B.E.S.T.: Elements of Dance Video

After much truly helpful critical feedback on earlier versions of this video, I think it’s ready for publishing and moving on. As we say about all kinds of art: it’s never finished, you just stop working on it.

The video is on my YouTube channel in mobile format (480×360 resolution) by clicking here.

The purpose of this video is to introduce the elements of dance as a way of talking about and creating dances. It is suitable for classrooms of all ages, so teachers are welcome to link to the movie and show it in class. A higher-resolution version is available, if you send me an email request.

For anyone who is interested in the metamorphosis of this particular creative project, here’s the short version:

In my 3-hour workshops for teachers as well as in my residency work with children, there comes a moment when we need to organize our thinking about dance. We need a common language, both to talk about what we are seeing when we watch, and also to give us ideas about how to approach movement invention aimed at communication.

Writing dance curriculum with Linda Muir in Kansas City back in the 1980s, I helped create this mnemonic structure (B-E-S-T). I was doing Artists-in-Education residencies at the time, and needed a clear and concise way to help my students see myriad possibilities for meaning and craft when making and watching dances.

Over the years, my wife and dance partner for life, Kathleen Kingsley, made many keen suggestions for the elements and sub-elements, and how to talk about them. Kimberli Boyd, a fabulous dancer and teaching dance artist, put the lovely “what, how, where, and when” to the framework, really encapsulating the ideas while opening them up beautifully. So it’s not my solo creation, but it’s one I’ve become fascinated in exploring.

In  my workshops for teachers, my method is to lead a participatory, classroom-style lesson before talking much about dance or its elements. In the old days, I then stepped to a prepared flip chart page and guided a discussion about the elements of dance in relation to the experience teachers just had. Lots of talk, and my handwriting and drawing skills are not the best.

In the last five years, I’ve begun using my laptop to provide visuals during the workshops, and have put together PowerPoint-style presentations to accompany our sit-down reflection stops. The elements discussion didn’t really change, however. I was still using words (now on screen, with a few pictures) and leading the discussion through a necessary but not particularly engaging set of steps.

Finally, I started to animate and record the presentation, figuring that I could then let that run and ask the teachers or students to reflect in pair-share mode afterward. Everyone’s voice would then get to be heard by someone, and the discussion after the pair-share would be more focused. That’s my theory, anyway. I am going to test it for the first time this month with an unsuspecting group of teachers.

The first video version was pretty much just a recorded slide show with music. Not too exciting yet. Then, on suggestions from critical friends, I added narration. My Keynote presentation software skills expanded to allow me to use video inserts on the slides, adding some much-needed movement to the subject. But the product was still too text-heavy. There was too much information, with lots of words on screen, more words being said in voice-over, and dance videos vying with still pictures for attention.

Expanding the "brand"

Melanie Layne, a brilliant and insightful teaching artist, made the invaluable suggestion to carry through the BEST logo “branding.” I had put it only in two small places and one large one. You’ll see what I did with the idea if you watch the video.

That was the last blueberry for this pie, so I mixed a brand-new product and am leaving it alone for a while. It needs to get a workout in workshops and classrooms, and I need to let it soak in my right brain for a while again before revisiting it.

If that’s TMI, you’ve already clicked away. Thanks for sticking with me, everyone else. Enjoy!



About rbdancer

Randy has been a Kennedy Center Teaching Artist and Workshop Leader since 1995. During 35 years as a teaching artist, he has led over 300 in-depth workshops, courses, and seminars for teachers and teaching artists, traveling to 37 states in the process. As a choreographer and professional dancer, Randy has danced and produced dance concerts in some of the country's most storied theaters. Randy now lives with his wife in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo mountains in northeastern New Mexico.
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