Lake Region High School Dance Residency

June 22, 2015

 John Morris and Carmel Collins collaborate

Da.Res.1Students of Lake Region High School participated in an exciting “Dance Residency” with professional dancer and teaching artist John Morris. When I heard that a professional dancer had moved into our district I knew I had to reach out and connect with him. As it turned out John was a former LRHS graduate who had pursued a career in dance that had taken him to New York City. After his many travels he had returned to Bridgton with his family. Connecting with John was akin to finding a hidden treasure, right in our own backyard. His experiences, expertise, knowledge and skill that he brought to the residency were enlightening and valuable to both students and myself, and truly brought dance education to a new and powerful level.

Da.Res.3John and I immediately connected and I found myself able to talk about dance education on many levels without having to go though lengthy explanations. It was as though we had know each other for ever. We both shared our vision and goals for the residency with ease and the planning seemed to come together very cohesively.

We met a few times prior to John’s initial session with the students and he was able to view the space and what resources were available at these meetings. It was great to have someone else’s input of working with the students on dance and hearing their perspective of the program. The most challenging part was to know when would be a productive time to interject a dance residency and the most opportune time for John to start. The students and I were at the beginning of choreographing our spring show and both John and I thought it would be beneficial to embrace the show in some format with his residency. Once we had decided upon this everything fell into place.

Da.Res.2.I was very excited to share the residency with my students and in turn they were excited at the prospect of a new and different dance teacher coming into the arena. It was great to be able to work with another dance professional and for the students to witness and be part of this partnership. The students so often observe me working in isolation, this was a great experience for them to see me teaming with someone else.

It was fascinating to observe my students working with John. His approach was different and new to the students, because he focused on creative exploration and a contemporary dance approach, but one could see their awkwardness and reservations dispel as he quickly built up trusting and respectful connections with them. Conversations began to flow more freely as the students became more familiar and at ease with the new format. In between John’s sessions conversations continued and the students would build upon each session which enabled the students to share with John what they had accomplished since his last visit.

Da.Res.4There was much evaluating and supportive critiquing during the residency as students spent time reflecting upon what they were creating and the direction they wished to go.

Quite often the students would share with John what they would like to see happen and in return John would ask, “How can we make that happen? What can we do to get from where we are now to where you want to be?” To aid students with this process John collaborated with them to create and explore a list of choreographic tools that the students could easily access in assisting them through their problem solving journey.

Da.Res.5In between each of John’s visits we would communicate and give feedback to one another to ensure we were always on the same page and prepared for the next session, as well as supporting one another on this new journey. Our planning, preparation and communication were integral to the success of the residency and it was great to collaborate with a fellow dance professional. John reported that he was delighted with our collaboration, as well as with the students’ willingness to explore and try new things. The residency was a wonderful learning experience for both myself and my students, the spring show was a success, and we all look forward to the next one.

One comment

  1. Wonderful, Carmel! It sounds like it was a resounding success!

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