In two different contexts now, my students have been referred to as serious. Interesting. What are people observing when they respond that way, and what am I doing to cultivate and inspire this quality in my dancers? I’m reminded of the oft-quoted phrase “seriousness of a child at play,” credited to ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus. This must have been the quality Duncan was looking for when she auditioned children for her school—a particular kind of focused attention, an ability to become so absorbed in the moment of doing that all else falls away. This training of attention is how performance trains students to embody life skills. And my experience with one group of students this weekend demonstrated a sophisticated level of problem-solving in the moment!
More and more, my approach to creating children’s choreography is collaborative. Given a theme for a dance, I solicit student input with regard to which steps or skills or movement phrases we want to incorporate and what order or arrangement works the best. I think this gives students a feeling of ownership over the choreography, so they not only remember the order of the dance, but they also feel like the dance is an execution of their ideas, rather than just a pattern of movements the teacher told them to do. When students participate in creating the structure, they are also capable of making changes within the structure. And, wow, did my students execute some creative problem solving in performance on Saturday night!