Marsha Barksy is an Assistant Professor and the Director of the Dance Program at Middle Tennessee State University. She holds an MFA in Dance and has been teaching for the past 10 years. This semester she is teaching Dance Appreciation, Choreography I and Modern Dance. She will be using ACCLAIM in her Choreography I class.
ACCLAIM: Tell us more about your Choreography I class. What is the curriculum like?
Marsha: This class is designed to help students understand the fundamentals of choreography and dance composition. Students learn basic choreographic tools and devices, as well as improvisational exercises that will help them create solo, duet and small group dances. We focus on how dance composition involves: a) the use of the body (origins of movement, movements in specific body parts, impulse, movement invention, phrasing); b) the use of space (personal and university in dance solo composition); c) use of time; d) qualities of effort and energy, and finally; e) compositional tools and devices such as motif and development, canon, and theme and variation.
Students create three solos and one duet over the course of the semester. One aspect of the course is for students to develop the ability to analyze, critique and revise their work. Therefore, it is important for students to view each others work, discuss it, and offer meaningful feedback.
ACCLAIM: Can you tell us about the first solo project of the term? How do students build/research/ develop their solo projects?
Marsha: Students create 2-3 minute solos without accompaniment, based on the choreographic movements they develop with me in the class. Solos must have a clear beginning, middle and end. They should include all of the choreographic elements we have explored thus far, such as movement impulses (successions, focal points, isolations, lead/follow) gestures and shapes. Solos must demonstrate a clear understanding of phrasing.
ACCLAIM: How will you be incorporating comments and feedback within this unit?
Marsha: Students upload videos of their solos to Acclaim, and then both I and their peers provide them with feedback. I provide a set of guidelines regarding assessment and how students should respond to one another.
ACCLAIM: How is student progress going, so far? How has ACCLAIM helped you to provide feedback?
Marsha: The students have already completed the first drafts of their solo studies, uploaded these drafts to Acclaim and, based on our shared comments, revised their solos.
I should mention that due to the size of the class and the limited time, students are not always able to get all the feedback they need. Before this semester, I never used video, and relied only on my memory. But by uploading the videos, I can offer more direct feedback to students, show them specific moments in their practice that require revision, and offer comments and suggestions on how to implement these changes. Because I now have the ability to comment outside of class time (online), I can take my time to observe and critique student practice performances more carefully.
I’ve only been using Acclaim for three weeks, but I can honestly say I’ve already seen growth in my students.