Making adjustments is at the essence of a dancers life. How do you find your ideal alignment? Is the arm here or there? Are you pointing your toes, when your choreographer asked you to flex? We constantly ask our students to make adjustments, for what is considered “accurate” in that moment in time. Learning to make adjustments easily is extremely important for any dancer—it allows the learning process to become fluid, enjoyable, and productive. Ultimately one hopes that making adjustments maintains good bodily health and well-being.
However, there are countless instances where asking dancers to make certain adjustments when they are injured, healing, or at greater risk for re-injury can be quite dangerous. Some of these moments may be: a student has a physical limitation such as an injury or disability, a movement is too painful to repetitively do, that there is greater risk of re-injury while doing a particular movement. When an unnecessary risk of danger for a dancer surfaces, it is appropriate to empower the student to modify accordingly.
To modify a movement is to take its core qualities and to employ them in another style in the body. An example of this could be that instead of executing a series of jumps during a routine warm-up, a dancer might return to the barre to work the feet and ankles in a lighter tendu exercise. Modifying is not to be confused with lack of focus, or being tired/lazy. It is an act of self-regulation where a vulnerable, yet capable student makes choices on how to challenge themselves instead of being forced to adjust to a certain mold.
I, like many others, was taught choreography by members of the “old school”: who would dance a student until they broke, and had little-to-no qualms about it. I learned countless lessons from my early teachers and they shaped who I am as an artist, yet now as a teacher myself, with short term goals such as class inclusion, teaching healthy boundaries, how to move when we’re injured, and how to appropriately overcome obstacles, modification is one of my most valuable tools for my students. This is true as well for my long term goal (which I hope you share with me) of creating lifelong dancers and movers, because while the human body has functional obsolesce (we eventually break-down), the desire to move can transcends that limitation. If we help students realize that they can keep dancing through movement modification, then these goals are much more reachable.
For many, this post is preaching to the choir and is old hat by now. However, If you would like to introduce idea of students modifying then please check-out our two resources below.
Sample lesson on movement-modification
1) In a circle, introduce a warm-up where each student (one-at-a-time) shares some way to move. Everyone mirrors the movement back, placing the movement in a different body part/side of the body.
2) Lead an exploration where everyone chooses their favorite movement/way to move. Explore all ways that a particular movement can be performed differently, using different body parts, levels, sizes, durations, etc. Try a different movement, and do the same. Perhaps do one more.
3) Employ an improv. where the students take their favorite ways of moving their favorite moves (that they discovered in their exploration) and try different ways to string them together. Keep encouraging new and different ways.
4) Students then develop a solo phrase: perform your favorite dance move in four different ways.
5) Finish by having the students present their work to each other in a class showing.
Build a lesson around
“Axis Dance Company”
AXIS Dance Company is one of the world’s most celebrated and inventive communities of performers with and without disabilities. Founded in 1987, AXIS has innovated an impressive contemporary dance discipline known as physically integrated dance and with it, strives to evolve thought around dance and disability.
Check-out AXIS Dance Company’s site here:
A Recent work from AXIS Dance Company, Divide (by Marc Brew), can be found through YouTube here:
…Zackary Forcum is a Dance Teaching Artist, who is attending Mills College Dance MFA Program, and sits on CDEA’s Greater Board…