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Re: Pros and Cons of teaching for a chain VS. a in
Posted by anymouse
6/14/2011  9:54:00 AM
"Yes, you are structured in your teaching, but for good reason. Your technique in basic figures must be built in order to be able to execute advanced patterns correctly. Many basic figures are designed to set you up for patterns to come later."

If only that were actually true.

A technique-foundation approach to dancing will use far fewer figures than found on even the shortest syllabus, with much more attention to the execution, and much more repetition and partnered practice time.

But, this requires teachers with far more personal expertise than studios are usually able to provide from amongst their employees. Working to master the basics under the guidance of teachers who aren't all that great at them either is not a sound investment.

The typical studio syllabus is instead designed to provide an enjoyable and slightly progressive variety of material which teacher trainees with a lot of support, but limited depth of expertise, can teach to students of varied degrees of interest.

The difference between a relatively unskilled teacher with good support, and a really expert one works out something like this: the unskilled teacher may be quite demanding about the details on which they have been trained - the kinds of things that can be put in a chart in a book and asked for on an examination. But they will not really understand how these aspects work together to create good dancing, and will tend to miss qualities that are even more important, but much harder to describe in words. This means that each aspect of a given figure is a unique and separate challenge to the student - and not uncommonly, one that is in direct conflict with some other aspect of what the student has been asked to do. In contrast, with a teacher whose expertise goes far beyond mere training, all of the detailed aspects of technique work in concert to support each other.

One of the supreme ironies is that most of the "bronze" level material, and especially its more varied forms as found on a syllabus which subdivides bronze into multiple levels, tends to be material where the "linkage" between the different aspects of technique is some of the most obscure, meaning its unlikely that even the teachers really understand it. Instead of the relatively simple, linear swings characterizing the "silver" material, you have a lot of sharper changes of direction which require extreme mastery of foot usage to connect along a swing.

The reason why the bronze material is as obscure as it is is that it is designed to be possible to dance without a sense of swing or flow, by students who cannot yet project their weight from the standing foot. Students normally begin to discover these concepts in the silver material, though perhaps somewhat crudely. Only after a lot of practical experience with the obvious linear swings and gradually refined control there is it really possible to go back and start to find the subtle little swings that turn the bronze material from a disjoint catalog of movements into flowing dancing. Trying to master a closed change or a whisk to that level of quality is definitely a project with merit, but a student is not going to get there without years of experience in the more "advanced" but simpler material, and the guidance of a far more expert teacher than is usually found working with bronze students.
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