As a composer, working to commission, it is interesting to learn what other people think of as ‘suspenseful’, uplifting’, atmospheric’, ‘dramatic’ and so on. There are so many possible ways to interpret such subjective, qualitative ideas that it can be quite refreshing to discover somebody else’s take on a given topic or stimulus. Similarly, presenting ready-made music for others to use and apply in their creative work often gives rise to unexpected and intriguing outcomes.
In my capacity as composer for dance education, my music is made available to movement specialists and other educators to use as they wish. As a firm believer that children are able and keen to respond to all forms of music, it is refreshing to find that my collaborators are at pains to avoid clichéd use of ‘obvious’ music in generating dance ideas. In fact, a recent discussion with key Dance Notes contributors Michelle Rochester and Kara Herbert threw up the idea that it is often better to purposefully present music that defies expectation.
An underlying principal of the Dance Notes method is that movement ideas should be generated by the pupils themselves. We have already discussed how this requires a certain ‘letting go’ on the part of the teacher: not only letting go of control of the outcomes but also of any preconceived notion of how this might look. Whereas music has an important role to play in providing stimulus – sometimes of a specific geographical or historical flavour – its real purpose is to promote certain qualities of movement, so the choice of music may sometimes come as a surprise to the uninitiated.
This is where the experience of the dance specialist comes in – and consequently alleviates the necessity for the classroom teacher to have that prior knowledge. They will know that to simply provide marching-style music for a section that requires children to represent soldiers going into combat will merely result in a room full of stomping, ‘acting’ children. What dance aims to achieve is an embodiment of the qualities of movement associated with that activity – not a literal representation.
Similarly, where music is required to motivate and enervate a class at the beginning of a lesson, this needs judicious selection in order to avoid a classroom of children effectively bouncing off the walls. Or whilst warming-down at the end of a class, care must be taken not to induce sleep in tired bodies.
One of the great benefits of dance in education is that it can open the mind to possibilities not otherwise considered. This applies to the educator as much as the educated and hopefully this element of surprise will ensure that the subject remains rewarding and enjoyable for all concerned. So please expect the unexpected when asking your pupils to explore a topic through movement; challenging them and yourself as well. It is often when we are wrong-footed that we are at our most creative.
And thank heavens for a subject in which there is no such thing as ‘wrong’!