to non-major undergrads as an experiential tool to develop
better dance viewing skills
Who are the students?
• Non-major undergraduate students
• Broad representation of majors
• Interested in dance
• Some dance training to none at all
• Nearly all viewings unfamiliar to class, except for
Classical ballet…because that’s all of ballet, right?
Newcomer Trouble Viewing
and Discussing Dance
• Once the students have been asked to eliminate
interpretation and evaluation and focus on
description, they often need a new way to “see”
the dance so that they can find words to put to
• i.e. Students struggle to elucidate “how” a “dancer
moves with weight” specifically
• Or students focus on every other describable
detail other than the motion itself: costumes,
lighting, music, etc.
Physicalizing the Efforts
• Instructor gives verbal description
• Instructor gives common example action
• Instructor demonstration
• Contrasting demo
• Class tries out the effort in their own body
• Divided class watches one half perform their effort, then
• Students discuss common actions that exemplify, or at least
strongly utilize the effort.
Finding The Efforts in a Viewing
• After having tried on the different efforts the class
would view two contrasting dance videos
• Perhaps: Graham and Trisha Brown
• As the video is playing ask class to throw out what
efforts they think they are seeing, like a sports
announcer narrating the action.
• After, class discusses how the efforts that were
seen relate to how they can describe the dance.
From Feel to See to Write
• Writing task: view a third clip and have the
students write a brief descriptive paragraph about
the movement considering what kind of space,
weight, time, and flow they saw, asking them to let
that inform their descriptive language.
• Encourage “trying out” parts of the viewed
material to help them get a better sense of the
effort quality that might be present in a given
• Note: An abbreviated version of this lesson plan was used to
fit within Michael’s lesson plan for the class.
• Students participated enthusiastically.
• Students identified efforts in the viewings with decent
• Students attended more to the motion quality than “blow by
blow” recounts in their writing.
• A handful of student’s writing were noticeably improved.
• The tendency to simply repeat the instructor was present in
several of the student’s writing, possibly showing incomplete
understanding of concept.