The dancing body in the digital age experiences a kind of hyper-division from holism. The body, now endlessly parsable into discrete sections and sub-sections, undergoes technical dissection to assist and refine the translation of flesh to data. We’re no longer searching for how do digitize the body, we’re harnessing it as product, research, symbol, medicine, record, weapon, and assuredly more, with unprecedented ease to divorce it from context. A microscopic division can be broadcast at a global scale in moments. It is not enough to teach students how to dance, or how to use the technologies that exist—younger people will continue to train older generations how to use technology—instead students need a well formed sense of investigation to help them piece back together the whole body, as it originated, in context. A working artist must be many people at once; the historian, the technician, the consumer, and the creator.
To develop this sense for investigation, I champion broad, interdisciplinary approaches on well focused subjects or directives. Instead of unraveling many yarns, I ask students to unravel the same yarn in as many different ways possible. Through technical and theoretical understanding born out of active participation and through learning process mechanics in tandem with content orientation, students gain the flexibility to apply information across subjects and disciplines. I require students to begin working with the subject matter in project form. We then review their work under the theoretical lens as a group exercise. I approach both as an experiment to familiarize the students with the implications of mechanics and application beyond a simple evaluative critique. I feel that this approach preserves student creativity without imprinting my own aesthetic preferences, as well as teaching students to explore the making of process and form.
During the creative process, I focus on active questioning to develop a more nimble perspective in students. As creative professionals, sensitivity and flexibility of approach are critical to working in collaborative projects as well as pointing a way through the inevitable experience of blocks and dead ends. Promoting interdisciplinary cross-pollination and collaboration skills broadens the applicability of students’ existing knowledge and enables them to envision how their skills can be applied in disparate fields.
I place a high value on working individually with students. At close range, I can better identify creative expansion opportunities and offer the student tailored guiding questions. These questions serve to help students sort through their thought processes and to begin considering their work from multiple perspectives. Coming to interdisciplinary contexts from the dance field, I approach all subjects as though they were a studio practice. A commitment to practice requires time investment on the part of the student that both fosters skill mastery and generates a site for long-term evolution of creative work. Investigation of theory through readings, viewings, and discussion is another major component of my classroom. I view these processes as active and consider discussions to be a way of “labbing” abstract concepts.
I cultivate a classroom environment in which making and theory are not deposited by me, but tested, questioned, and practiced by students, for them to take out of the classroom. A point of great personal importance is teaching students to become informed consumers of media culture. Whether the materials are academic, commercial, political, or popular, providing students with a framework for dissecting the construction of that cultural artifact assists them to place it within a larger context. This is critical not only for the artist but for all of us as citizens living in an information era.