A Report by Daniela Pozo on “Teaching the Teachers”
The moments when people know exactly what they are doing they feel freer because they are not trying to figure anything out. I was invited to participate in the “teaching the teachers”-sessions, where Alternative Pedagogies and Models in Contemporary Dance and Performance Education was supposed to be discussed. I contributed by holding a workshop for some of the students of the Modern Dance Department of Mimar Sinan University. However, the challenge of sharing routes towards knowledge and facilitating experiences for the students, is not going to be the topic of this text; but my 4 hours of sharing the space with the leading educators of tomorrows and today’s artists.
My last conversation concerning teaching was based on the supposition that we, as dancers, are educated towards becoming followers rather than creators. Entering school the student-to-be is often excited, maybe nervous but curious and enthusiastic. And if we are talking about education that you, yourself has chosen, it usually also includes passion. Passion, in Greek meaning to suffer, but, I mean that it is in its positive sense, in its more romantic sense; The pleasure of going for the impossible, embracing the risk of failure, the complete opposite of taking the easy way out. Passion was also a word that now and then was mentioned during the hours of prologs, which this ttt-session consisted of, because I hesitate to call it dialogues. It never went that far, it never developed towards it. And more importantly, it hardly disclosed real passion, for dance. The discussion had its beginning from the periphery, from the outside in, very much alike the mirrors in the dance studios.
In correlation with what usually happens when we do not know where to start from; we start looking to the outside, to the others. We are in search for something to follow, for structures, something to grow into and compare ourselves to, something to strive towards, something to become. Since we all want to be something, so badly that we soon forget how and maybe more importantly, why? And you will only find answers to a certain point by relying on outside sources, this is knowledge that is already out there, that everybody has access to. It then becomes your responsibility to interpret and use this information to your favor. However, the real difficulty in asking those questions lies in the fact that sooner or later you will have to completely change your trajectory and start looking to the inside, which is much more hardcore. But this is where we have to start. However, I am in full agreement with the difficulty, because this is not enough reflective in the way we are being taught as dancers. We are too often taught with an already, decided upon ideal idea as a carrot. It seems like it is already decided what we need to be to be able to succeed; that we enter school not to be the best you can be, but the best you can do to become “that”. The thing is that it is a paradoxical thing, to use this kind of academic model towards “educating” contemporary artists. I do not know enough about politics and policies within the modules of Universities and its degrees, except being inside of it and working hard to keep and develop my own philosophy within this world; but I felt as if I got a glimpse during that ttt-session which only strengthened my conviction that if we are to exist within this umbrella, we need to think not as academics, but as the creative artists that we are; to find new ways of composing with the rulebooks. Because there is seldom only one way of finding something out, or getting something; but we have to find our own way, and if you believe in it enough you will convince others too. And this is another lesson I wish my dance education had given me; that there is not the one and only way, but that it becomes more stimulating and engaging, both for you as a practitioner but also for the ones you share it with, to find your own way. Thereafter, when you have your own ground you can exchange and move forward together with others.
As dancers, it is, in a more obvious and present way than many other professions, through our bodies that we express and contribute to the world. Because this is what we are doing, hopefully, and I wish this acknowledgement, which is really empowering, would have been made clearer during my student years. I propose that if we want strong, confident, creative, communicative dancers/artists that share their passion; give them that power and embrace that passion; the power of being our own masters and teachers of our minds and bodies. Because you cannot force passion upon anyone, neither can you expect creative, independent and confident dancers if you do not teach them in a creative way, showing them the option to be independent, offering an environment where they feel confident to always do 100 percent, which includes failure. Teach us not be afraid of taking chances for fear of failure, and hopefully we will learn to learn from our mistakes, from us taking conscious, embodied decisions even it if it means that we enter unknown grounds. This requires however that everybody is responsible for his or her own learning. And to question what it is that we learn, and for what? What does it really mean to be professional? And what do we need? It seems to me that there are many terms, motifs and ideals that need to, if not re-defined, then constantly renewed. Because, it is ignorant to pretend to live in a bubble and preserve ideas by fulfilling molds based on anything else then the present, unstable world that we live on. We need to move with the world not beside it. What do we know? Technique arises from the necessity to know something. And what I find interesting as a teacher is the same which interests me as a performer as well as an audience; which is that I am not so interested in simply broadcasting what one knows but rather how my practice and other’s practices can be made sharable and grow seeds of creativity; together with the experiences of the people/students and audiences that take part.
Listen to your students because what might seem like complaints or failures at first sight could be a cry for help, too not loose that passion. Like one student so beautifully said to me during one of the sessions; I believe you, because I can feel that you believe in it, you are convinced. We need teachers that believe and are convinced in what they do, whatever they do, for them to share their passion makes me want to share mine. So to the Dance Department of Mimar University; find your passion, do not do what everybody else is doing, because your students look up to you, and they are a reflection of you, they are as confused without structures as you seem to be, with as much difficulties to invent their own structure and ability to question what they are doing and to what purpose. I propose to begin by concentrating on what you have rather that what you don’t have, accepting that you have something unique to create with, because no one else has have lived through exactly what you have. Use this as a power rather than a limitation. And if the desire is strong enough it will be less of a rational struggle and more a question of directing rather than controlling and being sensitive by sincerely listening rather than assuming, and through this path finding out what really moves you and who you can move with you.
Daniela Romo Pozo