TEACHING PHILOSOPHY

An education in dance cultivates perspective. Through the trajectory of a semester, I invite students to identify, honor, and challenge their habits and preferences as they discover them, and re-discover them through new lenses. Together, we hone and set goals, and honor each other’s strengths and work. Through this engagement, I aim to leave students with a clearer understanding of themselves as artists, thinkers, and creators. I invite them to be able to see through new and varied perspectives, to rely on new sources of self-discipline, and to form critical interpretations of work, both theirs and others’.

 

As a class, we investigate our attitudes toward technique, virtuosity, and meaning, against other sources of information such as peer feedback, discussion, and readings that dislocate us from our assumptions and expectations. I emphasize the importance of engaging and examining perspectives other than our own. In doing so, we re-imagine how we understand ourselves in relationship to the world, and how we make art.

 

I approach contemporary technique through an exploration of skeletal function and joint mobility, muscular efficiency, and sensory stimuli. Employing approaches from Klein/Mahler technique, I utilize somatic exploration and improvisational exercises to bring awareness to physical states, emphasizing sensation and responsiveness. Floorwork employs Bartenieff fundamentals and moves in and out of standing, integrating the student’s understanding of groundedness and verticality. Similarly, standing exercises move in and out of the floor, shifting values around horizontality. I value a dynamically aligned body, one whose bony scaffolding bestows attributes of power and range. We draw from Humphrey, Limón, and Cunningham techniques to relate our contemporary work to that of our predecessors, and to encourage a fundamental organization of the body that is beneficial to various styles of movement. Swing, fall and release, on and of balance, and momentum encourage risk and promote full-bodied exploration.

 

I believe in improvisation as a means to open one’s self to the unknown, to prepare us to live in unpredictable environments, to recognize options as they exist around us, and to help us imagine possible futures. Through solo, partnered, and group explorations, we work to train perception and responsiveness, both as a source for discovery of movement and choreographic structures, and as a performance form. We explore self and other, mind and body, impulse and decision, habit and tendency, and memory and presence. We come to understand improvisation in historical, sociopolitical, and artistic contexts. For dancers and non-dancers alike, I aim to allow students into the profundity of the practice of the form.

 

Improvisational thinking is at the core of my teaching of composition: I aim not to insist on any aesthetic agenda, but to create a space in which students feel a freedom to risk. I believe in composing dances as a constant engagement with (com)posing questions. We work to find movement languages that directly correlate to choreographic intent. In this way, we work toward meaning, not from meaning, so that physical content supports concept. We avoid good/bad and right/wrong paradigms, instead focusing on what and how the choreography is. As boundaries among the arts become increasingly permeable, I recognize the methodological importance of multidisciplinary work to facilitate our critical understanding of the arts. In every class, we cross-reference our physical work against other fields of knowledge.

 

I believe that history and theory have a place not just in seminar courses, but in studio courses as well. In studio settings, accompanying readings, viewings, and conversations situate our classroom practices within various cultural and historical contexts (not just specific to the dance field). Through a variety of sourced material, students gain perspective on lineages of movement practices, and on the implications of such practices in current dance studies within the university and elsewhere. Similarly, I believe that non-studio courses must incorporate kinesthetic learning. Corporeal activities engage our minds and bodies, and thus we capitalize on the experience of action as a pedagogical tool.

 

In every course, I aim to present materials, mediate discussions, and engage with students in ways that recognize and honor a diversity of perspectives. Through posing questions that allow space for a range of responses, I encourage students to develop a dialogue among themselves that is a practice of listening and sharing. Together, we draw on the wealth of personal experiences that each of us holds, and cultivate ways of thinking. An active, flexible mind and imagination are necessary to yield progress and artistic transformation. I see this transformation as a maturation of curiosity: the ability to vary approaches to material such that work can be re-invented over and over again, a practice of self-observation, and an awareness of and responsibility to one’s healthy body, mind, and spirit. My work, as a teacher, is to create a framework, process, and space where this artistic development is possible.

© 2018 Ani Javian