Typhani Harris | January 2015

Standard 6: Lessons & Assessments

This month we will be exploring Standard_6: Convey meaning through the presentation of artistic work.

Anchor standard  6 focuses on the artistic process of performing with the component of presenting.  The enduring understanding is how dance performance is an interaction between performer, production elements, and audience that heightens and amplifies artistic expression  Although the anchor standard does not change as the grade level progresses the expectation continues to advance.

In unpacking this standard we need to analyze what our students need to know, understand, and be able to do.  There are quite a few concepts presented in this standard, so let’s begin with defining the language:

Performance Etiquette:

Performance values and expected behaviors when rehearsing or performing (for instance, no talking while the dance is in progress, no chewing gum, neat and appropriate appearance, dancers do not call out to audience members who are friends)

Dance Terminology:

Vocabulary used to describe dance and dance experiences
Simple dance terminology (Tier 1/PreK-2): Basic pedestrian language (for example, locomotor words walk, run, tip-toe, slither, roll, crawl, jump, march, and gallop; and non-locomotor words, bend, twist, turn, open and close)
Basic dance terminology (Tier 2/grades 3-5): Vocabulary used to describe dance movement techniques, structures, works, and experiences that are widely shared in the field of dance (for example, stage terminology, compositional vocabulary, language defining dance structures and devices, anatomical references, dance techniques such as alignment or “line”)
Genre-specific dance terminology (Tier 3/grades 6 up):Words used to describe movement within specific dance forms ballet, contemporary, culturally-specific dance, funk, hip-hop, jazz, modern, tap, and others (for example, in Polynesian dance (Hula), auwana, kahiko, halau, kaholo, uwehe, ami); in ballet: glissade, pas de bouree, pas de chat, arabesque; in jazz: kick ball change, pencil turn, jazz walk, jazz run; in modern: contraction, triplets, spiral, pivot turn; and in tap: shuffle-step, cramp roll, riff, wing, time step

Production Terminology:

Words commonly used to refer to the stage, performance setting, or theatrical aspects of dance presentation

Production Elements:

Aspects of performance that produce theatrical effects (for example, costumes, make up,sound, lighting, props)

Alternative Performance Venue:

Performance site other than a standard Western style theater (for example, classroom, site specific venue, or natural environment)

*For the full glossary of all terms used throughout the national standards go to: http://www.nationalartsstandards.org/

Personally, I feel this standard really rests on how we, as the educators, set up our program and performance expectations, and then how the students execute those expectations.

When we look at the high school proficient standard it states:

a. Demonstrate leadership qualities (for example commitment, dependability, responsibility, and cooperation) when preparing for performances. Demonstrate performance etiquette and performance practices during class, rehearsal, and performance. Post-performance, accept notes from choreographer and apply corrections to future performances. Document the rehearsal and performance process and evaluate methods and strategies using dance terminology and production terminology.

b. Evaluate possible designs for the production elements of a performance and select and execute the ideas that would intensify and heighten the artistic intent of the dances.

Beginning with leadership, how we set up a hierarchy of leader expectations helps the students meet this standard.  What has worked very efficiently in the past for me is building the leadership into the classes.  Traditionally, each of my classes have a job at the performance.  My first year students are responsible for the house, lobby, and backstage (they are non-performers), my second year students are responsible for creating and constructing the costumes as well as performing, my third and forth year students are choreographers and performers.  Within each class there are two class leaders.

In the beginning classes, these leaders also become the house and stage managers.  Then there are commissioners who are in charge of the entire company.  Within the hierarchy, the class leaders are responsible for their respective classes, and the commissioners are responsible for the class leaders.  In addition to the daily expectations of the leaders, getting the class ready,  running warmup, collecting assignments/paperwork etc., when it comes to the actual performance these leaders run the show.  This also makes it easy for dismissal at the end of the show.  The class leaders are responsible for ensuring their class has completed their show duties and dismissing their classes.  Then the class leaders report to the commissioners, who check to ensure their class responsibilities are completed and then dismiss the class leaders.  Once the students are dismissed, I walk the space with the commissioners to ensure everything is completed, and then dismiss the commissioners.  This alleviates having to check each student myself, and in turn places the responsibility on the leaders.

Performance etiquette and practice

This is another area where we, as the teachers, have to set guidelines for the students.  Decide how you wish your rehearsals to go and spend ample time preparing the students for these expectations.  Set explicit rules for the students so that there is no confusion and rehearsals run smoothly.  Some of my rules are:

  • 5 minutes before a rehearsal, all performers are in the first 2 rows of the theater for notes
  • No eating and drinking in the theater (that’s an obvious one)
  • No cell phones in the theater.  (I am ok with students using their phones during down time but if they are in the theater they are to act like an audience and watch the rehearsals, if they have homework to do, or wish to use their phones there is designated space for that.)
  • Post rehearsal notes are conducted in the first 2 rows as well.  Once completed, students call home for rides and then begin clean-up, this way parents arrive right as students are begin dismissed by their leaders.

Once you have determined your specific rules, have students design a rubric as a class.  Solicit suggestions for specific criteria to put into the rubric and have students use that rubric to evaluate their personal achievements in running a proper rehearsal, as well as the success of the company as a whole.

Production elements

These are a great aspect of the performance where students can assist in the process.  I like to teach my beginning students (non-performers) the logistics of lighting design and then assign them to different pieces of the show.  As the lighting designer, it is their responsibility to learn the piece, and collaborate with the costume designer and choreographer on the design of the lights.  These students are also responsible for running the lighting design rehearsal for their piece and working closely with the light board operator.  During this time, I assess their ability to appropriately communicate their ideas in proper terminology, which is a great lesson and assessments of their knowledge.

My second year students (first-time performers) spend the first semester learning how to sew and design costumes for stage.  They are also responsible for learning the entire piece that they are designing for so they know what is needed in the mobility of the costume, and they assume the role of understudy for the dancers of that piece.  This is a great, tangible, lesson and assessments of their learning.  Their costumes are evaluated on appropriateness for the piece, as well as construction quality.

Although a little scary at first, having students take ownership in all aspects of the production is a great lesson for this standard, as the greatest lesson and assessments come from the students mastering their ability to not only perform on stage but also run the stage.

Next Week: Teacher Talk

First semester is over and second semester is about to begin!  Transition time is upon us, what strategies do we need to hold onto and which ones need to be let go.  Also, as we move into second semester I will personally be making a transition into a new position, how do we prepare ourselves for the inevitable transitions in our educational world?

About the Author

Dr. Typhani Harris, author of Putting the Performance in Performance Task and Stop Teaching, brings over 2 decades of educational experience to The Institute. Originally a high school English Language Arts teacher, Dr. Harris transitioned into a dance educator who cultivated an award-winning collegiate style dance education program at a public school in California. Prior to joining the Institute, she was an educational leader and instructional coach specializing in preparing new teachers in secondary urban schools.  As the Executive Director of Academic Affairs, Dr. Harris maintains courses, conferences, and the accredited certification program at The Institute.