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Different contemporary styles?


taxi4ballet
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I was wondering whether any one could explain the difference between the various styles of contemporary, as I am rather puzzled by it all.

 

DD has been doing contemporary alongside her classical training for a while now, and has mentioned that she likes the style she learns as part of one associate scheme much more than at another. She has also experienced varying methods at different workshops and residential courses too.

 

I'm asking as she is taking GCSE dance at her academic school, and the teacher there has sent out a letter saying that all the students must attend a weekly contemporary technique class during one lunchtime. 

 

Once we'd stopped laughing, dd and I discussed it at length, and we both think that that she doesn't really need to go to this class, but the teacher is insistent! However, I'm concerned about dd having technique corrections at her academic school, especially since the class will be led by a (presumably unqualified) 6th form Dance Prefect.

 

It would be helpful if I understood more about contemporary, so can anyone explain the different styles (Graham, Cunningham etc) please?

 

Thank you

 

 

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I cannot explain the differences but I would like to ask what the purpose is of these lunchtime classes? Is it just because they need to do some contemporary classes or is it leading to an assignment or performance which will be assessed? Does she get a contemporary mark as part of her GCSE?

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Sorry, I can't answer your question but I agree with you that I wouldn't be happy about a student teaching any subject at school. The teacher should be able to complete the work in the allocated lessons, if not its their responsibility to give up their time to complete the course. Maybe your daughter should go to the first session to see what it is about and if not suitable I don't see how they could insist on it.

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GCSE is contemporary dance.. I wouldn't say it is either Graham, Cunningham, Release or Limon.. but it's their own representation of contemporary. You are marked on how you dance I believe, so I guess the school needs to show that they are teaching you, rather than just expecting to know how to dance. I guess it's part of the schools requirement. You wouldn't take a ballet exam, without taking a ballet class right? Obviously it won't be the best contemporary, and not vocational standard.. but remember schools have to do certain things in order to pass tests etc etc... If OFSTED came round and saw they were doing a Dance GCSE but no actual lessons in GCSE's version of Contemporary... I'm sure they would be concerned! Just my guess anyway! She should do them, to show people her talent and what she has learnt at her associate programme - It'll give her a confidence boost for sure! 

 

- but of course, as Moomin said, this should be done by the teacher and during class time!!!

However, I do remember using every lunch time at school to go through my GCSE choreography with other students; but that was my choice.

Edited by BalletBloch
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From what I can gather, GCSE Dance is broadly contemporary in style, and there is a dance set by the examining body which everyone has to do.

 

I just think that the technique she learns at Central is likely to be good enough for GCSE! ;)

 

However, if GCSE Contemporary is in an entirely different style, then I don't suppose it will compromise her technique too much if she goes to these school classes.

 

Edited to add: the first one is today, so I will be waiting to hear how it went...!

Edited by taxi4ballet
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I wouldn't worry about compromising technique with this class at school - it won't be that demanding and your dd should find it very easy. In the past my pupils who have done GCSE dance at school have told me that a lot of the marks are for group work.  They are divided into small groups and have to invent moves and produce joint choreography.  That I should think is why it is essential for your dd to do the class.

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Taxi4ballet - do you know this class will be taught by an unqualified prefect? It seems a bit harsh to assume that when the teacher of GSCE dance will be qualified to teach. My DD did her GCSE a few years ago and was the only one who went on to dance.  As it was an academic school the whole GCSE was taken out of school time. She was allowed off some of the classes early because she could pick up the dances quicker than most.

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Yes, the class is to be taught by a prefect, it said so on the form we were sent. They won't be doing any choreography or group dances etc. It says, and I quote:

 

"This class will be run by our dance prefect and will include performance skills, exercises to improve students' posture, balance, movement memory, muscle tension, focus, co-ordination and energy expenditure".

 

:wacko:

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I think she should go and see what happens, but if by any chance the Prefect gives advice or correction which your dd knows conflicts with what is taught at Central, she can choose whether or not to take it on board.

 

My dd took her Dance GCSE in the summer, having started it in Year 7 as a 2 year Twilight course at another school. Sometimes her teacher would tell her to be a little less "balletic" :-) On the whole she found the course very interesting and it increased both her Contemporary vocabulary and her interest in the works and choreographers studied.

 

My only question to your school would be whether there will be any supervision or observation by a teacher - purely in the interests of Health & Safety.

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I doubt very much that your DD's technique will be compromised by these classes. For your DD these classes are perhaps just a bit of fun since no marks for the GCSE relate to them. Perhaps if after doing a few your DD feels that they are taking up valuable time which she could be using more productively, then maybe putting in writing as a reminder to the teacher just how much experience your DD has and how much pressure she has on her time, might make the teacher less insistent. After a few weeks the Prefect will also have seen if she is actually teaching your DD anything too. On the other hand your DD may think it is a fun way to spend her lunch hour.

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My only question to your school would be whether there will be any supervision or observation by a teacher - purely in the interests of Health & Safety.

 

That's a really good point Spanner, I hadn't thought of that!

 

I agree, the course is good when it comes to choreographic content, and the study of various dance works and choreographers, and she is enjoying that very much and getting a lot from it.

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I also think its a good idea to go, if there is any difference in marks at the end of the day at least your daughter knows she did what was asked of her and had the same tuition (although I'm sure she has a lot of additional qualities she is adding to her GCSE).  I'm sure she is skillful enough to isolate any corrections and as suggested by S&P choose whether or not to apply it to all her dance studies!

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I doubt very much that your DD's technique will be compromised by these classes. 

 

It was a bit tongue-in-cheek when I said that ;)

 

Well she went along, and was one of only two who actually bothered to turn up! DD said it was good fun though, so she will go again.

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Glad she enjoyed it T4B :-)

 

I have no insights to offer on the different types of contemporary dance despite dd being on a CAT scheme. Two years on I am still none the wiser! :-D

 

Your question did remind me though of when dd & I went to watch Phoenix Dance and had a class of GCSE dance students sat behind us. They struggled to engage with it in the first half, giggling and whispering all the way through. Then there was a piece where the gorgeous Josh Wille removed his shirt during a duet and complete silence ensued. At the end there was a pause and then a collective "how fit is he?". It did make me smile and I agreed wholeheartedly! :-D. Interestingly they then engaged fully with the remaining performances.

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This is always an interesting topic - I took GCSE dance at school and it is a whole different world! At first I hated dance in school as I was a 'technically' training dancer, ie taking ballet, modern, jazz, doing shows and festivals etc. But eventually I discovered whole new ways of moving which I grew to love (eventually!) 

 

Learning dance outside of school, what we would perhaps call 'vocationally', ie in the studio, tends to be almost exclusively technical, and motivated by aesthetics. Dance on the national curriculum (and therefore on the exam board specifications) is very different and can be accessed by someone who has never taken a technique class in their life as long as they know the motivation for the movement, and in choreography can discuss/debate why they or a choreographer may have chosen for the dancer to move in that way. Having said that, in order to get the B / A/ A* grades good technique, strength, muscle tone etc is needed. So schools do find themselves being under pressure to offer technical training as well as covering the examination syllabus. Sometimes this has to be after school as there is no other time to do it. The main teacher probably knows that your DD doesn't necessarily need to attend it - but if she is very ballet-trained it is good to be exposed to the more release-based styles of dance that aren't always taught at ballet based programmes. I imagine (but please correct me if I'm wrong) that most associate programmes or courses offered by a ballet school will teach contemporary for ballet dancers and centres around the neo-classical styles of Cunningham, Graham and Horton techniques, which are still fairly upright in their postures, although using more floor work, they still need a classical upper back, 'held' arms etc.

 

GCSE tends to use more Release-based techniques (Limon etc) which if you look up some videos on youtube, you will see they sometimes look 'ugly' to the eye that is used to seeing pulled up bodies, stretched legs and feet. It's often hard for the more classically trained dancer to adapt to these techniques, which is why your DD's teacher may have suggested she did this class. It may also be that she has been advised by her head of dpt/faculty to not make any exceptions in case of favouritism etc? The ridiculousness of pressures from management in secondary schools at the moment means often teachers are having to cover their own backs against possible repercussions against one's professionalism, ability to teach, exam results etc etc as a result of constant accountability measures, performance related pay etc It could be that last years cohort all had lower marks in the technical aspects of the course so in order to 'drive up standards' this area of weakness has been identified, and the school or teacher has put in place something that can show they are attempting to address this area. 

 

Most exam boards have the specifications of the GCSE freely available on their websites - for those parents unsure about the requirements of the course they are worth looking at. To a parent of a child doing 10-15 hours of dance technique training a week it probably seems like a GCSE for free, but they are worlds apart - and I can now appreciate why my dance teacher at school had such a tough time 'breaking' all of us ballerinas of our airs and graces!

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The main teacher probably knows that your DD doesn't necessarily need to attend it - but if she is very ballet-trained it is good to be exposed to the more release-based styles of dance that aren't always taught at ballet based programmes.

 

It's often hard for the more classically trained dancer to adapt to these techniques, which is why your DD's teacher may have suggested she did this class. It may also be that she has been advised by her head of dpt/faculty to not make any exceptions in case of favouritism etc? 

 

The head of dance seems to be going out of her way to dismiss ballet as an art form. A couple of years ago, a friend of mine (with older children at the school) told me that the dance teacher there disliked ballet, and I'm beginning to see that she was right. 

 

From what dd tells me, quite the opposite of favouritism seems to be going on, and dd feels that her achievements outside school are neither recognised nor appreciated, and she does understandably get a bit frustrated by this. She decided to take dance as a GCSE for the choreographic content etc (as Spanner mentioned earlier in the thread) and her input and efforts seem to be perpetually overlooked in class.

 

There are a couple of other issues, but I won't mention them here!

 

Funnily enough, with the exception of the dance department, all the other staff at the school are wonderfully supportive and full of praise, and understand the reason why she occasionally hands her homework in late(!), or is absent for exams, performing etc.

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This seems strange, as the gap between contemporary and ballet has narrowed these days and each borrows from the other.  The main Contemporary schools and Conservatoires all still have ballet classes along side the contemporary classes in the different techniques, Graham, Cunningham, Limon, Release etc. etc..

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We had issues with GCSE Dance at school as well. It was taught by a PE teacher who had done some 'dance training' although it was never clear what exactly. She was totally clueless about ballet and very dismissive of it. The dancing that she taught may have been 'release-based' but to the untrained eye, it just looked like 'throw yourself around the room in any way you want'. The theory was great but I'm not sure the dance element added anything at all.

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I've taken contemporary class with two different teachers - both Graham/Cunningham based at least I think - at the same studio one more technique based learning the steps broken down and another more choreography based learning steps as part of a  dance sequence. I recently took a workshop with NDT and that was completely different again to anything I've studied, amazing much more focused upon the emotion portrayed by movement and imbued in movement.

 

From what I can remember from class there is a focus upon suspending movements but allowing movement to flow in Graham/cunningham there are key movements like the spiral, strike, gallops, and a backwards jumping step which I think is called a switch kick. Unlike ballet with the numerous Classical Dictionaries of Ballet on offer - Gretchen Ward Warren's work being a particular favourite there doesn't seem to be an equivalent for contemporary. Possibly due to all of the many different styles.  Personally I've always held the belief that I think there is something useful to be learned from every teacher you may encounter.

 

I've found this resource online which although it is for Scottish Highers I have found very useful:

 

http://www.educationscotland.gov.uk/video/c/video_tcm4558643.asp

 

The one thing I can say about contemporary is that it wrecks your body far more than classical ballet, or at least I ache in new muscles every time after class lol!

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My dance teacher at school used to be quite scathing of ballet too - and lots of local dance teachers used to get irritated by her, and the teacher at sixth form. Where I lived there was one school where you could do gcse dance and one college where you could do a-level, hence only 2 teachers in the whole city.

 

The issue they had with ballet I think stems from their view of it: the narrow-minded, or shallow nature of a lot of the choreography that we as kids had been exposed to, The major focus on the aesthetic, the somewhat old fashioned stories, the roles portrayed and the strange mime in ballet that is a language all of its own. And the elitist nature of ballet - either as a participant above the age of about 14, and as an audience member. Ballet training sometimes leads to quite a closed mind in terms of using dance as a way of expressing something and I do think that some school teachers get frustrated by kids that come with a lot of ballet training who struggle to 'let go" and who might move very beautifully but struggle to improvise or really snow 'true' emotion through their movement, rather than surface emotion in facial expressions and hand gestures.

 

And there was a reverse with the ballet teachers being very scathing about "all that chucking yourself about, lack of technique, making noises when you move, flexed feet" etc. These teachers would often mock contemporary dance, or the school dance teachers and make it seem inferior.

 

It was as if neither could appreciate the benefits of the other. I loved both, eventually. Contemporary dance is so much more than another technique class to take. There's things like understanding choreographic structure, intentions to movement, being creative, pushing boundaries, collaborating with other art forms, being truly expressive. But a lot of that requires a good solid technical basis which a lot of kids in school would lack.

 

It seems as if this snobbery or inverse snobbery between 'both sides' still exists, sadly!

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My dd has often mentioned that she isn't a fan of the "chucking yourself about and rolling around on the floor" style of dance ;)

 

I agree also that perhaps a part of the issue school dance teachers have with ballet is that many are PE teachers who have developed an interest in dance, rather than trained dancers who have decided to become schoolteachers... Also I suppose some of the students in their class will have had no other dance experience at all, and the style of dance has to be suitable for all abilities and physiques, which is where I assume Contemporary comes in since it is so adaptable.

 

Such a shame though, that they can occasionally be so scathing and dismissive. Obviously they are as entitled as anyone to have their own likes and dislikes, but they really shouldn't let it influence their attitude towards individual students.

 

Ironic really, when so many professional contemporary dancers are also classically trained.

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It seems as if this snobbery or inverse snobbery between 'both sides' still exists, sadly!

 

I haven't come across a spilt or 'snobbery' between contemporary or ballet at all, certainly not in the vocational school or professional world or anyone properly trained in dance. As someone pointed out earlier, both genres borrow heavily from each other in this day and age and there is a respect on both sides.

 

The only problem I have found, as I said, is in untrained school PE teachers who have had a couple of lessons and think a bit of chucking yourself around is 'contemporary' dance and have no idea what other forms of dance exist. How can they be teaching GCSE Dance?

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Unfortunately this snobbery does still exist....such a shame.

 

Some years after I gave up ballet the second time....in my early forties...I tried some other dance styles including contemporary and it was really good for me in freeing myself up both emotionally and physically.

The contemporary I did then was at Jacksons Lane in North London and was Limon based. The body weight was used into the flow of movement so it was a very fluid form and I loved it. And although having done ballet was an advantage in one way that letting go was initially very difficult and had to stop judging myself so much( almost mandatory for a ballet class!!)

It may have just been this class but there seemed less work on the floor than in a Martha Graham class which seem to do a lot of contractions! I believe Cunningham is quite free flowing and more balletic as well.

I remember the first "5 rhythms" class I did because it was SO free I hardly moved at all!! I just didn't know what to do with myself inspite of all the ballet etc. But once I got into it I found that helped enormously to free up my movement as well. Even doing something like the classical form Raks Shaki(Egyptian dance from which "belly dancing" is derived)......sorry about the spelling.....can help to gain another perspective on expressive movement.

 

 

These days I like to think that my ballet.....which is always my first love....is more expressive for having done these different styles of dance.

Sorry can't help with what's going on in Contemporary in Secondary schools......I would have assumed (wrongly as it seems) they would have bought in someone from outside who was qualified in this style to teach at this level of Ed. Though in Primary it very often is the PE teacher doing the Dance as well and may or may not have any real experience of Dance......although years ago we all did a bit of Laban as part of Primary training not sure about now.

If the PE teacher having to teach Dance at Secondary level is being odd with your daughter T4B it may be she feels threatened by someone who knows more than herself probably.....but it would be better to use your daughters knowledge rather than sideline it!!!

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DDs teacher at middle school certainly would use the knowledge of students who came to her classes that were dancers.  I have no idea how much dance experience the teacher had - but she would encourage dance students to actively bring and use their knowledge - often with dancers leading warm ups and the Irish dancers sharing their skills with the ballet girls, tap dancers and contemporary dancers to create performance pieces.  But this was not at GCSE level - only up to year 8.

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