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make your day dance

Guest voice: Post-performance blues

June 13th, 2009 · No Comments · Tags: ·······

It’s been my hope & intention that this blog might be a means for myself and others to converse with each other from our isolated locations as dance educators.  All for the purpose of sharing ideas, anxieties, questions, solutions, hopes, and humor as we hone our skills for the daily diet of dance we serve.  In that spirit, I’d like to introduce Katie Wood, a music specialist who integrates dance, and whose comment following my last blog appears here as a Guest Voice, expressing some familiar post-performance anxieties. Thank you, Katie, for sharing such fresh thoughts!

Post-Performance Sleeplessness from Katie Wood

Wow – I have so much spinning through my own mind right now, that it is 2 am and I am up from my bed to calm my thoughts. Cannot sleep.

We performed tonight. More on that in a bit.

Of late, I’ve been preparing my OWN 325 performers to tell folktales from around the world through music and movement. We incorporated storytelling with singing, playing instruments, drama and dance. Whew! What an exciting thing — watching your students begin to take the lead, …when you as a teacher are able to let go and the kids take over. In that moment when you know you’ve done the best you can do.

I faced some challenges. I think my 2nd graders were bored for a while (too much repetition) while my 1st graders could not get enough! 3rd grade came together at the last minute, with energy and enthusiasm, and 4th graders were refining and refining and refining. I learned the importance of stepping back, and stepping in, and of taking things apart to put them back together in a more thoughtful and complete way. I learned how to teach a musical concept by exploring it first, then defining (and refining and refining and refining).

Wow, the kids taught me a LOT this year.

We performed this evening. The turn out was unpredictable, so all kids had practiced each part (musical and otherwise) in order to be ready for anything. I think this helped kids to see the big picture, but left me feeling a bit scattered, assigning parts in the moment. It worked, but not 100% smoothly.

4th grade was NERVOUS. Perhaps they should not be first next time?  2nd grade was small, but what a difference an audience made for them. And I felt the most connected to this group as they performed. We had fun. 1st grade came out in droves. And the audience behavior was horrid.

I am horrified at the effect of a noisy audience on my students. Adults began to chatter (were they on their cell phones – really!???!!!!!) and the volume increased… until my 1st grade students, the most excited (and most throughly prepared group), began to check out and chatter themselves.

Now I am no fool. I stood there thinking, “OK – maybe this is too long… the pacing is off… the kids are too spread out… good for the classroom, maybe too much for a performance?… what is going on?… these are first graders people – you need to LISTEN!!!!!”

I am shocked and appauled at this problem, which I have run into more than once during performances now. Last year, it was a spring musical. In the gym. Kids (not students) running – RUNNING – across the “stage” unattended while we performed. Audience talking nonstop. I had to stop the show twice.

This year, I tried the cafeteria. Better for the winter program, but still a lot of chatter. I addressed this BEFORE the program. And DURING. My own students (grade 5) were some of the worst culprits!

This time, the audience behavior affected the performers. They lost focus, momentum, and I nearly lost my cool. I stopped the performance to regain the audience’s attention. But it was never the same. My third graders were able to pull a bit more focus from the audience, but transitions were a challenge. And since about half of my kids didn’t show up, we had to make adjustments on the fly, which didn’t help the flow, to say the least.

The kids did great, made adjustments when necessary and really gave it their all. WHY did the audience fail us? What can I do to address this problem? I’m lying awake thinking I may need to forget about evening performances altogether, or just keep it to a “class” perfromance in my classroom – which has been more successful in the past (smaller, more intimate – more proximity to the kids AND the ADULTS!!!). What a difference a stage could make, with lighting – I think maybe that could help??? I am at a loss, and now I’ve lost sleep over it. Any thoughts??

Many thanks, Katie, since I’ve faced similar difficulties. I’m still ruminating about these audience issues and will share my thoughts here soon… Thanks for expressing your post-performance thoughts so immediately!

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