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  • Anselm Lingnau

    Anselm Lingnau March 13, 2006, 1:37 p.m. (Message 44671)

    Re: Rules for teachers

    Pia wrote:
    > I know - but where do you learn to understand a book and the way it is
    > written?   We have a specific way of annotating dances in RSCDS - ok - not
    > always brilliant - but it is there.   We have a lot of people who write
    > dances - sometimes using wording which is  understandable to them, I would
    > say in many cases because of what they have heard but not always seen
    > written down, but not necessarily so the wording travels well.
    The thing to remember is that dance descriptions, as printed in dance books, 
    are designed to be precise (one hopes, anyway) rather than exciting. The 
    problems faced by the authors of dance descriptions are similar to those that 
    computer programmers or legislators have to contend with; all these domains 
    require prose that conveys the exact meaning of highly misunderstandable 
    concepts, and their output usually results in descriptions that are accurate 
    but not exactly light bedtime reading to compare with the latest of Dan Brown 
    or J. K. Rowling.
    Like the interpretation of laws, the interpretation of dance descriptions 
    requires training and experience. This is what a teacher is supposed to 
    provide -- to take a precisely written dance description and translate it 
    into whatever concepts their class is most happy with, such as demonstration 
    or explanation in easier terms (or both). For example, if the dance 
    description says »bars 25-32: 2nd and 1st couples dance rights and lefts«, as 
    a teacher I will usually say »top two couples, rights and lefts« (if that is 
    the case), since in my experience people find it easier to relate to the set 
    as it is at that particular instance, rather than puzzle out which couple has 
    moved where in an ongoing shell game. I don't usually mention bar numbers, 
    and if I do, I use »relative« ones counting from the start of the 8-bar 
    phrase, such as »2s move up on 3 and 4« while 1st couple are leading down the 
    middle and up. Move-ups and such I try to relate to other movements taking 
    place, such as »1s cross right and cast while the 2s move up; 1s cross left 
    and cast to their left« rather than the more unwieldy »1st couple cross 
    giving right hands and cast off, then cross left hands and 1st man dances 
    round 3rd man by the left shoulder while 1st lady does likewise round 2nd 
    lady (2nd couple move up on bars 3-4)«, which is the way the same movement 
    might occur in a full dance description. (Incidentally, many of these ideas, 
    which are by no means original, are mentioned in my »Guide to Briefings«, 
    available from the Strathspey Server.)
    I agree that often it takes several approaches to teach the same subject 
    matter because people learn stuff in different ways. I also agree that recaps 
    should be provided at most if not all social functions. However, recaps 
    should be recaps and not full teaching sessions -- their function is to 
    remind people how the dance goes. To all those people who complain that they 
    have no time for swotting for the next social: Learning SCD is about 
    »learning dancing, not dances«. I've found that being able to do the basic 
    figures right and to string them together takes one a long way towards 
    dancing many dances from recaps and watching the first couple do their thing 
    (or picking up hints from the rest of the set if one happens to be the first 
    couple). These are all abilities that do not come easy to many people, but 
    which can be practised. The problems start when people approach each dance as 
    a new microcosm of choreography that must be learned on its own (preferably 
    by heart). This task, at 18 dances per evening, quickly becomes daunting, and 
    it is therefore understandable that dancers clamour for more detailed 
    explanations at the actual events. Perhaps this phenomenon is to do with the 
    practice of running a class by teaching dances from the next social programme 
    through reading the full descriptions from the book, rather than by teaching 
    *dancing* through a well-chosen selection of dances that builds up systematic 
    knowledge of formations and transitions? (Note that I didn't mention footwork 
    at all.)
    Anselm Lingnau, Frankfurt, Germany .....................
    Intellectuals solve problems; geniuses prevent them.        -- Albert Einstein

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