Emma is a professional dancer and choreographer currently living and working in Scotland or Edinburgh to be more precise.
Thursday, 29 March, 2012
Wednesday, 5 October, 2011
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Education work, for an artist, is somewhat a commission in my mind. Unless you are devising an education programme to support your own professional work you have to meet the remit of your employer and more importantly the remit of those attending your class. Even at that if you are devising your own education programme you must meet the requirements of those you are selling the programme to.
Therefore, how do you address a situation in which all expectations are different yet all equally ''correct''?
I have been in situations previously where I know the expectation compromises my professional integrity and as a result have been told by corporations that they no longer require my services.
Apologies if I refuse to perform services that are out with the role of a tutor, are actually extremely serious and more so that I am not trained to do: for example feeding an individual at a high risk of choking or restraining a powerful young man who has extremely challenging behaviour.
Further apologies to the establishments who feel cramming forty under tens in a small carpeted space with only myself and a volunteer from a local dance school is perfectly acceptable. I simply won't do it as it would be no fun for anyone, let alone be productive or creatively stimulating.
These situations are easy to negate as they are arguably wrong on the grounds of (I hate to say it) health and safety which means I don't ever have to venture into the grey area of artistic code or unwritten social expectation to terminate a contract.
However, what happens when something is 'wrong' on the grounds of artistic code and expectation. How far should you be willing to bend or should you bend at all? Is it a case of stating that some elements of practice are more beneficial than others? Or is it a case of letting this be led by the commissioning body?
It is extremely difficult to answer in general terms as each case is so specific.
For example, with new learners in science we lie. Certain physical equations are over simplified to the extent that they don't actually reflect the science of the matter at all BUT if we did not over simplify in this manner it would be impossible to introduce the subject matter to a new learner in the first place.
Therefore, can we over simplify in participatory settings without compromising the art form we deliver?
Personally I feel that yes we can depending on the expectation of the client, however I don't think that other artists agree. In certain situations the client does not agree which makes the matter even more complex.
If working with a group of aspiring professional dancers then yes, I believe a professional company ethos totally mirroring the professional practice of the company should be used. No argument from me, BUT the majority of dance enthusiasts do so at a recreational level.
When dealing with young children I revel in the balance of creative and 'technical' work however many parents and employers criticise this creative play in spite of my thorough explanation and reasoning behind it (which can be backed up by screeds of research FYI!!!!). This brings in to question, who is the client? The parent or the young dancer? In my experience more often than not the parent which is very sad considering that some of the strongest structured improvisations I have ever seen have been performed by five year olds who grasps the concept of an improvisational score as naturally as they play with Lego!
In additional support needs work I have often received feedback from the support workers of non verbal dancers who claim to 'know' the individual they care for but when this support worker changes the feedback changes. GREAT!
Furthermore, in a team teaching environment I have received feedback from peers. This, I feel is extremely vital and a great experience to learn. However, this is not always a bed of roses and can create a platform which questions everybody's expectations (and as ego becomes involved can become an underhand slanging match about artistic integrity) in spite of detailed planning.
Finally, what if the entire group are satisfied with the exception of one individual. How far do you change your approach and faith in your approach to suit that individual? At what point do you simply let the client know that their expectations were wrong and point them in another direction?
In many commercial settings NEVER but surely this is detrimental to the art form as well as the other dancers in the room? Of course contemporary dance can be taught to motown music and if it creates a greater response from the dancers in the space (although in the eyes of some this is horrifying) then fine. But, at what point does the art form become neglected and misunderstood to the point that the expectations built over years of its; evolution become lost?