Dance Advocacy: the front lines – Avilee Goodwin tells her story of doing battle for dance equality.
Dance Nerd Alert – Beth Megill shows her nerdy notation side.
DRC Horton Awards – Shana Habel to be recognized June 7th.
CDEA Reports – Jessica Kronenberg recaps the CDEA dance conference.
What does summer mean to you?
How do you use your summer to rest, recuperate, find inspiration, connect with friends and family, fuel growth and enjoy the arts? This issue of CDEA News sends us into summer before it takes a hiatus in July to then return in August for the school year.
Look inside to find a personal account of greater board member Avilee Goodwin’s long time efforts for dance advocacy in the Bay Area. Learn about the core standards conference from Shana Habel and discover President Beth Megill’s nerdy side in her article about dance literacy. Also, look forward to fun images from our May 10th day conference through out.
Then, reflect on how you might get more involved with CDEA this upcoming school year. How will you choose to support the efforts of dance education across the state?
On Behalf of CDEA, Beth Megill (SoCal President)
Dance Credential Update
by Shana Habel
In our last credential update, it was reported that legislation had been sponsored by the California Federation of Teachers (CFT) to create credentials in dance and theatre. The legislation (AB 2254) was introduced by Assemblyman Ian Calderon. Unfortunately, Assembly Calderon’s office informed us last month, that they would not be pursuing the bill this year. While no reason was given, “word on the street” is that the sponsors did not reveal that CTA was vehemently opposed to such legislation (still…), and the Assemblyman’s office did not relish taking on the largest teachers’ union in the state at this time.
Nonetheless, there is still movement forward. We are not giving up. The state working-group charged with moving the credential issue forward (of which Beth and I are members), continues to talk and strategize. Malissa Feruzzi Shriver continues as a co-chair of the group, and her Sacramento contacts are proving invaluable in this effort. And, know that our colleagues in the statewide visual arts and music education organizations are in the fight with dance and theatre. Stay tuned. More news next month…
Shake Your Beauty
by Jessica Kronenberg
After chaperoning several high school social dances, my colleagues and I realized that the social dance movement vocabulary of many of our students is limited. From this realization, “Shake Your Beauty” was born. The El Cerrito High School Dance Program teamed up with the school’s Media Academy, and radio broadcasting teacher Corey Mason, to put on a multicultural social dance in which students teach students about dances of the world.
The concept was simple: offer a series of student-led mini master classes in a variety of international dance forms, with movement simple enough for the most novice mover to pick up. On May 23rd we put on the second iteration of this unique event.
My Advanced Dance students worked in small groups to research and plan their mini lessons on the following dance forms: Bhangra, Viennese Waltz, Salsa, Afro-Brazilian Dance, the Virginia Reel, West African Dance, Belly Dance, and Mexican Folkorico. Each group provided a brief history and description of the dance form, led a warm up appropriate to the style, taught a simple phrase featuring the defining characteristics of the style, and incorporated a social element to the phrase. Corey Mason was the DJ for the night and kept the energy high with a great soundtrack of international music.
Two hundred students, many of whom do not self-identify as “dancers,” were spinning, twirling, leaping and giggling their way through these world dance forms, all the while having positive social interactions with friends and new acquaintances. It was an event based in pure, innocent fun. The evening ended with a Soul Train line where random pairs of teens shook their beauty down the line. This event highlights the great diversity present on our own campus and encourages students to explore the richness of other cultures of the world. I can’t wait to do this again next year!
CDEA Awards Shana Habel at DRC Horton Awards
June 7th, 2014 in Grand Park, Los Angeles
It is perhaps obvious that CDEA advocate and past president, Shana Habel has been a longtime leader in our California dance community, serving as Director and Coordinator of all the dance programs and curricular initiatives at the Los Angeles Unified School District, and working tirelessly as an advocate for both teachers and students at the local and state level. But in case, you have not had the chance to know her or be influenced by her work, we would like to change that. We invite you to become familiar with her legacy and share in our upcoming celebration of her work.
CDEA hopes to kick off a dance inspired summer by collaborating with the DRC (Dance Resource Center of Greater Los Angeles) in a celebration that will publicly honor Shana Habel’s efforts as a stellar dance advocate and educator! We would like to invite all of our CDEA members, North and South, Downtown to the Grand Ave. Water Park, on June 7 (see the events details and times below) to participate in and enjoy the 2014 Horton Awards ceremony. This year the Horton Awards will include a category and award for dance education! YAY! First time ever for this specific category. We the executive board will have the honor of presenting this newly envisioned award and honor to Shana Habel for 2014.
As a recipient of the Horton award you can trust that Shana as an individual has demonstrated excellence in creating ideas for dance programs, curricula, and projects. In addition, she is someone who has had a significant impact on the field of dance education in our state, demonstrating leadership on both a national and local level. Lastly, Shana inspires those around her to action, cultivating passion and leadership for dance. Shana’s influence in dance education and advocacy for arts in schools has reached far and wide. Gina Buntz the chair of dance at LACHSA, Los Angeles County High School for the Arts, has this to say about her contributions, Southern California is the birthplace of many dance pioneers: Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn with their protégées, Martha Graham and Doris Humphrey, Jose Limon, Lester Horton, Jack Cole and Bella Lewitsky. As Los Angeles is enjoying a new renaissance in dance, Shana is at the forefront of connecting the historical with the educational ramifications for dance training and development. Her work politically and pedagogically are seamless in her decadeslong fight to insure dance credentialing at the state level; engaging more teaching artists to work with students within the district and advocating for a comprehensive archive for historical preservation. There is no one else in the Southern California, or in the state for that matter, working so diligently with such a tremendous success rate as Shana Habel.
Bonnie Lavin, Secretary of CDEA has this to add, Shana Habel is the reason that I stepped up and offered to volunteer my time as secretary for the CDEA organization. The story goes like this…Back in 2011, following the swell of energy generated by the National Dance Educators Conference which was held in SoCal that year. Shana took it upon herself to organize monthly Sunday coffee meetings, very grassroots, in and around Los Angeles to keep the spirit of dance moving. One month she called us to Phillipes Downtown, the next, Intelligencia in Pasadena, then to L.A.’s gateway, LAX, coffee at the Melody Bar and Grill on Sepulveda in Westchester. From these monthly gatherings grew ideas, inspiration, and conviction. The result was a core of people, myself included, began to nudge one another to commit to some leadership responsibility in the hopes that we could reinvigorate a fading CDEA presence and in the process reinvigorate and inspire ourselves as important cultural ambassadors living, supporting, and trying to work in L.A.
Dance Literacy Nerd Alert
by Beth Megill
Before I go any further, let’s get one thing clear. I am a dance notation nerd. So, please don’t wonder about that. I know I am. I am proud to be one. I love dance notation. So, I admit I am biased.
Nevertheless, I understand that there are many who see a dance score and crumble at the sight. I understand that there was a generation that was force fed Labanotation without enough “artistry” mixed in to make it feel valuable. I understand that, for current movers, looking at a piece of paper filled with symbols can be dull or anticlimactic.
But, for dance notation nerds like me, it is, …well, another exciting way for me to love dance.
I first took Labanotation from Mary Corey at UC Irvine while in graduate school there. It was not required. I couldn’t understand how my fellow graduate students were not clamoring to get into this class! Alas, I was the only American graduate student who enrolled in the course. Two other graduates students took the course as well, but, they were Finnish folk dancers and came from the European community which seems to have a stronger grasp on dance notation.
I was fascinated with the material. It was exciting, fun, and thought provoking. I equated the experience of reading a score with doing a crossword puzzle. Reading and writing dance notation was like solving the puzzle of movement in time and space. Plus, I had an excellent teacher who was continuously inspiring me as I regularly peeked into her office to see her analyzing video and writing out notation day-in and day-out on her detailed scores for a cannon of choreographic masterworks.
Then, I took a summer Language of Dance® course with Tina Curran and Ann Hutchinson Guest and was officially hooked. I’ve been notating ever since. So, when I signed up for a Labanotation teacher training course this summer through the Dance Notation Bureau Extension office at Ohio State University, I was nerdily excited. I actually spent the majority of my spring break pouring over the books, remembering what Mary Corey had taught me 10 years prior, before completing the homework and score writing practice that is required to enroll in the course.
As I was notating symbol after symbol in LabanWriter (I got pretty good at the keystroke short cuts), I thought to myself, “This process is incredible! I am learning so much about dance by trying to notate it.” However, the learning wasn’t happening just in terms of symbols. I found that I was having to relearn how I danced in order to write it accurately. How exactly does one execute a soutenu turn? At which point does the foot cross over and when do I go to high level from the plié?
As I arranged the symbols properly in the columns, I again found myself exasperated that Labanotation and/or Motif Notation are not requirements in every single dance major across the country. How is it we can get through a dance major without being literate in the most common symbolic language of our field?
Granted, I understand that literacy comes in many forms and not just the verbal/symbolic. But, coming from a family of musicians who are all literate and can pick up a score of any piece of music and “read it” and/or “play it.” I can’t see how we dancers get by without asking the members of our field to know our own language. Are we afraid of traditional academic rigor? Or, is it really just unnecessary? Does dance literacy infringe on our established system of teacher/apprentice training?
I use Motif Notation in my technique classes to add clarity to the movement intention and style for a given genre, and I often use Motif Notation to jot down movement concepts when I choreograph.
My friends who are also in love with notation use it to analyze human movement and to stage important dance works. The Dance Notation Bureau archive houses scores of over 850 dances by more than 286 choreographers and most dancers in higher education are left illiterate by the time they graduate. We would never allow a music major to exit an academic program without being able to read the music canon, and yet, we are essentially ignoring this huge resource available for our dance students because they don’t know their own language!
The arguments are many and go in both directions. From my experience, I see how the time I spend learning the theory and notation of dance gives me added insight into both the art making and kinesthetic process of dancing. It seems we are intent on pushing bodies to the limit, but how are we pushing minds to the limit? The more I learn about neuro-processing and neuroplasticity, the more obvious it seems that we can be training our minds much more rigorously not just to improve our technique, but to move the conceptual aspects of our discipline forward. How do you address dance notation and literacy in your local community? I invite your reflection and ideas! Together we will decide the future of dance notation and literacy.
CDEA Report: May 10th Day Conference
A great day of connection, friendship and dance.
by Jessica Kronenberg
As a high school dance educator, I often feel isolated from my colleagues because I am the only one who does what I do on my campus. This isolation seems to be common for dance educators and partly why the profession draws very independent leaders. For this reason, it was very professionally stimulating to be surrounded by other dance educators for a whole day of sharing and connecting at the recent CDEA NorCal Conference. Meeting other teachers who direct programs similar to mine provided necessary perspective on my choices and practices in the dance studio. Simply being able to ask someone else “How do you recruit so many 9th graders into your program?” or, “How do you manage your parent booster club?” was extremely refreshing! Beyond that, we came away from the Conference with new knowledge on Social Media, integrating yoga and Afro-Brazilian dance into our classes, and a broader sense of the state of dance advocacy in California. What an incredible way to spend a day!
Frustrations with Dance Education Advocacy
One Northern California dance educator’s story. A familiar battle for all dance education visionaries.
by Avilee Goodwin
I have hesitated to write this, since it seems like complaining – but it is important for our field to know the challenges we face in attempting to expand access to dance education.
I have been in public education for 17 years. Most of those years I have spent much time and energy advocating for dance education in schools which have no dance programs. Unfortunately, I often feel as if I’ve been beating my head against the same wall for all those years – there are so many schools which boast comprehensive, award-winning music, visual art, and theater programs, but offer no dance at all. A few examples: one Bay Area high school offers seven different drama courses, from Beginning Drama through Stagecraft to Directing; eight music courses, including three levels of Band, two levels of Percussion, Jazz Ensemble, Concert Choir, and String Orchestra; and sixteen visual arts courses encompassing various levels of ceramics, drawing & painting, photography, and design — but no dance (except as one unit in Core PE)! That school’s district, encompassing five large high schools, offers no dance at all among the fifty-two VAPA courses in the district course catalog (but does include Dance among eight requirements of one PE course). One wellregarded private school, in its promotional materials, boasts “every student involved in esteemed performing and visual arts and music programs” – but includes no dance in the curriculum.
I’ve always tried to emphasize that the state content standards specify four arts disciplines, while so many schools only offer two or three; that dance is the only subject which combines an arts discipline with physical activity; as well as critical thinking, spatial thinking, problem-solving, collegereadiness (viz. the CSU/UC “g” requirement), etc. Over the years, I’ve been told “we’re a small school, we don’t have room in the schedule for luxuries like dance” or “we have so many arts courses already,” or “we value the arts here, but we prioritize what we presently have…”
Some specifics: one bay area school district recently completed an assessment of all arts programs, and found that middle school dance was a huge gap — while many of the elementary schools have dance programs through arts providers or in-house teachers, and the one high school has an excellent and comprehensive dance program, there is no dance at all in any of three middle schools. I met and brainstormed with the district arts coordinator, and we agreed one possibility for bringing dance to the middle schools could be an itinerant teacher shared among all three schools, making it more feasible for any school to rebuild a program from just one or two classes. Unfortunately, none of the three principals was able to find room in the budget for even one dance class – so middle school dance will continue to be a huge gap.
Another large public high school recently completed new PE and performing arts buildings including a dance studio, but found no room in the budget for a dance specialist – so a PE generalist with no dance background or experience was assigned to teach two sections of Dance! I assisted her with curriculum ideas this year and guest-taught one class per month, and had high hopes for helping to expand the program (with a “real” dance teacher) next year. But though the department had been optimistic that increased enrollment could warrant adding a dance specialist, the district decided that the school should host JROTC instead — so the dance classes will be taught by a PE generalist for another year.
This is, of course, not new: years ago, I found various schools which were on the cusp of adding dance to the curriculum, but at which all efforts failed. The VAPA department chair at one high school was certain of new arts classes for the next school year – “the arts pathway is going to be a reality and dance classes will begin in the fall.” By the next spring, those plans had withered away due to a budget crisis – and ten years later, that school still has no dance in the curriculum. Another VAPA chair urged me to contact the principal, (“I would love it if we could get a dance program going”) – but the principal never responded, and the program never came about.
I have also advocated for dance education at various “independent” schools — so many of which boast their fabulous arts programs but have no dance at all. Many seemed at first to have excellent potential, but after years of messages back and forth, those prospects faded away.
One private K-8 school advertises its emphasis on critical thinking and project-based learning (such a great fit for creative dance program!). I contacted the associate head of the school and got a prompt response asking for a phone meeting. In the phone meeting, I described a well-planned creative dance program, and he wrote about it in his school blog: “rather than force students to simply learn steps or routines, Avilee teaches them deeper concepts such as line, shape, path, range, level, tempo, rhythm, and weight… Clearly this is not the unit on square dancing we all experienced in our own educations! This conversation made me excited to continue to look at the possibilities around adding dance to our program…” However, after the idea was brought to the school governance committee, eventually it came to “maybe you could talk to our after-school coordinator,” and then even that possibility evaporated.
I likewise kept in contact with a small private high school in the east bay, where a colleague was the VAPA chair. After some dialogue, I was told that the academic dean had “expressed that there may be interest as well as need for beginning a dance program next year.” The dean contacted me about setting up a meeting in the summer, but my message offering possible dates was met with no response… until the fall, when one more contact generated a brush-off: “I don’t foresee us needing a dance program in the near future, our current arts program meets our needs…”
These are, again, just a few examples of advocacy failing to make a dent in the scarcity of dance programs in this state. In California, only 14% of elementary schools, 10% of middle schools, and 34% of high schools offer standards-based courses in dance1; and only 0.28% of California students are enrolled in a dance course1! Bringing a new program into a school is an incredibly difficult endeavor, and in so many cases, even with an initial positive response, following through to getting a new program accepted and running can seem nearly impossible. It is hard not to get discouraged.