Rolfer, Dancer, Teacher

Lodge_cameraIt’s an idea many of us have heard or even expressed ourselves in learning to dance: it’s important to tape yourself. While it’s an easy concept to understand, I have never seen it illustrated so clearly as I have recently with a couple of new students. Working with them has been a great education for me in seeing how powerful the idea of taping yourself can be.

Dr. Lodge McCammon and soon-to-be-Dr. Brandy Parker joined my classes at The Lindy Lab about 3 months ago. Lodge is an educational expert who helps teachers flip their classroom and introduce the idea of Reflective Practice to student’s learning skills. The essential idea is to tape yourself performing the skill or talking about the material you are studying and then review the tape of yourself to connect with your own progress.

3 Weeks

Lodge and Brandy started with one Lindy class on their first week and were pretty much hooked from the get-go. Lodge has described it to me as finding something he feels like he should have been doing all his life. After the first week, they upgraded to an unlimited class package and were practicing, like most beginning dance students, based on feel alone and occasionally going dance.  After 3 weeks of that and a total of 13.5 classroom hours, they decided to tape themselves for the first time and posted this video:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mvpHSRz8Mks]

It was after this first taping that they realized that Lodge’s work with flipped classrooms and reflective practice could be applied to their dancing as well.  Following the taping of this first video, they began spending more of their practice time taping and reviewing their dancing.  Lodge has said that this taping was actually a great tool for building confidence as he found his taped dancing looked a lot better than he would have expected it to.

6 Weeks

A few more weeks passed and we were into the Christmas break.  Lodge and Brandy were stoked to keep learning so we switched to doing a couple of private lessons to bridge the gap until January classes.  At their request, we taped the entirety of each private lesson and Lodge and Brandy would review the lesson later, practice a bit, then send me a video talking about what they were working on before the next private lesson (Click here for an example recap video).  They have both commented that these videos were extremely helpful, noting that they often picked up some major concepts from rewatching the videos that had not landed for them during the lessons.

After a few more weeks of dancing and about 5 hours of private lessons, Lodge and Brandy recorded and posted the following video, dancing to a tune they wrote and recorded by themselves.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JrmdY61haFw]

For a difference of 3 weeks, the shifts in fluidity and energy are pretty impressive.  They also changed where they were dancing because we figured out that Lodge was originally ducking his head a lot to avoid hitting the ceiling fan in the middle of the room.  My favorite thing about this video is that at 6 weeks, Lodge and Brandy’s own creativity and personality are already coming out in their dancing.  The choreographed break away parts are things I hadn’t taught them, so it’s awesome to see them already starting to show off their own ideas.

At this point, Lodge and Brandy asked me to add that teaching style has had a lot to do with their ability to integrate reflective practice into the growth of their dancing.  In the past year or so, I have focused classes on first principles of motion with an emphasis on encouraging creativity, musicality, and general experimentation with one’s own motion.  Lodge and Brandy both feel that emphasis on creativity and personal experimentation have helped a great deal in inspiring them to move forward in their dancing and to try mixing in their own educational models.

10 Weeks

January group classes were a bit more Charleston heavy and Lodge and Brandy took everything again.  They also had one extra private lesson with me and one from Nelle Cherry while she was in town.  At this point, they’d taken on a lot of information and were spending more time on integrating, so towards the end of 10 weeks they were starting to slow down on classes and ease up on practicing a bit.  At about the 10 week mark, they recorded another original song and posted this video:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gLhpToLgxkU]

I think it’s best to let the last video speak for itself.  Especially in comparison from Week 3 to Week 10, the difference is really impressive.  Working with Lodge and Brandy has inspired me to start taping myself again and to get a camcorder setup for the dance studio to make this kind of practicing available to other students.  If you are interested in learning more about Lodge’s work on education and practice, check him out on facebook at FIZZ Education.

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Comments on: "The Power of Reflective Practice" (10)

  1. This is great! Thanks for the post. Definitely food for thought. I wonder how this could be scaled for the group classes. A lot of us are doing class recaps these days. Do you think it would be enough to just ask the students to film themselves and compare it to the recaps? Would they need incentives? I’m thinking Level 1 here. I wonder what kind of guidance they’d need to make watching the videos productive.

    • Thanks Mike. I’m starting to play with the idea of having a camera available full-time at the dances and classes that I run so people can tape themselves whenever they want to. I’m also going to be playing with a more flipped classroom model and filming what I think of as “precaps” so students can see the material we will be working on before class and we can spend class time playing with it and practicing rather than having to spend so much time on introducing new ideas.

      Not sure if you’d need incentives or not. It seemed like the added value and gain that Lodge and Brandy got out of practicing was motivation enough for them.

      And to my mind at least, it seems like getting people to take a balanced view (what did I do well + what could I do better) seems like one of the more important pieces. Too much of the former and people don’t learn, too much of the latter and it gets quickly demotivating.

      It’s definitely something I’m going to keep playing with though. It’s been really fun and interesting so far breaking out of the standard model and testing the waters of other techniques.

      • “precaps”, I really like that idea! Are you doing to try this with beginners, or more advanced levels?

      • I’m planning to test the idea out with the free beginner lessons first and then expand it piece by piece from there. I like the idea of giving prospective beginners a 5-10 minute view that gives them a basic idea of what the pre-dance lesson will cover so that they can focus on practicing/dancing rather than absorbing new material when they show up to their first dance. I originally got the idea from this series http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qEAAZblDpzE and figured it would be could be really helpful to have a short video lesson that dovetails with the standard pre-dance free beginner lesson.

        Past that it just depends on how things develop. Since it will be breaking the conventional mold of what most people expect from a dance class, I want to be able to “small batch” test the idea and iron out the kinks before I expand it into everything. I definitely can see the possibility of having a standard syllabus pre-cap video for the lower level classes though. Higher level classes might require a bit more work and taping before each lesson, but given that I know there are plenty of grade school teachers doing that sort of thing, it seems pretty feasible to make it work for any level. It just might make sense to tweak things for different groups and purposes.

      • We have a fairly standardized beginner syllabus, but there’s a lot of room to tailor it to each class. So we usually do a recap for every class. I wonder if it would be enough to just send out the recap from the previous time we did that class, with the caveat that it might be a little different this time round.

        Man, this article is perfectly timed. Our March series starts Wednesday, so I think I’ll try sending the previous month’s recaps ahead of time. Maybe that’ll be enough to mentally prepare them for what they’re getting into. It won’t be as in-depth as that 5min lesson, but it’s something. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

        Thanks again for the new ideas!

      • Good idea on using previous recaps, Mike. And I’d love to hear how it goes over this month. 🙂

  2. Susan Manke said:

    Corey & I have used this method alot in teaching privates to students. We record at he beginning of the lesson and at the end. I think it helps bolster confidence when they see the improvements they’ve made by the end of the hour. It also helps it pointing out habits that we want to change. Sometimes you can tell someone all day long that they are doing “x”, but until they actually see themselves doing it, it doesn’t register. The camera does not lie..ha ha. We also use it for ourselves in our own dancing. Love this story and seeing the awesome progress by Lodge & Brandy. Keep posting!

  3. Jennie said:

    This is great but I would love to see some swingouts, triple steps etc to compare with the first video. Charleston is, even in the Lindy version, a somehow different dance. Still, very well done in such a short time.

    • ^this.

    • You can probably blame me for the heavy Charleston content. For whatever reason, the class material in January and February leaned a bit heavily in the direction. I’m guessing if I ask nicely or just wait a few weeks that they may put out another Lindy video though.

      And style aside, I’m still really impressed with how much forward progress they had made on quality of movement and connection. But yes, I wrote this as a bit more of a story than a proof. Could be fun to do a test with a control class and a reflective practice class or something like that. 🙂

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