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  • Writer's pictureHannah Box

Checking In

Hello everyone and Happy New Year!

I am now starting my 3rd semester within the Wayne State University Master's of Theatre and Dance program. I will be utilizing this blog as a part of my coursework this semester. Overall, I am really enjoying this program and learning a great deal. The connections I have made with the students and professors have been quite wonderful, and there is something really special about being able to learn academic concepts that directly relate to the teaching artistry work I am doing in my professional jobs.

I am teaching dance (mostly ballet, but contemporary and jazz as well) six days a week at my part-time faculty member position at the Patel Conservatory in Tampa, Fl. In December, we successfully presented a full weekend of our Nutcracker with the dancers having the option to not wear masks on stage! The logistics of testing everyone and trying to stay safe while putting on a major production was exhausting, but it was absolutely fabulous to be able to watch my students take the stage for a full Nutcracker after a year off. Now, I am looking forward to the performances at the end of this winter semester! I will be choreographing or setting at least seven showcase dances - some of which will be a part of a “typical” recital format, while others will be integrated into our larger spring ballet, Sleeping Beauty. I have spent a good amount of our holiday break trying to begin the choreographic process for these pieces! An additional opportunity that I am continuing to pursue this semester is my work teaching ballet to elementary children experiencing homelessness as a part of the Patel Conservatory / Straz Center Outreach program. COVID caused this weekly program to be a bit delayed, but I am entering my fourth month teaching these students and it has been one of the most rewarding teaching positions I have ever taken. I will be creating an entire end-of-year dance showcase for these students, which I am both excited and a bit nervous for. I have never curated an entire show myself, so this is a new opportunity that I am currently trying to wrap my head around and plan for! Otherwise, I have simply been trying to stay healthy, read lots of good books, and spend as much time with my dogs as possible!

Pixel, Roxie, and Hammy (an honorary member of the family) being very festive over the holiday break.

Checking in with my documentation / brainstorming strategies:

I am constantly brainstorming, dreaming, and reflecting on my work, education, future goals / ideas, research, etc. My mind often feels like it is moving faster than the rest of my life can handle, so I tend to write down or record what pops into my mind as quickly and easily as possible before I forget about it. This process could involve writing in a separate Google Doc on my computer, scribbling notes into my journal, typing shorthand in my Notes app on my phone, or taking a quick video of a choreographic idea. Sometimes, I will go back and look at these musings, but often the simple act of recording them is enough for the ideas to “stay in my brain.” I do find it most helpful to use my Google Docs documents for my notes and thoughts regarding school and potential research - as I do increasingly find myself needing to look back to my notes for this program. I plan on trying to utilize this more than my other forms of recording this semester. Additionally, for larger or more complicated ideas, I also really enjoy “talking things out” with someone close to me. My mother and my partner tend to help me the most through these (often frantic feeling) conversations. I am incredibly grateful that they listen, respond, and generally put up with me going on very deep tangents - often about a field or theme that they do not know much about. In regards to school, I have found texting or emailing with my friends within this cohort to be very helpful! I am very grateful for them as well. However, I plan on working on using my electronic journaling more to try to work out these bigger questions instead of ensnaring those around me to help me through everything. I strive to be self-sufficient in my note taking and work on “untangling” these thoughts on my own. I believe keeping more of my writing in one format will also allow me to look back on it more - which could be very helpful for my future work.

On that topic, a check-in about my potential Thesis:

Currently, my Thesis topic is about integrating student-centered choreographic coursework into a ballet conservatory’s intermediate / young adolescent curriculum. At this time, I do not plan to utilize student subjects, but instead plan to focus on the curricular development of such a course and my own teacher action research during the curricular design process. I am hoping to reference my own conservatory’s curricular archives and (if possible) the curricula of some major American ballet conservatories. Additionally, I hope to reflect on my own class plans, teaching notes, and in-class observations from a short-term choreographic course that I have been tentatively allowed to teach this summer. My goal is to create a curricular plan for a year-long student-centered choreographic course that could be easily integrated into the intermediate levels of a ballet conservatory (including - but not limited to - the conservatory I teach at). I strive to create a course that could use student-centered learning and empowerment to combat the authoritative teaching practices that tend to exist within ballet conservatories, without appearing so disruptive or "off-topic" that directors or administrators of such institutions would reject such an addition. I believe this project could be suitable for a Thesis because it appears as though I will be able to conduct an ample literature review while still conducting original research. I am already seeing potential areas for future research within this topic (which I noted in my Research Proposal Draft last semester), and this work very deeply ties into my goals as a teaching artist (which I have discussed throughout this program). I believe this could be a great first step into creating ballet conservatory curricula for children and adolescents that combats the authoritative teaching practices that are typically normalized within ballet education.

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