Comments from Colleagues

Jane Wooley

David Steele

I first worked professionally with Sasha Roubicek when I was directing the Danish National School for Contemporary Dance, back in 1996, which was at that time a ‘fragile’ institution as it had only recently attained the status of a State Education. For the school at that point there was a need to clarify the vision of the education so that it could have the stability and clear artistic and pedagogical direction that would ensure the students’ experience. To this end artist teachers were brought into the school, with the express intention of their expertise defining the artistic culture of the school.

Sasha came to the school to work with the students in the areas of contemporary dance technique and Aikido. Her work with the students was profound and I believe contributed hugely to the manner in which the students’ learnt. For many of them this was the first time that they had experienced such a mature and insightful approach to teaching dance. From the beginning Sasha developed in her classes a partnership between lecturer and student that embraced an ongoing process of research and discovery.

Sasha has an extraordinary ability to empower those that meet her in her work. She creates an environment of trust and support that enables anyone, regardless of their ability, to acknowledge their talents and develop them in a culture of curiosity and exploration.

For the students in Denmark, some 16 years ago, working with Sasha changed the manner in which they received and processed both during their educations and beyond. Her contribution to the school at that time lives on in the work of the students, many of whom as mature artists continue to source inspiration from the extraordinary journey that they undertook with Sasha Roubicek.

David Steele

Assistant Director – London Contemporary Dance School

Jane Wooley

Jane Wooley

Observations by Jane Woolley, Freelance Dance Artist & Educationalist,
of Sasha Roubicek’s technique class

February 2011

A number of key factors were central to SR’s methodology, such as use of imagery, breath, personal embodiment. In particular, the considered way in which she shared her knowledge and experiences in order to facilitate the student’s own explorations and discoveries. Her approach was never about passing on a precise way of executing movement it was about facilitating self discovery as a way of student’s developing their own feedback mechanism.

The considered use of language was paramount to this approach. SR suggested and invited students to search for and find new sensations, internal connections and initiation points she never instructed or directed and the language reinforced unity within the body e.g. ‘feel how YOU support YOURSELF on YOUR legs’. Movement exercises and sequences were described via a running commentary of possible explorations without using recognised dance vocabulary. Even feedback was given through questioning, to encourage students to find independent solutions. These invitations through anatomical and metaphorical language were supported with imagery and visualisations using text.

SR advocated the use of breath as the life force of movement and the route to achieving total body connectivity. Every movement exploration offered began with an emphasis on the use of breath to ensure it became an integral part of it.

In the promotion of student centred learning, the atmosphere within the technique class felt supportive and inclusive. There was a sense of shared group learning; peers learning from each other’s individual discoveries rather than judging their ability to execute a prescribed form. I observed the sharing of material at the end of the class and it really felt that the students were effectively observing each other to recognise and notice how their peers had made connections. There was also a sense of calm and ‘patience ‘amongst the group , a feeling that they were comfortable taking time to find discovered rather than being frustrated with trying to learn new taught material.

The methodology promoted time for rest and ‘non-doing’, to allow the body and mind to absorb new sensations and discoveries. Movement was seen as something the students ‘attended to’ as oppose to ‘conquered’.

In order to realise all these potential benefits, SR used the typical ‘tools’ of a technique class in a very different way. Movement ‘form’ was seen as a vehicle to allow exploration, as opposed to a means to assess a student’s ability to replicate and execute external shapes and patterns in space and time.

The teaching methodology was based around promoting self reliant learning. A non- hierarchical relationship between teacher and student was established, students were seen as individuals with their own qualities, encouraged to reflect, observe and discuss their experiences. The emphasis was placed on the process of learning rather than achievement of a final product.

Additional points from observations

Use of Form

    • SR uses ‘form’ in her classes, and prefers to use material that is familiar (but not always the same) with the students, this way they are not distracted by wondering what comes next and they stay present in the moment, noticing, refining, tuning their awareness from the inside

    • At the end of the class she will often present the group with a more complex and unfamiliar sequence, as a vehicle to support them with the transference of information they have explored earlier in the class

    • The aim is not for students to replicate material but for them to embody it in their own way and explore the connections they discover

Importance of the teacher’s values

    • The importance of the teacher’s values and how these influence the content of classes was highlighted by SR, emphasising the need to ascertain the real essence of your work and the ‘truth’ behind it. This she believed is what should be relayed to the students

    • She is guided by ‘states of being’ – energetic states and how these can be used to facilitate a movement activity, therefore allowing the ‘state of being’ to dictate the movement rather than the movement dictating the student’s way of moving

Difficulties students have with the material & managing expectations

    • SR pointed out that students can get over concerned about their ability to find connections. They can also become over concerned with learning of movement material particularly when combinations become more complex. SR recognised that this can inhibit their ability to find their way through it

    • SR like Gill Clarke recognised there was a definite bridge that had to be made between meeting the young people’s appetite in terms of what they wanted and expected within a technique class, combined with giving them the opportunity to explore different possibilities of moving

Importance of individuality

    • In SR’s classes every student is seen as an individual physically and emotionally. The course of technique classes begins with open discussions about how the dancers see themselves to try and encourage them to bring an element of ‘self’ into their practice. The ‘self’ is seen as ever changing and transformational e.g. every day the body is different with individual and differing needs

    • SR’s teaching approach reflects this by keeping her planning very in tune with the groups’ needs at any particular time

Teaching methodology

    • Partner work – involving feedback and touch

    • Floor work in which the floor is used as a source of sensory feedback

    • Reflective Journals – for students to record through words or drawings their personal observations, images of their pathways and connections they discover in their bodies

    • Discussion with partners or as a whole group about the observations they are noticing internally and externally and how they are making connections and transitions between the floor work and more complex travelling combinations

Overall aim of the approach

    • Aim of the approach it to get the dancers to a point at which they can begin to receive their own feedback and feel something different. Gill Clarke believes believed as long as dancers have this personal feedback mechanism they would be equipped to apply the same somatic approach to their classes in different stylised forms

How does the teaching of a technique class vary to the teaching of rep?

SR was aware that there are possibly more opportunities for exploration within a technique class than when a student is expected to learn rep.

However when teaching rep she encouraged the students to have the same confidence to explore their own interpretation of the material. SR explores the sources of the material and choreographic processes used to create it as a way of getting the students to do this.

What evidence of transference does she see in the group

    • It varies hugely according to each individual student, some find the explorations come very easily others find it takes time, she encourages each student not to be over concerned about this and to engage in a dialogue about it

    • She can clearly see the transference throughout the course of the technique module

    • The students are also very able to recognise changes or benefits in themselves from the sessions e.g. one 2nd yr student said he had recognised change in a different technique class directly after having a class with Sasha


Post a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.