What About “And”?

By Heather Vaughan-Southard

I continually find myself in a situations appearing to be dominated by “either, or”. It has prompted me to think about this in terms of dance education.

In (dance) education, consumers- and many providers- seem stuck on classifying everything. Rating everything. Judging everything. (Read my article for Dance Advantage on why I refer to the current generation of dancers as “The Hybrids”. ) I find myself frustrated.

Why either, or? Why this and not that? Why what I like and not what I could use more of? Why me instead of you?

What about “and”?

Liz Lerman has been the the most recent “guest thinker” in my classroom. (By this, I mean that I shared some of her words from Hiking the Horizontal, described her work, showed video excerpts, and some of her lectures available online). As a class, we explored dance as a means to connect to self, self to group, group to group. We were examining what we have to express and how to go about expressing it. We entered conversations about value, purpose, and measurement.

I shared a talk by Lerman at Simon Fraser University.

In it, Lerman talks about shifting the spectrum of measurement from top down or bottom up to sideways- making room for everything to be seen and valued. She also beautifully explains the catalysts for her varied aspects of work which has simultaneously produced high art and community engagement in separate and connected spheres.

I used this as part of the students’ final exam:


Create your spectrum- what are at the polarized ends? How do you measure it- vertically, horizontally, circularly? Where do you fall right now? Why? Where have been before and where are you headed next?

Some of their ideas bridged concert and commercial dance, dance composition and performance, dance as a career path and as recreation. All expressed how interested they were in this project and were grateful for the opportunity to think through their (dance) education. As a class, the dialogue was rich in terms of identifying how dance was meaningful to each of us in varying ways and I was impressed at my students’ language in sharing their differences and commonalities.

There is power in “and”.

My career has depended on it. My life experience has depended on it. Hasn’t yours?

(A version of this article originally appeared at EducatingDancers on June 16, 2015.)

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