Dance education report – visit to Stockholm DOCH

Tiina Ollesk and Renee Nõmmik have been teaching at Tallinn University dance curricula for 20 years. In September 2018 they had support from ECA (European Communicative arts Network, led by David Yoken) to visit Stockholm University for Dance and Circus (DOCH, part of Stockholm Academy of Arts) with 6 dance students from TLU (3 MA program, 2 BA III Year Students and 1 II Year Student). Following is short report about their visit.

Place: DOCH, Stockholm

Time: September 10-14, 2018

During our visit we were mainly concentrated on observing practical dance classes at DOCH. It is our pleasure to thank Beata Alving (Head of Department, assistant professor of dance pedagogy) for putting together our timetable for all the period and for having special and very informative discussion and meeting with Tiina and Renee about dance curricula’s in both universities and also meeting Tallinn University dance students, answering to all their questions on last day.

Classes Observed during five days: Dance Didactic Children and Youth (2nd Year Students) lead by Elisabet Sjöstedt Edelholm (with live music), Didactic of improvisation for Children and Youth lead by Camilla Wiehen (with live music).

Dance technique classes - Jazz (3rd Year Students and for mixed group) taught by Andreas Erbrink, Jazz (3rd Year Students) taught by Jaako Kulmala, Classical Ballett (mixed group) taught by Eytan Sivak (with live music), Contemporary dance (2nd Year Students) taught by Helena Lundqvist (with live music), Contemporary dance (4th Year Students) taught by Karin Munters Jameson, Improvisation (1st Year Students) lead by Linda Adami, Improvisation (for mixed group) lead by Thomas Zamolo (with live music).

Choreography as Composition (3rd Year Students) lead by Shirley Harthey Ubilla, Dance as Choreography (1 year dancers) lead by Ellinor Ljungkvist (guest teacher).

Our short feedback to classes: All the classes we saw were very well thought through, organized and all students were very disciplined (no mobile phones or any other distraction from the first minute of the class). All classes started on time (students and teachers were ready) and every class had very friendly and collaborative atmosphere. It is surprising how much live music is used at DOCH during study-process (in Tallinn University it is possible to use only partly and mainly for creative process or for performing). Very surprising for us is that the number of teachers working for study-programs is this big (about 18) and approximately the same amount of quest teachers are invited. As mentioned before, it was pleasure to see very nice working atmosphere all the teachers (and students) have created in the classes (really good professionals and practitioners on their field). It was very nice to see so many male teachers at dance classes (ballet, jazz, improvisation) and variation of different ages (experience) of teachers. It was very interesting to get to know how Dance Curricula is built up, developed and organized, and how cooperative and relaxed is the organization of weekly schedules. We highly appreciate and value dance students motivation for studies (discipline at observed classes, their creativity and very focused working atmosphere, no distractive activities like surfing in internet, telephone calls or talks between them).

It was encouraging to see that different teaching methods are accepted, appreciated and used by teachers (jazz dance, improvisation, contemporary dance etc) – it seemed to us that teacher is free to choose the methods and didactics according to his/her experience and knowledge. And it was good to see that students were able to follow and work in that diversity of methods. As an example, in some classes teacher explained movements and qualities of movements step by step in the beginning of the class and in some classes teachers asked just to follow them without any spoken instructions. And students were easily following both methods. Even if material was complicated for some of student´s it was nice to see how those students willingly worked individually during the class by caching up with this material step by step and succeeded.

We were impressed how musicians worked live in all classes we observed and what an impact this possibility has for students and teachers. Many dancers are used to follow the recorded rhythms and to move to the recorded music. But regular work with live music in the studio helps to develop really ”musical body” of the dancer. This seems to work in very interactive and collaborative way – if dancers are able to listen to the inside body rhythms and to use their inner-rhythm in technical and creativity work, then it may become an inspirational source for musicians to create soundscapes and music and this way they both influence each other and create really magic atmosphere and live interaction during the class. In these cases the study process is really effective and real.

It is good and encouraging to see that all study programs are focused on some main-subjects (for example contemporary dance or dance pedagogy and didactics), not teaching too many different styles or aesthetics as lot of studios outside of universities will probably do.

TIINA OLLESK and RENEE NÕMMIK joined the also the ECA teachers meeting on Sept 28th 2018 at DOCH, Stockholm.

Short summary of the meeting: Aim: discuss teaching methodologies - meeting between dance programs DOCH Stockholm, Turku Academy of Applied Sciences and Tallinn University.

Themes: structures and development of dance programs, dance curricula and society as background, dance and society, dance inside big University structures (problems, challenges etc ).

We were introduced how contemporary dance and dance pedagogy education at DOCH and Turku Universities are developed and how focused it is. Contemporary dance education is historically connected with Western Theatre traditions and schools are using best practitioners from the local and international field - personal artistic approach of the teacher, choreographer or dancer is valued, questioned and researched.  It is clearly separated from competitive sports and entertainment in educational system and has value of its own.

It seems to be little bit different for Tallinn University (because of the wider cultural, social and educational background).

All visits were supported by “Explorations and Collaborations in the Arts / The ECA Network”  mobility grants.