Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Tagging for Creativity

It's 2:45pm and the dancers are descending - their giggles ring in the stairwell. My 9yr old Intermediate Jazz Class starts in 15 minutes and as I'm rushing to pull myself together for class, the phone rings. Our Ballet teacher is having car trouble and won't make it in today to teach her scheduled Tween Ballet class (which runs in our adjacent studio at the same time as my class). It's too late to try to find a sub. So, looks like I'm taking both classes - NOW. That's 28 dancers in one studio with li'l ole me - oh, and the two groups are not anywhere near the same level. I'm either looking at mayhem, martial law or..... you guessed it, TAG!

So, into the studio the dancers bounce and I begin the warm-up - throughout which I'm thinking fast and furiously to try to come up with something unique. But nothing is hitting me. We've done so many versions of our traditional TAG exercises and, since this is the week following our Holiday Performance for which they've all worked very hard, I really want to come up with something extra fun and special and then it hits me...

Our dancers LOVE to choreograph and, in fact, we often use it as a reinforcer. But I find that many of the dancers struggle with the creative aspect. Many dance styles, especially Ballet, and even Jazz to a large extent, have a set vocabulary and dancers are trained to perform them "just so". So, when asked to switch their behavior and suddenly "be creative" they can feel unsure of how to proceed. As a result they tend to regurgitate the "steps" we have presented in class, sometimes verbatim, sometimes rearranged a bit, but most often very identifiablly - as opposed to creating new shapes and connections which is the essence of true choreography. But, how to TAG for this???

"Tap, tap, tap" - nope, no one's tap dancing today, that's the tapping of my dog, Eevee, at the door signaling with her paw on the glass that she wants to come in to watch class. As I ignore her she begins to throw every trick in the book to get my attention and is coming up with new things I haven't ever seen. And, it hits me... "101 things to do with a box" the fabulous clicker training method of inspiring creativity in animals. That's what I need to try with the dancers today! And I'm off...

I break the dancers up into pairs: one older dancer with one younger. "The tag point is: make a new shape or connection. Once you have 8 tags (new moves) that we've never seen - switch and your partner will begin." The kids dove in. They were immediately having a blast AND coming up with some really interesting movements - fantastic!

After they all succeeded in getting their 8 tags, I encouraged them to work with their partner to combine all of their "new moves" into a short piece. Years ago Theresa (our TAGteach originator) had taught me the theatre game "yes, and" which has ever since been a staple here at the studio. The game instructs that when a partner has an idea the response must always be "yes, and" (as opposed to "no" or "I don't want to do that" or "that's stupid"). This way, instead of a partner's idea being thwarted, thereby inhibiting creativity, confidence and participation, each idea is validated and built upon. Naturally, the tag point for the collaboration portion of today's activity was "yes, and".

The pieces were amazing, the kids were all completely involved and the class productive. When I asked the older girls if they'd minded dancing with the younger kids today they replied "Are you kidding? That was awesome!" And, so, from a potential disaster of a teaching day came, instead, a new post Holiday Performance tradition. TAG!

Questions about how to use TAG in a dance environment? Contact: OR
A Dancer's Dream
222 Beacon Street
Marblehead, MA 01945