When it comes to the new National Core Arts Standards, it’s easy for me to address three of the four components: Creating; Performing/Presenting/Producing; and Responding. But I struggle with the fourth one, Connecting. Do you have any suggestions?
I, too, often overlook the Connecting component, which is about understanding the person or people participating in the dance process. One way to address this standard is to have your students talk directly to the dance people in their lives—their past and present dance teachers, for example, or maybe the family and friends who introduced them to dance in the first place.
Interviewing can be a daunting process for a student, but there’s a great resource for this: StoryCorps, an oral history project that records interviews and archives them at the Library of Congress. Though StoryCorps only has three permanent recording booths (in Atlanta, Chicago and San Francisco), there’s now a StoryCorps app that takes you through the entire interview process, step by step. Students receive tips on interviewing and have a huge selection of questions to try, if they can’t think of one on their own. They just need to set the length of time for the interview, find a quiet space and record. Encourage your students to be creative in whom they choose to interview.
You can share the interview with the Library of Congress archives or with others who have the app, but you can also just keep it. Either way, your students will end up with a multidimensional understanding of dance, and you’ll have compiled a classroom’s worth of contemporary oral dance history.
Barry Blumenfeld teaches at the Friends Seminary in New York City. He is an adjunct professor at New York University and on faculty at the Dance Education Laboratory of the 92nd Street Y.
Courtesy of Barry Blumenfeld