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Considerations of archived experiences

Blog N° 13

Characteristics to consider.

After a list of the participants' feedback published in the last Blog, I would like to highlight the most significant characteristics of the communicative medium of the Video Conference as regards its use in dance teaching in relation to face-to-face classes.

In order to better understand this brief comparison, it is very important to remember that we are not comparing two completely compatible systems, as they are two different communicative languages.

One given by the direct expression of the body in space and time, the other with a mediation of the body, a deferred language, staggered in time and reproduced in space.

That is to say, when we talk about the advantages of one and the other, we are not making a real comparison of systems, but we are highlighting different aspects of dance education that can be better conveyed with one or the other system.

Brief definitions

Potential of the medium: under this heading I have grouped all the advantages of video conferencing compared to traditional dance classes.

Performance limits: Here we can clearly find all the limits of the medium itself, both at hardware and software level.

Neutral performance: the characteristics that distinguish video conferencing from face-to-face instruction, without necessarily having an improving or worsening connotation. Often these features offer possibilities that were not considered in traditional education.

As already mentioned, the communication medium of videoconferencing offers a channel that still needs to be improved in its technical possibilities and above all accepted outside the emergency situation.

The impossibility for all participants to have access to sufficiently large rooms and specific hardware devices to follow the teaching sessions satisfactorily is the limitation but also the characteristic of this tool. It is precisely because of these limitations that it has stimulated imagination and creativity and offered dance a new channel of expression.

Before moving on to the final topic of my research, a new structure for dance training, I would like to briefly address some points relevant to a better understanding of the dynamics of a dance lesson during a videoconference.

The space

So far, videoconferencing has been a solution to continue following collective activities from home.

If, as we wrote earlier, the future of videoconferencing is to connect dance institutions, allowing a continuous and fruitful exchange between teachers and students living in another country without additional transport costs, while at the same time constituting an ecological advantage, this is not foreseeable at the moment.

It is important to find a teaching structure that takes into account the variability of the space available to the participants. The exercises should be able to vary their scope in space, while maintaining the quality and purpose.

The spaces in a dance video conference are all specific and private spaces, each of which has a different depth, height and width. These spaces are presented within a frame that allows further interpretation depending on how they are positioned, which in film jargon is called framing. The ideal frame for directing or accompanying a dance class is the total frame, i in other words the frame in which the complete image of the body is placed in a defined space in which the body can be included. However, there is also a common area where all the participants' videos are framed next to each other. This can be seen as the control room of a television broadcast; a broadcast that is always live and with a script only partly communicated to the participants.

When we are in a videoconference, we are subject to the same rules that govern the behaviour of an actor in front of a camera. Likewise, we must also think like film directors when we are running the training.

Knowing the medium in which we act, its syntactic and morphological rules, is essential to define the parameters within which we can express ourselves.

When we talk about the perception of space, we must remember that we are working with two different perspectives.

One, the physical one: linked to the physical perception of movement, whereby what we see is not mediated, but directly connected to the body and the space that surrounds it. The gaze directs the movement and is guided in the three-dimensionality of space during the execution of movements.

The other perspective, which is mediated and indirect, refers to the control of the execution of the movements performed, through our image on the monitor. The gaze stops interacting and analyses. It is a visual feedback on a two-dimensional plane.

The perspective of the controlling gaze is not new.

In fact, during face-to-face dance classes it is carried out by the mirror that reflects our image. This is especially so in dance techniques that base their attention on the aesthetics of movement, rather than the sensation it creates in the body.

In both cases we are dealing with a two-dimensional image outside our body, which our gaze perceives as our body.

The difference with the image created in the video conference is that this is not a reflection but a reworking of our image linked to a different communication channel than that of pure dance. This channel is expressed through the grammar of the framing.

This is also the only perspective we have of the teacher who shows us the exercises.

When we dance in video conferencing, we are constantly moving from one of these perspectives to the other. That is, from the two-dimensional movement of the teacher on our monitor, to that of the performance in three dimensions, to return again to the observation of our two-dimensional performance on the monitor.

In addition, depending on the vision chosen in our settings, our eyes must also be able to filter out the amount of visual information from the video images of the other participants.

Texts and pages consulted for the research.

C. Berger Körper denken in Bewegung Zur Wahrnehmung tänzerischen Sinns bei William Forsythe und Saburo Teshigawara. Majuskel Medienproduktion GmbH, Wetzlar ISBN 3-89942-554-5

Hasgül, Esin & Gümüştaş, Saime. (2016). The Choreography of Space with Body. 10.1163/9781848884373_011.

Rhythm and timing

One of the most important elements in any class, especially if it is a dance class, is the rhythm and timing of the exercises. The body must be prepared (warm-up); trained specifically in its motor skills; prepared to a certain technical and aesthetic level depending on the style of dance (in my case contemporary technique) and most importantly, if there are no further activities such as rehearsals or performances after class, the body must be gradually brought back to a state of rest.

All these elements are extremely important for the success of the training and the health of the dancers.

During the video conference, the timing of the explanation of the exercises, the necessary corrections and possible questions from the participants do not allow for a smooth flow of the training.

It is important to involve the participants by creating a path which alternates verbal descriptions, physical actions and musical accompaniment, avoiding that these overlap with each other.

It should always be kept in mind that it is not as easy for participants to intervene autonomously and spontaneously as it might be in a face-to-face class. It is the teacher's task to invite and stimulate the participants to question.

In order to prevent the body from cooling down, it is necessary to maintain a lively rhythm and to create exercises with simple elements that can be added up later to create longer combinations.

During the dance classes, I used the first 15 minutes to explain the daily theme of the training and elaborate when necessary on some of the exercises specifically. Sometimes I used this time before the physical activity of the training to provide some theoretical background to my work.

This pre-physical training phase, which I have extended in some trainings up to 40 minutes, depending on the interest of the participants, is a pure new element for a normal 90-minute training session.

Only in the workshop format, when it is longer than 4 hours, can the teachers allow themselves to invest time in theoretical explanations, before and at the end of the physical phase.

In the video conference, this is the phase that allows the participants to get to know each other, see each other and confront each other, thus creating a sense of group, it is very important to dedicate at least twenty minutes each class regardless of the style of dance.

Injuries and prevention

Because of the difficulty of supervising and correcting participants, one must never lose sight of the risk that they may easily injure themselves during an exercise. Especially when the technical and physical demands are high. Exercises should also take into account the possible difficulties and dangers that participants, especially lay people, may encounter if they bump into furniture, trip, slip or get stuck on the floor.

In the next blogs we will deal with how I have restructured the dance traininig based on my experiences and considerations.

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