Dance Teacher Education

I had forgotten that a comment on one of the kinesiology posts had sparked a few thoughts for me:

Beth M. said…
Ann, I was glad to see your post on uneducated dance teachers. I have been “rehab”-ing Irish dance injuries through pilates for the last 3 years. I had made a similar comment about An Com adding anatomy and physiology to the TC exam on Brooke’s blog; however, in thinking over the last few weeks I came to the following conclusion: CLRG’s role in certifying new instructors is only in administering an exam (both written and practical) to persons wishing to become certified Irish dance instructors. Those wishing to become teachers are left to learn the material on their own (through videos) or with the help of an existing certified TCRG (a TC does have to recommend them for the exam). Would uneducated teachers then help to create more uneducated teachers? Where would they get the correct knowledge? How can this be changed?

This comment was posted about the time I was researching the TCRG exam and writing “Dear An Coimisiún le Rincí Gaelacha…” . Her last 3 questions are important ones not just for ID teachers but for all dance teachers. The lack of anatomical and kinesiological knowledge in the dance field as a whole is not new information. Where/how can a dance teacher learn this information?

Your best bet is to see what is offered at your local college. If there is a dance department, see what body knowledge classes they offer. If they offer none or there is no dance program, check out the Physical Education department. Unless it is solely a health management program, it would be highly unusual if the PE department did not have sports kinesiology or injury prevention & rehabilitation. Sometimes folks get fancy with the names, so call if you can’t decipher their course titles. Even though classes in the PE department will not be designed to look at movement from the dance point of view, the concepts are exactly the same. Perhaps your teacher will be game to help you translate the info for use in dance. One of the sports kines classes that I took was taught by this 6’3″ muscle-bound ex-football player…whose passion was lyrical ballroom dancing! He was thrilled to have a dancer in his class!

Now, suppose you have nothing at your local college or you cannot afford a college course? Can you do it on your own? Yes. This book, Dance Kinesiology by Sally Sevey Fitt can teach you just about everything you need to know. Take it page by page…stand up and learn how the information in the book pertains to your own body…use the book to learn how your own body works.

Am I talking about memorizing the book? No. You can memorize all the bones and joints and muscles if you want. It is in there. But what is also in there, the most important thing in there, is the framework for evaluating all movement. You will learn about the planes of movement and how gravity dictates movement. You will learn about joint classifications and the planes the joints are meant to move in. You will learn how the muscles move bones, how the pulleys affect the levers. Then you will have a framework for looking at a dancer’s movement, and this will help you to then zero in on specific movement issues which means even if you do not have all of the necessary info in your head to fix the problem right then and there, you will know what information you are looking for when you go back to the books.

Does your kinesiology training need to be specific to the dance/movement form you are engaged in? No. Movement of the human body is non-denominational! Rotation of the leg in the hip socket is the same in ballet as it is in fencing. The position of the pelvis affects movement the same way in Irish dancing as it does in tae kwon do. Hyper-pronation of the feet causes just as much pain for a runner as it does for a modern dancer. From lifting and throwing my male partner one year, I developed the same thrower’s arm pain as a baseball pitcher. This is why a sports kinesiology class can be just as valuable as a dance kinesiology class…the concepts are the same.

Reminds me…I was recruited for the track team at school when I was about 13 after I threw myself over the high bar during PE class. I stood up after hitting the mat, and both the girls and boys coaches were staring at me. The male coach told me to, “Do that again.” So I ran at the bar and threw myself over. When asked how I got over the bar with such height, I just shrugged…I was 13! What did I know!? I became a high jumper…and I hated track. I remember feeling so exposed during meets as coaches used to line up their boys to watch me…and then they’d discuss what they saw. After that season, I just went back to being a ballerina…having boys and men line up to watch me throw myself over a bar was unnerving! At least in a theatre those staring at you are in the dark!!! (Eeww…maybe it is all creepy…)

Now I can look back at that and see how my training as a ballerina made me a good high jumper. I was strong, yes, but it was also about the specific placement of my pelvis as I launched myself through space…the same placement I used to launch myself through the air in ballet class. The physics was the same.

It has come to my attention that my blog posts are being perceived by some as specific attacks on ID teachers. Except for the occasional specifically focused rant, that is not my intention. Irish dance is the dance form that my 3 divas are involved in so that is where my attention is currently focused. But, if I had had a blog years ago, I would have been taking modern dance, ballet, and jazz specifically to task, also. I did take them to task in my university courses as year after year students came in with bizarre ideas about how the body worked and the injuries to prove that they were bound and determined to make the body work that way!

Knowledge of how the body actually works is not as scarce in dance teachers as it once was. Generally, dancers and teachers who get college dance degrees are more educated in body knowledge because most dance degree programs have some sort of body knowledge courses these days. There are ballet and jazz degree programs, but most college dance programs are modern (at least in the US), but again it is not about the specific dance technique. I know there is now an Irish Dance Degree in Ireland (yay!), though I do not know what the curriculum is like. But, historically, the tradition of dance teacher training has been about passing the information, correct or not, from teacher to student in the dance studio. When I first started teaching at 14, my classes were exact replicas of my teacher’s! It is how it works.

But dance is not an ethereal, esoteric experience in the ether…we work with real substance – the human body. And there are rules of anatomy and physics that dictate how that human body works. Just because my dance teacher told me that the muscles under my leg would lift my leg high did not make it so!!! My leg finally went high the day I discovered that the muscles on the front did the very real lifting work! My chronic injuries, my students’ chronic injuries all disappeared as we learned the realities of moving the human body, of moving our own unique human bodies.

I am not dictating here HOW one should teach a specific technique. I am crusading for safe teaching no matter the form. Why does that piss some people off?

Click for more kinesiology info: Dance Kinesiology

To start educating yourself, try here.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Anonymous
    Oct 05, 2007 @ 04:04:00

    Fantastic information on this! I am so thrilled. I am a new dance teacher with CLRG and have just set up my school. I feel so strongly about this issue and thank you for your advice. You wrote exactly what I felt. Where do I go to learn? How do I learn? I have a very strong sense of responsibility to my future students and want to give them the best. With your wonderful source of information, I now have a place to begin. I thank you wholeheartedly.

  2. Trackback: Dance Kinesiology posts « Taoknitter

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