The first semester of the programme was launched 5 months after the end of the pilot project of 2011 (one-week ToT course and the EXILE performance). Hence the first semester was in itself a pilot phase into the 4-year programme.
It was expected that a high turnover of participants from the targeted organizations would take place, considering that the programme is unprecedented in the region, leaving it impossible for the participants to visualize and understand what they are getting themselves into, as well as what the programme and community dance are about. Accordingly, the content of the first semester focused on group establishment.
The semester was split into three sections. The first was an introductory section to the programme, to contemporary dance and to community art/dance practices. The second section focused on teaching skills and anatomy, while the third section focused on delivering choreographic tools to the participants.
The content of the semester was chosen with care to provide a smooth entry into the programme. Section one of the semester consisted of three phases, starting with the introductory phase, lead by Nadia Arouri, who is Palestinian and could hence build a bridge to the culture and reduce any feelings of estrangement. To ease this introductory phase for the participants, the artists chosen for the following two phases came from the Pina Bausch School of Dance, which is performative and strong in character, hence in some aspects close to Dabka, the traditional Palestinian dancing.
The second phase was led by Gianna Grünig and Franziska Rölli. It introduced basic structures of Dance Technique classes, and together with the participants established the house rules, class rules, and group rules of the programme.
The third phase was led by Mohan Thomas and Maria Lucia Agon Remirez from Tanz Motto Essen. This first module was an introduction into community dance. This module took the trainees on a journey into what community dance means, giving them teaching tips and allowing them to dive into their first teaching experience.
The second section of the semester consisted of phase four to six, starting with the Austrian artist, Jasmin Hoffer who focused on softening the body of the trainees and raising their physical perception abilities, providing an essential stepping-stone for understanding the body, human physiology, and muscular-skeletal systems. Her work paved the way for the Pedagogy and Anatomy modules that followed.
The fifth phase was led by the renowned Irish dancer, teacher, choreographer and mentor Mags Byrne. She focused on providing the trainees with profound teaching techniques and solid class preparation and implementation skills. The module consisted of a theoretic part and a practical implementation conducted in partnership with four Palestinian Schools.
In phase six, Nadia Arouri underlined the trainees’ teaching skills by giving them an introduction into human anatomy and physiology, with a focus on the importance of nutrition.
The third section of the semester consisted of phase seven and eight, starting with Austrian artist Stefanie Sternig, who worked on basic choreographic tools while dedicating this phase to the topic of participation, leading to a choreographic intervention on the streets of Ramallah.
In phase eight, the last one of the semester, the community dance artist Josef Eder reviewed and integrated aspects of teaching skills while providing insightful choreographic tools.
Dance Technique – February and March 2012
We started the ToT programme in February 2012 with four weeks of dance technique classes delivered by Nadia Arouri. Classes were held at the Birzeit University Teacher’s Compound in Al-Tireh, Ramallah and focussed on ice-breaking and team-building dance exercises. Classes were planned as separate stand-alone units in order to allow participants to join in at any point so they could get an insight before committing to the programme. Some 20 out of 60 participants made the commitment. Every journey begins with small steps
The programme was launched in February 2012. Classes started on 15.02.2013 at the hall of the Birzeit University Teacher’s Compound in Al-Tireh, Ramallah. As an introductory phase, classes between 15.02.2013 – 05.03.2013 were taught by Nadia Arouri, the artistic director of the programme. The aim of this introductory phase was to:
1. Re-gather the trainees who participated in the pilot phase after an almost 4-month break.
2. Recruit new participants from different organisations, especially dancing groups and youth clubs.
Classes were held three times per week for 90 minutes each. The classes introduced contemporary dance technique to the participants, with a focus on team building exercises, and ice breaking dance exercises. Dancers and young people from different cultural and youth organisations were invited to join the programme throughout this phase. Hence, classes were planned as separate, non-interdependent units, in order to allow participants to join at any point and get the full experience to be able to make an informed decision on whether to join the programme or not.
More than 60 persons joined the programme during this phase. Some came in for a day, others for a week or two. Out of these 60 participants 20 committed to the programme and attended regularly. Hence no evaluation of the trainees could be performed at this stage.
Dance Technique – March and April 2012
Gianna GRÜNIG and Franziska ROELLI
Gianna Grünig and Franziska Roelli introduced the trainees to the essential structures of a basic dance technique class, and gave them guidance and support in order for them to understand and appreciate the concepts underpinning the programme, namely the need to take the programme seriously and to invest time in preparation. The importance of the principles of respect, observation and critical analysis was transmitted, along with the basic class techniques in floor work, standing and improvisation. Values are as important as techniques
The Swiss artists Gianna Grünig and Franziska Roelli introduced the trainees to the structure of a basic dance technique class consisting of floor work, technique in standing and improvisation. It was two weeks after their arrival that the duration of the classes was extended to 120 minutes instead of 90 minutes. Grünig and Roelli played a pivotal role in introducing the basic rules of a dance class and of the programme as well as supporting the trainees in acclimating to these concepts that were mostly new to the participants. Pivotal concepts to the success of the programme fell within the line of “A dance class is not a dispensable extra curricular social activity, it is a serious class just like maths or physics, that you need to invest in and prepare for”. The following house rules were introduced in this period:
– Be on time
– Do your own warm up before class
– Respect your fellow dancers
– Take care of the space, especially the dance floor
– Keep your hands out of your pockets
– No chewing gum
– Switch off your mobile phones
– Perception of: oneself, the other, and the space
– Listen and watch constantly
Also the following interpersonal communication rules were introduced and endorsed throughout the practice with various exercises.
– Feel free
– Be open and willing to take a risk
– Be confident in the group and yourself
– There is no right or wrong
– Always dare (to do)
Grünig and Roelli’s classes focused on developing the trainees’ basic skills necessary for a dance class, such as training the perception of space, time, dynamics, music, rhythm, and the others in space. They also undertook a great amount of focus training work.
“During the two months we taught once a week at Communication School – Palestine Red Crescent Society for Deaf Children, whereof two teenagers joined the I Can Move Community Dance Project in April. The change in the group after they joined was deeply touching. The perception and the concentration changed and the trainees started to try out before asking questions. It deepened the understanding of their own body.”
“Abed has a compelling sensitivity and poetry in his dance.”
“Manar surprised us again and again with her creativity and expressiveness. Manar has an abstract, exciting movement language that emerged in the improvisations and in her composition study.”
“Raafat has a sparkling energy. It was very touching to see how quickly he has integrated into the group, although he joined us a bit later.”
Intensive Module I – Partnering and Contact Improvisation – April 2012
Mohan THOMAS & Maria Lucia AGON
This module focused on the teaching skills needed in the practice of community dance. Factors such as clearly identifying precisely what one wants to impart to the students in one’s classes and the need to allow two hours for planning and analysis for every hour of teaching were considered in detail. Classes were structured in four phases covering development of contemporary dance techniques, creativity, relaxation and teaching skills. The young dancers were making clear progress in their development. Failing to plan is planning to fail
Apart from the general focus on group consolidation, this first Module focused on community dance as a practice introducing basic teaching skills. The artists Maria Lucia Agon and Mohan Thomas developed the concept that built the foundation of the training. Each training day was structured in four phases.
1. Intermediation/Development of various contemporary dance techniques
2. Fostering of Creativity: improvisation work and composition
3. Relaxation: e.g. Yoga, Meditation
4. Teaching skills and Group discussions: analysis, reflection and documentation
In a class trial each trainee was given the task of taking on the role of the teacher by not only explaining one dance exercise to the others, but also by actually demonstrating and teaching it. Feedback of teachers and fellow trainees was always received positively. The following aspects of teaching were covered in this module:
– Schedule at least two hours of preparation before class and evaluation after class for one hour of teaching
– Know what you want to convey to the students
– Send clear and simple messages
– Be open and spontaneous
– Use clear tone of speech and voice
– Prepare the music in advance, either CD or musical accompaniment
– Distribute your attention to all of the students
– Develop the sensitivity and some ideas to support and challenge all of the students as dancers
– Maintain a friendly and respectful dialogue with all students
– Establish a relationship with your students that always has the ‘cause’ i.e. learning and teaching material prioritised and at its core
At the end of each training day a group discussion was held in which impressions, learning processes, successes and problems were discussed. The trainees were also asked to write a personal reflection at home.
Alongside artistic and pedagogical questions, other aspects which are important for the success of community dance were discussed within the group, e.g. a clean floor, the division of tasks, keeping record lists of absence, discipline and appreciation of the programme.
Throughout the intensive workshop the teachers could witness the positive development of the young dancers, their understanding of dance in regard to their body awareness, as well as their development of mental and emotional capacity. They learnt trust in themselves and others.
Dance Technique – May 2012
Jasmin worked with the trainees on their bodies, the importance of which cannot be stated often enough. She used release technique, she led the students in examining holding and letting go, tension and relaxation, in how to swing, drop and catch body parts.
As with all trainers, team-building was one of the most important aspect of her teaching and she looked at moving together in different formations, developing the trainees‘ awareness of space and how it is filled and used in concert with others. Awareness of space and others improves self-awareness
Jasmin Hoffer was asked to work with the trainees on softening the body. Hence she mainly used release technique in her classes. She supported the trainees in exploring the possibilities of the differentiation between holding and letting go, tension and relaxation, and how to swing, drop and catch body parts in order to generate momentum from this action. She worked with the trainees on sequential movements and spirals. She also explored floor work further with the trainees, mainly inspired by Flying Low and Axis Syllabus techniques.
Like all teachers in this semester, Jasmin focused on team building activities. She put an emphasis on moving together and in different formations to heighten their awareness of each other and the space. She also used Bodywork extensively to underline and enhance the trainees’ ability to let go of their muscles and to build trust between the trainees. She led them through the different possibilities of touch:
1. On the level of the skin
2. On the level of the muscles
3. On the level of the bones
4. Going over to gentle manipulation
This sensitized state for movement explorations was then used to allow each trainee to create a solo based on the various compositional techniques introduced by Jasmin.
“Due to his training in acting and traditional Palestinian Dance, Mourad is used to performing in front of audiences and has a strong stage presence. He is very consistent in realising an artistic idea and was continuously refining his solo over an extended period. Like the all others he has to improve his flexibility and technical precision.”
“Nashwah is aware of the lines and shapes she creates with her body. She seemed to deal with a lot of pressure from her surroundings and also had some health problems, but she is very strong and has understood the importance of dance in her life and the necessity to claim it for herself. In creative work she comes up with fresh ideas and works well together with others. In performative settings she can capture attention and create tension.”
Intensive Module II – Teaching Dance to Children aged 8 to 12 – May 2012
Mags introduced the trainees to the concepts of teaching skills required for teaching dance to children in the classroom and in the community. A broad spectrum of concepts was introduced and examined, such as: child psychology and attention span, safety issues in the classroom, children’s learning processes, planning children’s classes and age and gender issues. Along with these concepts, suitable material and appropriate dance technique exercises were looked at and evaluated on a daily basis. In the second part of the module the skills and concepts learnt were implemented in the classrooms of various partner schools. Every community grows with its children
Intensive Module II – Teaching Dance to Children aged 8 to 12 – Part 1
In Module II Mags Byrne introduced the trainees to teaching skills especially in community and school contexts. The module focused on the age category 8-12. In this module the trainees were introduced to the different class structures and the various responsibilities they bear as teachers, such as class safety measures, class planning and important pedagogical and psychological concepts necessary for the delivery of a dance classes for children. It focused on developing the trainees’ delivery skills, meaning how to encourage and then work with the children’s creativity, structuring that work for a performance, learning what is involved in the delivery of a small performance and building relationships with schools and school teachers.
Why dance/Why with children
Through practical experience and theoretical discussions the participants reflected on why they dance and why they think dance might be good for children. The rational for dance work with children was concluded by looking at the following aims and possible outcomes of that work:
Responsibilities of the teacher
What does the dance teacher need to do before the class starts to insure safety and what are the responsibilities of the teacher during the class?
This includes preparation, class management and issues of child protection. The following was worked out:
Planning and class content
Suggested class structure for a technique class and a creative class
For a technique class:
For a creative class:
Technique class and Creative Class:
Classes were split into different age groups, depending on which different class durations were set:
Suggested structure for use in a children’s class
I. Warm up
II. Lead in
III. Main section
V. Cool down
Aims and main elements of each section
Use of music:
Beat or no beat, rhythm or not, sequence or free movement, self-created or recorded, words or not.
What type of music:
Folk, pop, drums, etc.
Use of Stimuli
Prop, picture, music, poem, story, object.
This module especially focused on the following Do’s for a teacher:
Intensive Module II – Teaching Dance to Children aged 8 to 12 – Part 2
The work with the children in the school was composed of different aspects; there were creative classes that led to the performance of 4 different choreographies. The theme for the choreography was ‘The Four Seasons’. The intention was to look at the development of dance from words and themes, in order to present performances that have a theme or accessible idea.
During Part 1 of this module a warm-up series was agreed upon by the trainees and the course instructor to ensure child safety, in which all body parts were addressed. This way there was a common warm-up part for all four groups. Based on Part 1 of the Module where the trainees learnt how to plan classes theoretically, each group of trainees were given the task of preparing a class based on the season they chose. They also planned their communication strategy with the children, their class rules, as well as the costumes and music.
The trainees prepared those classes and discussed them with the course instructor Mags Byrne before going into the schools. In the schools, each group of trainees would work with a group of children in the presence of the instructor Mags Byrne, who supported the trainees and intervened if necessary. After performing these classes the trainees received individual and group feedback, based on which they went back to their class planning and made the necessary changes and amendments for the following session with the children.
Friday 09.06.2012 at 12:30
The performance took place at the Friends School. It consisted of the warm-up in front of the audience to show discipline and the movements that have been learnt in the warm-up, which is also considered a symbolic way to illustrate the importance of a warm-up. After the warm-up the children presented the performance of the four different choreographies that they created in the training session on the theme of ‘The Four Seasons’.
The YANTE trainees and their instructor Mags Byrne explained to the audience the process that the children had undergone and the theme that they worked on to prepare the audience and also to stimulate empathy and understanding amongst the audience as well as encourage and empower the children before going on stage: “Look at how disciplined your kids are (even if they are not), look at how they are standing without moving (even if they are not), look how strong and powerful they are. Look how quiet and committed they are. Do you know that the important thing in learning is how to be quiet and how to listen? Do you also know that the performance you will be seeing was created by your children?”.
The trainees and trainer also explained to the audience what the movements mean and symbolize, e.g. “You see when the children move like this, it represents the rain, or leaves, etc.”. Mags Byrne also explained to the parents how the children learn and develop their understanding of the topics as well as other skills through dancing.