In this glossary you will find explanations of terms that seem relevant to us as TanzZeit in teaching contemporary dance in schools. In addition, the glossary contains further literature suggestions and links, which you can find under You want to know more … with which you can deepen the topics discussed.
In his book The Ignorant Schoolmaster, published in 1987, the philosopher Jacques Rancière presents the work and thought of 19th century pedagogue Joseph Jacotot, who successfully taught French to his Flemish students, though incapable of speaking Flemish himself. With the help of a bilingual edition of The Adventures of Telemachus and on the basis of his conviction that everything was contained in everything (see also Rancière, Jaques: The Ignorant Schoolmaster below), he put an unusual teaching method into practice.
The Adventures of Telemachus begins with the word calypso, the “hidden”, and “everything” is already contained in this word. Here is an excerpt:
“Take and read, he says to the poor man. – I can’t read, answers the poor man. […] Don’t you recognise? The first word I said to you is calypso, […] Do you recognise the letter O in it, which one of my students – a metal worker by profession – calls the round one, the letter L, which he calls the square […] You can see, you can speak, you can show, you can remember. What more does one need? A total attention to seeing and looking once again, to saying and repeating.”
As the choreographer Jonathan Burrows once put it: “Choreography is about making choices, including the choice of making no choice at all.” The term “choreography” is derived from the Greek graphein for writing and choros for dance floor. It could be translated as “writing movements into space” and signifies more specifically for our area of focus the organisation of motion in time and space. The final performance is not all that counts, indeed the process is important too: everything that makes up the work of mediation may flow into the process here, meaning exercises, games and improvisational tasks as well.
In the following passages, diverse choreographers explain what choreography means to them:
“Choreography is about organising bodies in space, or organising bodies with other bodies, or a body with other bodies in an environment that is organised.”’ (William Forsythe)
“Choreography is an instructional manual for the possibility of being permeated by the world. Ouch.” (Jack Hauser)
“Choreography is writing with the body for me.” (Raimund Hoghe)
“Choreography is the planning of actions in space with the intention of presenting these actions to an audience. If the audience is prohibited from observing or actions are prevented from taking place, it becomes meta-choreography.” (David Ender)
“Choreography means composing a dance within the perception of the viewer. It stimulates a movement of thought, a sliding and rebounding between bodies, image, sensation, sign, action and emotion... A reflexive and sensitive discourse that dances.” (Yasmine Hugonnet)
“Choreography is being present in a space and being a little bit conscious of it. Time does its thing.” (Peter Panayi)
“Contemporary choreography is […] legible as a specific way of perceiving the social, as the production of social reality and contemporary subjectivities, as a way to manufacture temporary orders, as aesthetic and spatial thinking.” (Gabriele Klein)
Materials or choreographies are thematically and structurally compatible when the addressees understand the material, relate to it and are able to do something with it.
“Dance as movement composition can be compared to language. Just as the letters of the alphabet can be put together to form words and words can be combined to form sentences, so too are the simple elements of movements combined to form more complex movements and then finally arranged in dance phrases.” (Rudolph von Laban)
“Dance that takes place in the here and now and examines the lifeworlds of the children and adolescents involved.” (Amelie Mallmann, dramaturge)
“Contemporary dance is not to be understood merely on the basis of one technique or aesthetic form, but instead in its great variety. It seeks to transcend boundaries within the arts and breaks with existing forms time and again. In this sense, contemporary dance has an open structure, one which distinguishes itself consciously from the fixed, linear concepts of classicism and modernism.” (Johannes Odenthal, dance scholar and publicist)
In contemporary dance, the creative process refers to the finding and inventing of fresh movement ideas in order to put intended tasks and topics into practice and to subsequently connect them with one another within the process. Criteria that play a role in the process of creation are for instance space, time, form and energy. The creative process typically consists of preparation, rehearsal and adaptation, deciding upon a final piece, practicing and fine-tuning, and finally presenting.
Education denotes the active examination of the existing world. It empowers individuals to shape their lives self-reliantly and successfully and enables them to participate in society socially, culturally and politically. The mediation of cultural education in schools follows two objectives in the main: on the one hand, it seeks to serve as aesthetic and creative education in the spirit of the school curriculum, and on the other hand, it is meant to encourage students to also take part in cultural activities outside of the school. The political discourse demands more opportunities for cultural education in particular for disadvantaged target groups, for whom for instance access to educational offerings may be more difficult for social reasons. The term “cultural education” can be defined and used very differently depending on the context in question.
Dance mediators dance with a school class and their teachers. During this process, reciprocal relationships are formed between all those involved, as well as with the teaching material and the bodies in the space. The interfaces that arise in the mediation process enable numerous forms of involvement both with one’s self and with the rest of those involved. The shared creative process, in which the mediated knowledge and its implementation are constantly changing, ultimately serves the aesthetic objectives of the mediation work.
Diversity refers to the lived variety within our society. This can be in reference to gender or age, religion, worldview or ethnicity as well as sexual orientation. School types such as special needs centres for students with mental or physical handicaps or schools in socially disadvantaged areas are a natural part of this variety, just like any other school: all of these are potential addressees for contemporary dance mediation. In interacting with participants, it is paramount to engage kindly and consciously with the students’ specific needs and adapt the mediation practice to the target group.
Germany’s “Bundesverband für Tanz in Schulen” (a country-wide association for promoting dance in schools) has defined the educational dimensions in its quality framework for a holistic and nuanced approach to teaching. The mediation of dance is intended to help students to develop the following abilities and to provide a space for this to take place:
All participants in a project – meaning students as well as those involved in carrying it out – come together on an equal footing, by being able to share with one another how they are experiencing the project as it unfolds and the quality of the instruction. Even though there are clearly defined roles and responsibilities for all involved, everyone is equally entitled to share their perceptions.
“We improvise when we don’t know what is going to happen next. In so doing, we open up to a spontaneously developing process that leads us through an adventure of movement. The movement activity which occurs follows its own logic in this regard, one made up of sensations, emotions, mental images, associations, concepts, fantasies, memories, knowledge, of conscious decisions and unconscious, uncontrolled actions.
We can improvise ‘freely’, simply surrender ourselves to the unfolding events and decide on actions to take from the inexhaustible abundance of possibilities.
We can specify structures that fix formal orientation and guidelines.
We can create instructions that motivate, characterise and determine the development of spontaneous paths of motion.
We can improvise according to rules, as in a game, rules that we set depending on the objective or subject matter.
These various methods of improvisation can be linked with one another. One can improvise on one’s own, or with a partner, in small groups or all together. The students can be encouraged to develop their own improvising structures, tasks and rules.” (Regina Baumgart, choreographer, dancer and dance pedagogue)
Pioneers in improvisational methods and techniques include for example Merce Cunningham, Anna Halprin, Robert Ellis Dunn, the Judson Dance Theater, Yvonne Reiner, Steve Paxton, Lisa Nelson, Nancy Stark-Smith and Dieter Heitkamp.
Rudolf von Laban was a dancer, choreographer, painter and movement researcher, who studied music, architecture and geometry, among other things. He is considered a trailblazer in the field of German expressive dance and wrote numerous books in which he expounded on his ideas. With the large number of “Laban schools” established over the years, which patterned their teaching on his principles, he made a great impact on a whole generation of dancers.
Laban’s goal was to achieve the same level of respect for dance that other art forms enjoyed. In his theoretical work, he paved the way for numerous scholarly treatments of dance that place the complexity of movement in particular in the focus of their research. Laban wished to promote “thought in motion” and put it on equal footing with “thought in words”, so that “both ways of thinking can be integrated into a new form”. To grasp the world of movement in its entirety, Laban developed his own dance notation that is still in use today (known as kinetography or Labanotation), as well as teachings on spatial harmony and propulsion.
In dance improvisation, there is the principle of “yes and adjust”: movement impulses from one’s partner are taken in, altered, and passed on. If we transfer this concept to co-operations between dance mediators and classroom teachers, this means that one strives to take in what is given, reacting to it constructively and allowing something shared to emerge from it.
The different options for action give one the possibility to enter into dialogue about difficulties which may arise and to change one’s behaviour so that a constructive interaction remains possible. In this connection, it is absolutely crucial to cultivate a fundamental attitude of mutual empathy.
The responsibilities of dance mediators are multifaceted and complex. Depending on the various contexts, they demand clarity and a high degree of flexibility. This may lead individual dance mediators to feel overwhelmed and stressed out at times. Here, taking time to pause in silence for reflection can help to generate new energy. This means giving one’s self space and time to cultivate self-awareness and re-establish contact with one’s self, in order to recognize what one is perceiving, feeling and thinking. Ideally, such moments of pause and reflection should create a learning atmosphere in which the self-awareness of all those involved in the dance project is stimulated and cultivated.
“Perception is the departure point and foundation for every relationship: to one’s self, to others, to one’s surroundings. It is the foundation of all awareness, realisation and learning. Perception can be stimulated through: verbal instructions that draw attention to the body; sensual perception via seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, touching, sensing, moving; verbal instructions that direct attention to the anatomical spectrum of movements; questions regarding states, physical feelings, characteristics. Training perception causes a more conscious approach to one’s self and the reinforcement of physical presence helps us to see others and our environment in a new, more nuanced light, while establishing the basis for collective ways of working.” (Regina Baumgart, choreographer, dancer and dance pedagogue)
Jacques Rancière, born in Algiers in 1940, is a French philosopher. Between 1969 and 2000, he taught philosophy and art theory at the University of Paris VIII. His philosophical interests were focussed on questions of equality; he became best known above all for his works on political philosophy and aesthetics. In his texts on painting and film theory, he places particular emphasis on the sensual quality of images. He opposes the idea of the mere representative character of a depiction and offers up instead the possibility of a direct sensual experience of the depicted. Among other admirers of his thought, the theoreticians of post-dramatic theatre refer in particular to Rancière’s work.
Jacques Rancière’s book The Ignorant Schoolmaster, a work frequently cited in the field of cultural education, was first published in Paris in 1987. In this text, Rancière describes the activities of the French revolutionary Joseph Jacotot, who fled to exile in Flanders, where he was employed at the University of Leuven as a professor of French literature at the beginning of the 19th century. In this position, he taught Flemish students French, although he himself was unable to speak Flemish. His teaching method was based on the conviction that all intelligences are equal. Jacotot saw the traditional teaching system, which was based on the knowledge differential between teacher and pupil, as a system of stultification, one which established a gap between the one who knows and the one who doesn’t which, though it could be filled, could never be closed. In Jacotot’s estimation, the objective of enlightenment was defined by the individual in the know alone, thus codifying the inferiority of the pupils for all time, as they are completely denied the ability to form a judgement as to whether this dual division is justified in itself. According to Jacotot’s conviction, in the traditional system the schoolmaster was virtually obligated to maintain the distance between himself and his pupils, who were not even aware of the degree of their ignorance. If he neglected to do so, he would dispense with the need for his services.
“The willingness and ability as an individual person to clarify, think through and evaluate the developmental opportunities, requirements and limitations in family, professional and public life, to develop one’s own talents as well as to formulate and advance plans for one’s own life. This encompasses characteristics such as independence, the ability to integrate criticism, self-confidence, dependability and the awareness of responsibility and obligations. Self-competence also includes in particular the development of reasoned moral values and the self-determined commitment to values.” – The Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Federal States in the Federal Republic of Germany (KMK)
A task, solution or material is transferable when it allows itself to be transferred from one situation to another. Calypso condenses principles and approaches for dance mediation in materials that can also be redesigned to suit other contexts.
In dance, working method refers to the way a choreographer approaches the development of a piece from an artistic point of view. The great variety of various working methods is one of the genre characteristics of contemporary dance.
CURRICULA AND ASSESSMENTS
IMPLEMENTATIONS IN SCHOOLS
CULTURAL EDUCATION ONLINE
You can find further institutions here.
MATERIALS AND DOCUMENTATION
QUALITY ASSURANCE DISCOURSE
DANCE FOR A YOUNG AUDIENCE
CO-ORDINATION OFFICES FOR DANCE IN SCHOOLS
With TanzPOD, it is possible to search in detail for active dance mediators or co-ordinators, projects, locations or dance styles as well as to make contact with those conducting such activities. TanzPOD is a data bank of the German Association for Dance in Schools e.V., which documents dance projects online.
Co-ordination offices in specific states are good contact partners in the search for schools and can provide advice on many topics, for instance:
FURTHER EDUCATION & STUDY