Hiya dance teachers and educators!
I’m Toi B. Brown, a dance artist currently residing in London, England, United Kingdom. I’ve lived here for about 6 months now and there is one thing I would love for all teachers to remember. Do not stifle your students’ creativity!
No matter the age or level of the student, they will need to learn how to fully embody and understand movement. I remember keenly from the teachings of my classes in undergrad that it is so important to allow a child to be creative; however, once a child hits a certain age, for some reason it stopped being so important.
As a current member of the EDge Dance Company, the postgraduate dance company of the London Contemporary Dance School, I have worked with four different choreographers and many different teachers. All have asked students to improvise. Many of us hear the word ‘improv’ and freeze up like we’ve never danced before. Others hear it and finally feel ready to truly be themselves. Personally, I freeze up and my mind goes blank. It’s like ‘improv’ is my shut down code word from one of those secret agent or futuristic robot movies. For the longest time I have wondered, what could I have done to change the way my brain has been conditioned? I finally realized that it would have never happened if I’d spent just as much time exploring movement and getting in touch with my personal style as I did learning each dance technique/style.
Since moving to London, I can’t count how many times I have been asked to improvise. So often, over here, the choreographer wants the input of the dancer, but if the dancer was never taught to give input how could they? I know that before I left the States, I made sure all of my students in my classes were given time to discover movement for themselves. No one likes everything and that holds very true for dancers. I know dancers that appreciate every style/technique, but I don’t know one that loves each and every one. In my opinion it takes time, a lot of time, to figure out who you are as a person and a lifetime to find out what type of dancer you are. As a teacher, I think we should help our students in every way possible. If giving my students a 30 minute improvisational session once a month allows them to enjoy dance more while being a better dancer, I am all for it. And you’d be amazed at how smart and creative your students are when given the opportunity to express themselves in their own movement.
If you don’t know where to start I’ve given some questions below that you can ask your students. These questions are great for all ages because no one is too young or old to use their imagination!
- How would you dance in a pool?
- If you were surrounded by people at a music concert, how would you dance?
- How do you dance with someone and never let them go?
- Can you dance how you’re feeling today?
- Can you create a party dance? Can you change that party dance in a technique dance? (Ballet, Contemporary, Jazz, etc.)
- How would a straight line dance? A circle? A square?
- How would you dance if you didn’t have any bones?
- Can you travel across a room only doing 10 moves? 5 moves? 2 moves?
I hope these sparked some ideas of how to keep your students creative and add to all the fun in your classes. Nothing is wrong with a creative mind!
Cheers from the UK!
—Toi B. Brown
Toi B. Brown, a professional dancer and educator, hails from Philadelphia, PA, USA. Toi received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance from the University of Georgia before dancing professionally with the Atlanta Dance Connection (Atlanta, GA) and teaching with Studio Go (Atlanta, GA). She is currently living in London, England, UK to pursue a Master of Arts in Contemporary Dance. While working with the postgraduate company, EDge Dance Company based out of the London Contemporary Dance School, she has documented her journey at www.toibrown.com. She hopes to continue her professional dance career internationally before becoming a full-time educator!