May 10th Nor Cal Day Conference – Connection, community, rejuvenation. Make your reservation today!
Dance Credential Update – One Step Closer.
Report from ACDFA West – How do we maintain diversity?
It seems we may have an epidemic on our hands. It is the tragic case of dance educator-over-commitment. We all know it well. And, it is highly contagious! Busy, busy, busy. Go, go, go. Downtime?!? Ha! Relaxation?!? Double Ha!! Communing with friends and colleagues. Triple Ha!!!
We have concerts to produce, dances to make, paperwork to file, videos to edit, lessons to plan, papers to grade, lighting plots to approve, costumes to fit! But, a dance educator’s life doesn’t have to be this way. We have a choice. But, it requires us being proactive. We have to protect our time and energy as our most valuable assets. We must learn to say “no” to the things that drain us and “yes” to the activities, events and people that recharge our batteries and increase our quality of life!
Unfortunately, we had to cancel our So Cal Day Conference because people were simply too busy at that time. But, the Nor Cal conference on May 10th is still on. Please show your support of dance and dance education by attending this event and enjoying an event made just for you!
CDEA Day Conference
Where: East Bay El Cerrito High School
When: May 10th, 9am-4pm
Gather for a day of collegiality, art and friendship. Take class, be inspired, connect. Enjoy instructional sessions and presentations Special workshop: Using Social Media!
9:00-9:30 Registration and Coffee
9:30-10:50 Technique Class
11:00-12:20 Class or Discussion
12:30-1:30 Lunch Break
1:30- 2:50 Class or Panel
3:00-4:00 Member Meeting
Day Conference Rate
- Member – $50
- Non-Member – $75
- Student – $30
Report from ACDFA West
How can we save diversity in our ACDFA festivals?
by Beth Megill
The American College Dance Festival Association (soon being renamed the American College Dance Association) held its West conference this March in Tempe, Arizona at the lovely Arizona State University campus.
In addition to the formal adjudication process, the festival included additional feedback sessions for choreographers interested in having a dialogue about their work. I was pleased to lead one of these alternate feedback sessions and I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to engage in conversation about pieces.
In contrast, the formal adjudication process is less interactive, including a total of 8 minutes of one-way feedback for each piece. This process is designed to be fair and anonymous. This year’s West region adjudicators included Wendy Peron, Rachael Leonard and David Shimotakahara. All of the whom are reputable figures in the dance world with strong choreographic careers rooted in a modern dance aesthetic. The heavy leaning toward modern came to good use in that the majority of the work being presented in the adjudication concerts was modern, post modern or contemporary.
There were only a handful of pieces that were outside of the modern dance umbrella. For those who have not attended an ACDFA festival, this disproportion of genre representation is fairly typical. Some of the students in attendance were calling it the “modern dance” festival.
I have a great concern for the loss of diversity in our higher education dance programs. To be fair, most American college dance programs were founded by modern dance enthusiasts in the 1950’s and 60’s. Therefore, it stands to reason that modern dance is at the heart of college dance. This reality is still apparent in the continued bias toward modern and contemporary modern dance aesthetics that have continued to shape ACDFA conferences. With the added pressure of this being a national year, schools seemed even more committed to bringing the best modern/contemp. dance they had to offer. Out of 47 pieces, there was one classical Indian dance, one Cambodian fusion, one West African fusion, one urban dance/dub step, one contemporary ballet and one contemporary jazz dance.
My concern is the unspoken message that we are communicating to our students through the apparent lack of diversity in our the represented dance programs. What type of bias are we translating through this process?
The challenge of course is due in part to the inherent nature of a competition.
While ACDFA is not set up as a competition, the idea of receiving anonymous feedback, having a chance to be selected for the top 10 pieces of the region and eventually having the elite chance to represent the West in Washington DC sends a confusing message to the dancers (and instructors).
Of course the homogeny makes it much easier to compare and contrast (dare I say evaluate) dance works in the festival. Apples to apples. Oranges to oranges. Comparing a gaga based, post-modern performance to a contemporary jazz dance with commercial appeal is near impossible.
But from an educational perspective, how can we use ACDFA to encourage continued development and growth in all of the genres? It seems that having a panel of adjudicators from different backgrounds might be a start, but even more than that is perhaps a systemic shift in how we evaluate a dance work. Do we evaluate all dance works against concert modern /contemporary standards or each against its own system of values?
Which leads me to the essential questions of education- do we know how to talk about a contemporary jazz work? Should we view it through the same lens as a modern dance work? Can we switch lenses for each dance? That certainly is asking a lot from a single adjudicator. No person can know all the genres and know the intricacies of the style and values of each. So, how then do we promote variety and equity within our educational environments?
To the festival’s credit the class selection did offer a number of diverse dance classes including jazz dance improvisation. However, the diversity of these offerings didn’t translate to the adjudication stage. Will genre diversity eventually disappear completely from the festival?
It may, unless we start to train our dancers to push the jazz, tap, and fusion forms forward in our choreography classes in the same way we foster the modern/contemporary dance artist. Until we change the way we think and talk about the non-modern forms, we cannot realistically expect the festival program offerings to change.
ADFA is a phenomenal experience that I believe is essential to the sharing of dance practices across our region and nation. As we move forward, I propose higher education dance programs consider presenting one non-modern based dance work in order to shake things up, to challenge the system (and even the adjudicators), to see each piece within its own cultural and aesthetic context. Give the adjudicators and the 500 attending students a chance to see the diversity that can exist in college dance programs.
Note: The former Southwest region split up into West and Baja only a few years ago when it had grown simply too large to accommodate the many dance programs in the region. This year however, the Baja region had no host and thus, many Southern California schools opted for an out of region festival. I was fortunate to go to the West region with my colleague and 12 students in tow.
Diamond Ranch Conservatory of Dance, Diamond Ranch High School, Pomona, CA
by Dr. Typhani Harris with an introduction by Susan Gingrasso
I introduce you to Dr. Typhani Harris, one of Southern California’s dynamic and truly innovative dance educators. Typhani has created a unique and amazingly sustainable dance program within the Diamond Ranch High School in Pomona, CA. I met Typhani at the 2012 NDEO conference in Los Angeles in a publishing session for authors I offered in my role as Resources Review Director. This past February, I arranged to spend a day with Typhani so I could experience her program and her students in action. Through the courses, associated production and service experiences, her students engage deeply in every one of the 21st Century Learning skills. You will understand how that happens as you read about her program in the following article. Additionally, Diamond Ranch’s dance majors receive honors recognition in graduation as they earn membership in the National Honor Society for Dance Arts (NHSDA) established by NDEO and also in the NU Delta Alpha Honor Society established by the National Dance Association of AAHPERD. I am grateful to Typhani for writing about the Diamond Ranch Dance program.
Dr. Typhani Harris is the founder and Artistic Director of the Diamond Ranch High School Conservatory of Dance. Diamond Ranch is a traditional public high school hoisted on a hill in Pomona, California. Known for its architecture and features on the big screen, Diamond Ranch is also the proud VAPA pathway for the Pomona Unified School District. Typhani was brought onboard 11 years ago to create a dance program, beginning with seven young ladies and a “dare to dream” that established the Conservatory. With the vision of “preparing students through life through movement”, Typhani built a comprehensive dance education program in a traditional public high school with demographics that span all areas. The program is founded on collaboration, creativity, and education. Most students attend Diamond Ranch with no prior dance training, so the program is grounded in learning from each other and gaining world knowledge through real life experiences.
Dance at Diamond Ranch begins with the Dance I course. In Dance I, students experience an introduction to ballet, modern, and jazz technique, as well as theoretical studies in anatomy and kinesiology, dance history, terminology, and lighting design. Due to the theatre situation, Diamond Ranch dancers are truly set at the forefront of every essential skill needed in order to produce a concert and work collaboratively all four years to accomplish this task. The theatre is off campus and housed in a very old building with no working electric. So, beginning students learn the art of hanging, focusing, and programming lighting, as well as how to design the lightning for dance based compositions. Then each student chooses a concert composition to light.
Students who wish to continue dancing move into Dance II and Composition I. Dance II furthers their technical experience and teaches costume design. Students learn how to sew, read patterns, and design stage appropriate costumes. Each student designs costumes for a concert piece. They work closely with the Dance I lighting designers on color schemes and the choreographers on artistic choices, and ultimately hand make every costume on stage. To be prepared for the costume needs and expectations, the designer learns the movement for the entire piece, which also places them in a position to be understudies for these pieces. In Composition I they begin learning the fundamentals of composition and practice their knowledge by assisting a choreographer in an additional piece.
As students move in to Dance III and Composition II honors (the only College Board approved Honors Dance Composition course in California), they are pushed to advance their technical abilities and begin media studies through the creation of their own e-portfolio highlighting the life skills they have obtained throughout the program. At this point students are able to propose thematic pieces for the concert and begin working with a Dance I lighting designer, a Dance II costume designer/understudy, and an assistant choreographer to build their concept. Students are responsible for the entire production of their pieces from conception, to audition, to rehearsals, to staging.
As students venture into their final year, they become leaders in the program, ambassadors for the school, and spokespeople for the VAPA major. Performing at many community events and educational conferences throughout their final year, these dancers truly embrace the ideals of collaborative workers, problem solvers, goal setters, and strong individuals prepared for a global society. Seniors complete a qualitative or quantitative research project in the form of creation, teaching, or data analysis and finally present their findings before a panel of dance specialists.
Due to the amazing architecture, senior dancers create a senior site-specific showcase where they utilize the architecture as a background for original movement, which is themed around their own personal journeys. This is always a unique experience for the audience as they travel around the campus experiencing interactive movement. Furthermore, these dancers enroll in the pedagogy course and learn the theory and philosophies of teaching and become the student teachers for all of the dance courses.
Finally, senior dancers are charged with giving back to their community through service learning projects. Our VAPA department project is the Day of the Arts, which was proposed and piloted by our 2010 dance graduates, and has been growing ever since. Students from the district are invited to attend a day in the life of an artist and carousel through their artistic choices for a day. This project culminates with a participant performance for their families.
Our program doesn’t stop there, graduates are hired back as the teachers of the Summer Intensive workshops for our upcoming artists and also get the opportunity to travel to the country of Panama to share their love of dance with the orphanages of Colòn and Malambo, dance at the University of Panama, and take part in a pieces composed by local Kuna choreographers. The trip culminates with a theatre performance with the children with whom they have spent the week.
We have had many successes with our program, including being named the Bravo Award Winner from the Music Center for excellence in arts education; the creation of a full dance major that incorporates nine courses over four years; being named the VAPA pathway for the district; and, of course, the personal successes of our graduates.
Our biggest challenge, however, remains in the education of our parents. Unfortunately, many of our parents don’t want the children to continue in dance because students can’t get a scholarship unless they major in dance, however, our parents don’t want their children majoring in dance because they believe “they can’t do anything with it”. So, this is an ongoing struggle with our students and their parents.
As our vision states, our purpose is to prepare these students for life through the medium of movement. The life skills provided are so valuable to adolescents as they find their identity and place in the world. Although all of our dancers continue dancing in some capacity, it is the success of their lives that makes the Diamond Ranch program successful.
California Dance Credential Update
by Shana Habel
The California Teacher’s Association (CTA) has long been opposed to the implementation of single subject credentials in dance and theatre. In December of 2012, CTA presented a formal letter of opposition to the implementation of the credentials at a hearing of the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) in Sacramento. Several individuals representing both the dance and theatre education communities were present at this hearing to speak in support of the credentials.
In contrast, the California Federation of Teachers (CFT) gave their support to a resolution submitted by Los Angles area union members calling for legislation to implement the two single subject credentials. This issue was brought to Assemblyman Calderon from CFT, and on February 21, 2014 and he introduced AB 2254, a bill calling for the authorization of “two additional single subject teaching credentials, one in dance and one in theatre, with grandfathering provisions.” Currently AB 2254 is a “spot bill,” or place holder, and will require amendments before it goes to the committee. While its content is still in the process of being drafted, the place holder bill reads as follows:
THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS:
SECTION 1. It is the intent of the Legislature to enact legislation that would authorize two additional single subject teaching credentials, one in dance and one in theatre, with grandfathering provisions.
The CREATE CA working group on credential issues is working closely with all involved to ensure that our voices are heard as the content of the bill is crafted. The progress of AB 2254 can be followed by going to http://legiscan.com/CA/bill/AB2254/2013.