A full list of my research endeavors appears in my Curriculum Vita under Conferences and Presentations. Here are a few abstracts from selected presentations.
Moving In Step With Katherine Dunham: A Model Curriculum
To be presented at the 2013 National Dance Education Organization “The Art and Craft of Teaching” Conference in Miami, Florida.
Through a curriculum that moves in step with the theories and philosophy of Katherine Dunham, secondary grade students will experience a classroom ethos marked by high expectations and self-discovery. I have written a 6-lesson unit of integrated arts lesson plans that are aligned to the Arizona Dance Standards and bridge across studies of the arts and humanities to elucidate the effectiveness of this proposal. Dunham’s theories form and function, socialization through the arts, and intercultural communication have direct pedagogical application in our K-12 schools and particular relevance for the millennial generation. The dance technique that Dunham invented circa 1931 has been continually modified to adapt to contemporary trends in dance and new kinesiological research, yet it is part of a holistic system which aims to develop the whole person. Form and function helps students recognize that every dance arises out of a particular cultural context. Socialization through the arts emphasizes the unique offerings of dance as an educational medium. Intercultural communication emphasizes cultural universals rather than romanticizing dance from unfamiliar cultures while demonstrating that there are different levels of symbolic and social meaning encoded in movement. (O.C. Banks, 2010)
Through her schools and programs, Dunham aimed to raise the sense of social responsibility among youth and help develop identities as artist-emissaries, helping them to “overcome some of the destructive elements in (their) environment, through a compelling artistic vehicle.” (Ashenbrenner & Carr, 1989, p 140) Further, she stated, “they must know the society in which they work. It’s good to know how much it influences you and how much you influence it.” (Vega, 14) Dunham Technique recognizes dance as a social act and one in which the practitioner performs her authentic self. Through reflection on the similarities and differences in dance forms across cultures, students experiencing this system become more self-reflective about their personal and social identities.
Through a six-day guest artist residency that introduces the Dunham system, students will be guided to achieve outcomes in the psychomotor, affective, and cognitive realms. With consistent application of metacognitive strategies in all language domains that support Dunham’s philosophy of self-examination, students will gain problem-solving and critical thinking skills that will allow them to stand up to challenges inside and outside of the dance studio. Katherine Dunham’s ideas should not be followed because of any allegiance to her legacy, but because of the relevance of her theories and philosophy to a contemporary teaching context. Always ahead of her time, Dunham continues to illuminate our way forward.
Applications of the Dunham Technique in Jazz Dance
Presented at the 2012 Humanities Education and Research Association “Crossroads” Conference,
in Salt Lake City, Utah
Katherine Dunham’s work in vernacular dance provides a historical basis for a student’s study as a future dance educator. What is unique about the praxis is its root in the culture of American dance. It is this fundamental basis that provides a historical perspective, and a connection to a lineage decades old for students of Jazz dance in the 21st century.
If the definition of vernacular is “the language of a country or district” and “everyday speech” then Jazz was the dance vernacular when Dunham created her technique circa 1931 thus positing her technique as a tool for implementing and understanding the origins of the form. Dunham’s work as an anthropologist also underscored the cultural retentions present in Black culture as she linked Black vernacular dance forms to the larger African Diaspora.
This paper looks at the application of Jazz dance pedagogy through the lens of Dunham technique in post-secondary education. Through Dunham’s theoretical underpinnings of form and structure to her method of using dance as form of socialization, we will be comparing the progress of 40+ dance education students as they journey from their previous dance studio training in Jazz that made no reference to Dunham technique and into the realm of higher dance education at Grand Canyon University which uses Dunham Technique as the center of inquiry and investigation for Jazz dance.
A Metacognitive Approach to Dance Education
Presented at the 2011 Humanities Education and Research Association, “Transformations” Conference in San Francisco, California and the 2011 4th Annual Research Symposium at Grand Canyon University
How might dance educators share their intellectual wealth and influence the educational landscape in the 21st century? In my own attempt, I have developed a hypothesis that metacognitive and self-reflexive strategies will greatly aid in the psychological development of college students majoring in dance education. Metacognition and self-reflection require students to consider whether cognitive goals have been met and can lead them to modify their thought patterns. I would suggest that sufficient reinforcement will lead to a revision of our behaviors. As the director of a newly founded dance education program at Grand Canyon University, I have a unique opportunity. Our incoming students come from a range of backgrounds, but are sharing a common experience of transitioning from their former dance training environments to a collegiate dance context.
I will study how students guided in the use of metacognitive strategies can bolster their ability to problem solve by setting meaningful goals, strengthening essential skills, and psychologically motivating themselves to follow through. A range of multi-sensory experiences will allow for and shape these growth experiences, including tactile feedback, journal writing, dance improvisations, peer teaching opportunities, somatic practices, videotaped dance performance exams, and written self-evaluations. During these tasks, students are expected to address specific problems and record observations, which will help them to modify their behaviors.
The application of brain-compatible, metacognitive strategies will greatly enhance the experience of dance education students and prepare them for their positions in the future. By directly addressing their deficits and strengths, this approach is one that justifies our hopes for a brilliant, transformed world.