Learning With the Body
I don’t have the brains to be a dance professional. Never did.
I can pick out a spelling mistake at 50 paces, and I gamely answer kids’ questions about human cells and World War II. But the dance pieces I rehearsed and performed hundreds of times have vanished from memory. And please don’t ask me to show you last week’s combination.
That ability you have, dear readers, to pick up steps quickly and remember them long after? It’s a superpower.
Though dancing since childhood couldn’t grant me that superpower, I believe it developed my kinesthetic intelligence. Moving gives my brain extra amplitude. I hear music more fully, its polyrhythms and individual instrumentals, if I’m dancing or imagine myself dancing. When I’m singing, I learn more quickly and I sound better if I sway, pace, or dance. Monica Bill Barnes’ recent “Museum Workout,” a wacky-serious guided tour of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, would be right up my alley. I’m certain I’d see more while jogging, dancing, and stretching.
These days, kinesthetic and other learning styles are a hot topic among educators. It’s clear that many kids don’t learn well from listening and reading alone. They’re not dumb; they just learn better in motion. They need an under-desk Bouncy Band to jiggle their feet on while they’re reading. They need to engage their bodies.
In his TED Talk “Do Schools Kill Creativity?,” Sir Ken Robinson describes the famed Cats choreographer Gillian Lynne as one such kid—restless, disruptive, academically behind. Her teachers sent her to a specialist, who (luckily) diagnosed her as a dancer and recommended dance school. Lynne thrived, and the rest is history.
Today, knowledge of diverse learning styles has led to a small boom in dance professionals teaching academic subjects to schoolkids. These dance teachers are ambassadors, I’d like to think, and the trend offers our field opportunities for both business and outreach. Participating kids—tomorrow’s adults—are learning about more than cell biology; they’re getting comfortable with dance and the intelligence of their own bodies. Beautiful. —Tamsin Nutter
DSL associate editor Tamsin Nutter lives in Berkeley, California. Formerly a marketing writer at MoMA in NYC, she trained at Vassar College and The Ailey School and danced with Regina Nejman & Company and others.
Comings and Goings
The upcoming July issue will mark DSL’s 13th anniversary. In conjunction with this milestone, we plan to roll out some exciting new changes: beginning in July and August you’ll find tips for teaching preschoolers and students with special needs; new columns about competition, costuming, business management, self-care, and studio style; a revamped dance history spread with resources to use in the classroom; and more.
At the magazine, as in life, beginnings often imply endings. As we add new features to the magazine, we’re also retiring or changing the frequency of others. For example, we’re retiring Bulletin Board, Performance Corner, College Close-Ups, and 2 Music Tips for Dance Teachers. For the latter, we express our profound appreciation, gratitude, and respect for Nina Pinzarrone, who has shared her extensive expertise with ballet music and history in 34 consecutive issues since January 2014. While we won’t be running a regular music tips column, we expect to share longer-form stories by Nina in future issues. As always, you can find her music for recitals, exams, and ballet and character classes at cdbaby.com, Amazon, and iTunes, and follow her work on Facebook (search for “Dancingnotes”).
We’re also grateful to Patrick Corbin for the modern and contemporary tips columns he wrote from January 2016 through March/April 2017, and we thank our former modern tips writer, Toni Pierce-Sands, for her return this month as a guest tips columnist.
Finally, I bid you a personal adieu, as this is my last issue as editor in chief. After a long-anticipated vacation to Northern Europe I’ll be moving on to new challenges this summer. I’ll miss working with the amazingly dedicated and talented DSL staff, but I’m confident about the magazine’s future in the capable hands of current managing editor Heather Wisner, who will be taking the reins as interim editor in chief. And I promise to keep on dancing. —Thom Watson
DSL editor in chief Thom Watson is a San Francisco Bay Area–based aficionado of ballet, contemporary, and folk dance. He has also been an internet and social media executive and a political columnist.