its history, as well as creativity that can be seen as a bridge.

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