Discuss the meanings of authoritarianism and anti-authoritarianism in practices of dance teaching. Make specific reference to examples from practice and from the literature. Discuss ways of working that might be appropriate to working with a group of GCSE students and prepare a lesson plan for a specific session with GCSE students.
On an online dictionary the definition for authoritarianism is;
"Characterized by or favoring absolute obedience to authority, as against individual freedom" (http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=authoritarianism)
Authoritarianism in the dance studio is generally structured with the teacher taking a very dictatorial role with the students being submissive, taking orders without question or objection. The method teaches by close observation, direct criticism and giving example. The students will be spread around the room all facing to the teacher and the mirror, all attempting to create the shapes in one technique or another. This is commonly known as the traditional method of dance facilitation.
There are many positives that can be taken from this method of educating. I have experienced some of these, as has Stinson in "Dance, Power and Difference" who writes when speaking of her own time in traditional dance education;
"I spent many hours finding satisfaction in my growing strength, flexibility, control and skill." (Page 27)
I have experienced and I believe for many there is a great feeling of achievement to be found in traditional dance training. This process also requires a long attention span and teaches you self-discipline to keep this.
"The model for traditional dance pedagogy seems to be the authoritarian father in an individualistic world of every man for himself." (Stinson Pg 27)
This statement made by Stinson I think identifies where we begin to see the negatives in the methods of authoritarian traditional dance education. I think Stinson describes traditional pedagogy as the "father" meaning what we measure ourselves against and we strive to match this overbearing and seemingly unattainable ideal. This is what I believe stems a lot of low self-esteem in dance as many of us can feel as Sandy Crichton does;
"like a donkey at a horse fair" (Crichton pg 61 "What Dancers Do That Other Health Workers Don't")
Low self-confidence and self-esteem, I feel, are the most detrimental qualities to an individual's educational and personal development. Through my own experiences and observations of others I think these can breed unhealthy hostility towards other's potential and achievements, which can potentially lead to poor group dynamics and bullying, this then impeding the learning of all. I also believe another outcome of low self-esteem can be to loose the motivation to try, a reaction that begin a vicious circle from lack of trying leading to underachieving and then to even lower self-esteem.
In my own and in many experiences I read about in Dance, Power and Difference and "What Dancers Do That Other Health Workers Don't" about traditional dance classes that they often involve a lot of derogatory and devaluing treatment from the teacher. This treatment in my personal experience has involved verbal criticism that at many times I have viewed as being far from constructive and bordering abusive, especially in the learning of classical ballet. I have also felt the atmosphere created in these classes as potentially dangerous as the teacher installed such an intense fear of failure in the students as the threat of brutal criticism was so great that I saw many unnecessary risks taken. Also in Smith's case study in "Dance, Power and Difference" the individual being studied described her treatment resulted in her "sense of identity was crushed". This, I find simply horrifying, dangerous and sadly believable.
Dance training is equally as emotionally demanding as it is physically. During my training I have had been through some of the...