April 28, 2010

Can you dance without moving?

I’ve always been the show-and-tell type of instructor. I spend time breaking down movement and illustrating what I am doing on my own body before I have students complete the movement on their own. I carefully explain what their structure (bones and joints) are doing versus what muscles are engaged or relaxed. I can explain most moves 2-3 different ways and can help people understand adjustments to allow their body to successfully complete the movement.

I have never tried however to teach movement without the use of my own body as the illustration or model. That is, until this week. Starting this week, I will have to re-think my entire teaching paradigm for a few weeks. It’s a bit daunting, but at the same time exciting to see how this exercise could change my teaching style.

I was diagnosed with skin cancer a week ago, and yesterday they removed a sizable chunk of skin from my upper chest. If this had happened on another part of my body, or on someone with a smaller chest, I would not have to make accommodations. Unfortunately the location and size of my breasts require me to limit all physical activity that would move, stretch, bounce, jiggle or otherwise affect the incision site while it heals.

Now the scar will heal and life will settle into a new normal for me, but I secretly hope this will help me teach belly dance more effectively. It means that for both my beginner and intermediate classes I will need someone to ‘model’ the movement while I explain it. For my more experienced students this won’t be so hard, but for my beginners…my baby dancers…this could be difficult. So, I’ve recruited an experienced student who is very clean technically to assist in class. My hope is that this will help her in her training as well as serve as a nice illustration for the new dancers.

In my intermediate class, this turn of events allows me to experiment with teaching movement in a different way. I may have one person demonstrate and the others check and review the movement, or use multiple models to illustrate each movement. The fun part will be the work with zils since my students have varying degrees of proficiency in this area and the ‘follow-along’ method has always served me well. It will certainly be a challenging few weeks for me, so wish me luck!

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