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make your day dance

Assessing dance while unleashing creative chaos

March 16th, 2009 · 1 Comment · Tags: ··

Anyone happening into my classroom this week might think, or yell, “What’s going on here?!”  Get the creative juices bubbling in 28 children, and you’re gonna have some moments of chaos…

Students in intermediate classes just now are completing Classroom-Based Assessments in Theatre & Dance, which call for the choreography of solos. As quiet and focused as the process may be during directions and question-answering, it’s wild once the choreography begins… Our stage, generous enough for group improvisations and lines crossing the floor, is more akin to a public swimming pool on a really hot day as soon as 25-30 students start rehearsing independently.  There’s noise, jumping, diving, spinning, and general commotion. There might even be one or two running on the side of the pool (or doing something equally verboten according to dance class standards, like tagging someone hard as they go by). Anyone’s first impression on walking into the room — and mine too, even though I’ve been there all along — would be that they’re totally out of control.

But look again. Most of them are miraculously avoiding collision; some are avoiding collisions while doing fabulous leaps and turns; most of them look like they’re concentrating. A few are talking, but as I think to admonish them back to solo work, I overhear them giving each other advice: “I’ll watch first, then you watch me” or “you didn’t hold your final shape long enough,” …following the natural creative process of trying something out and getting feedback.

Most of them are working…!  Hard. Tomorrow I teach them how to score choreography according to a rubric, and then, understanding what’s called for, they really get focussed. Final step is videotaping their dances — a step they claim to hate but actually seem to enjoy.

By the end of the week, the hubbub will be over, I will have captured their abilities on tape for this moment in their development, and almost every one of them will have successfully created, performed, and explained their own dance. Despite the extraordinarily noisy process, that’s what going on.

*5th graders are doing “Poetry in Motion,” choreographing dances based on poetry.  One 3rd-4th grade classes is doing “Greetings, Sister City!“, a theatre assessment adjusted for dance with the addition of a choreography rubric emphasizing movement. And the other 3rd-4th grade class is doing “Shape It Up,” choreographing dances based on geometric shapes.

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