Disrupting the silent dance class

Disrupting the silent dance class

Compliant.
Obliging.
Obedient.

These are things I NEVER want my students to be or become.

But these are the behaviours and dispositions that are valorised in many dance studios.

Unpopular-opinion- a-silent-dancer-does-not-equal-a-focused-dancer.

There’s a misperception in dance (and in education more broadly) that a quiet classroom is a controlled classroom, and a controlled classroom means a good teacher, right?

W-R-O-N-G.

Passivity is built into western dance pedagogy, but it needs to stop. Not only does it privilege a particular type of student, it also disables autonomy, agency and students’ ability to make their own connections and create powerful meanings.

When we don’t allow students’ voices in the classroom, we are, in effect, prioritising lesson plans over student experience, understanding and interpretation. As teachers, we should be encouraging our students to question lesson content, you, their world and their place in it.

This is particularly significant as dance is such a female-dominated activity. What are we teaching our girls if ‘good behaviour’ is demonstrated by being quiet, by not speaking up, by accepting things without questioning?

Our role as dance teachers extends far beyond the dance studio. We equip our students with skills for life and shape how they view and interact with the world.

Now, as you read this, if you find yourself thinking, “my students answer my questions all the time”, then I’m going to get you to stop right there.

In its most common form, this teaching practice doesn’t promote students’ interpretations or encourage meaning-making. More often than not, this type of practice simply valorises students who are able to parrot back what the teacher has said in the past. Again, it privileges a particular type of student.

I see it in my research in dance classes all the time. Students who give their own interpretations are side-lined and their opinions often rejected, while students who tell teachers the answers they were looking for are praised. This happens even if the original thought from the student who is seemingly ‘speaking out of line’ actually builds knowledge and adds so much more to what is being explored than the student who knows how to play dance teacher bingo.

We need to encourage students to think for themselves and to think laterally and critically. How are we going to train the next generation of creatives if we’re keeping their thoughts, opinions and ideas boxed up?

So, how are you going to prioritise students’ voices in your classes?

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