The Power of Reflective Practice
It’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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.