How do we teach Dance History from Global Perspectives?

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  • 15 Jan 2016 2:38 PM
    Reply # 3761985 on 3665805
    Why do I bother calnilg up people when I can just read this!
  • 27 Oct 2016 2:40 AM
    Reply # 4350962 on 556358
    Anonymous wrote:
    CORD Office wrote:

    Our first question from CORDs Board of Directors was posed by Danielle Robinson from York University in Toronto, Canada: “How do we teach Dance History from global perspectives?”

    At Hunter College in NYC, I have taught our Dan102 course once as a “world dance history survey” class, using Ann Cooper Albright and Ann Dils Moving Histories/Dancing Cultures as the course textbook, and twice as a “dance and culture” course, using Jane Desmond’s Meaning in Motion as the primary text.  The course is not required for our dance majors or minors, and tends to be filled by those looking to fulfill the Pluralism and Diversity category of the General Ed. Requirements. However, it’s the only theory-based course we have that allows for non-European dominant perspectives, and so it has become critical in my understanding of what is lacking in a typical college dance program.  In a university system, in this most global city, I am able to mentor students through rudimentary research projects from clogging to Khmer court dances, Tango’s development in the Philippines to glowsticking. 

    We are currently developing three graduate programs (MFA in Dance, and BA/MA and MA in Dance Education) and I spent a substantial portion of my first two semesters here writing course proposals including Graduate Dance History.  This is part of the written rationale:

    Through a progressive approach to dance history, students can gain the required inter/intra-cultural and interdisciplinary perspectives needed for a more comprehensive understanding of how, why and where dance has developed.  With recent advances in dance history teaching, especially those that include wider cultural perspectives, this course answers contemporary discussions around the changing nature of ‘history’ as a discrete subject. 

    It challenges the dance practitioner to consider whether and at what stage historical research methods and critical approaches can enhance the growth of dance.  It reduces the privileging of traditional, western based theatre dance history over other dance forms as performed and practiced at many cultural levels in communities in America and elsewhere.  It prepares the student to think, write and speak about dance as a form with a long and rich history and far-reaching impacts.

    I am a heartened that we seek to include wider perspectives in our program.  However, I’m not sure how to help steer us there in a way while respecting my program’s modern dance legacy.  So, let’s begin with Dance History classes.  What are you doing?

    - Maura Nguyen Donohue

    Hi Maura:
    I think there are a few things we can do as dance educators. First, I think we need to be sure that when we approach the dance history course, we don't just lean on a typical chronological approach--I find that this tends to privilege a mainstream perspective and inevitably begs the question of what was happening somewhere else at the same time.
    I think we do well to try an organize these courses thematically--looking at dance and religion or dance and gender identity as units, for example--to foster a more cross/inter/intra cultural analysis in engaging the content. I think with respect to your point about
    respecting the history of the program we need to ensure that we embrace the idea
    that modern dance did not evolve in some kind of black hole devoid of other cultural
    influences--we do well to understand modern dance as simply one branch on the tree
    of dance that has it roots in human existence and to show our students how it was in dialogue with other influences--I am suggesting an interrelated arts/cultural approach.
    I think it would be good to look for the work of dance and cultural theorists/writers who are working and writingabout dance outside of the US so that the scholarly voices that get privileged are not just Western voices. This means that no one dominant textbook
    will probably be appropriate--we will need to lean on the use of technology to post
    course packets/readings for student access and we will have to take the time
    to draw sources from a variety of places--books, journals, monographs, etc.--to give our students the material they need to read in order to achieve the goals laid out in the new direction the program is pursuing. This also means that the readings may come from
    cultural studies, feminst/women's/gender studies, performance studies and related disciplines as opposed to specifically being "dance scholarship."The things I am suggesting here resist the "cultural buffet" style of teaching dance history where you get a little from this country or continent. Additionally, what I am suggesting is that these strategies may help us getour students to question their own assumptions about the primacy of Western theatrical dance as we are ourselves are doing the work of challenging the same thing in our teaching. Good luck with everything!


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