Saturday, September 8, 2007

The Dance of Writing

I was recently in front of the class, performing my role as an "instructor," when I made the analogy that writing is like a dance. My co-instructor and I were trying to explain to our students that we wanted them to show us in their discussion posts that they were engaging with the text(s). I was not sure if they were understanding what we meant by engagement...since arguably their (our?) education up to this point (1st year in undergraduate studies) has not allowed students (us?) to engage in knowledge, rather just reiterate what has already been written.

So, I wanted to convey to them that writing is a process, an exciting one at that. Such a desire, caused me to come up with the analogy of dance...the dynamic process between two bodies working with one another, feeding off one another, feeling one another to create a coherent "dance" - perhaps also infusing the notion of the erotic in education? While in traditional dance there is someone who "leads" and someone who "follows," such a process is complex for the person who leads has to develop the trust of the person who follows...power in a dance relationship is not simply "top-down" but also "bottom-up." Similar to the power relations in a classroom, since we as instructors share power with our students since they can guide the course content as much as we can...perhaps showing that the analogy of dance works for teaching in general also?

In many ways then, writing about a text or engaging with it, is like a dance. The text(s) will lead but only as far as the writer (student) will allow such a lead. Is there understanding? Comfort? Desire? Pleasure? How do each of these intersect with one another to allow the writer to engage with the text. Now, as I made this analogy some of the students may have thought I was a little odd, so my co-instructor stepped in to add some of her own thoughts about the "diversity" in writing, which lead me to chime in that such "diversity" is like the multiple styles of dance that exist..."Show us your tango, your rumba, your hip-hop, your us the dynamic between you and the text, how you engaged in it, how it lead you and you lead it?"

Is this analogy a beneficial analogy though? An answer that will depend on the student's relationship with dance. Since writing is often seen as a "task" or "chore" perhaps the ability to think about writing as a dance will infuse the needed passion and joy into the difficult task of writing/dancing. Although if one has bad experiences with dance, will such an analogy bring about the "chore" of dance practice, making writing seem more arduous and difficult?

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