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Restricted Syllabus: Thoughts from the Chairman

I would like to open a discussion on the following subject:

Are there advantages in a restricted syllabus?

The restrictions on choreography have been talked about for decades but, instead of talking about the advantages of these limitations I would like to point out the disadvantages.

The different levels.

It starts of course with the figures we learn as a professional. They are categorised in different chapters, licentiate, member and fellow, in some books, other books have different names for these categories. The figures that are given in these technique books are an indication of progress for a dancer and teacher. They are not a law, just a guideline. Under normal circumstances the progression in teaching would go from simple to advanced; that sounds like common sense.

Who are these restrictions for?

Are the restrictions meant for the dancers as a form of protection? What are we protecting them from?

Most of the time we see very able young dancers (youth) stopped in their development because of these limitations while older dancers (m

asters) can dance what they want although they may not be able to handle the advanced choreography.

It all comes down to the ability of the individual dancer and to some extent their teachers, if the dancers are confident that they can handle the challenge. Why not let a panel of judges decide if they are worthy and capable dancers? I would say that experienced judges can clearly assess when the quality of movement is not up to the standard that they expect it to be.

Are the limitations in place for the teachers?

Maybe, they can then avoid the discussion from the dancers that would like choreography that they can’t handle. There is always a group of dancers that will be able to do the difficult stuff. Do we want to hold back those talented couples? As a teacher we must make sure our pupils stay focused. That means we can be more pr

ogressive with choreography when the dancers are ready for it.

Is the teacher using the right principles and pace for the student? In a social class we start with simple figures and slowly progress to more advanced figures that the class can handle.

Competition dancers determine the progress together with their trainers. This is a process that is fragile and personal. Limitations are in place only by the discretion of their working relationship and trust in one another.

We should allow trial and error!

We all learn by trial and error. Dancers are sometimes too eager to attempt choreography that they do not have the physical ability for. We should trust our judging panel that they will pick up on this unstable performance. That could also be said for the dancers that don’t take any risks in their choice of movements. A judge must weigh up the difficulty of the choreography to the way it is performed.

We know this system in many different sports for example in gymnastics the gymnast will get a higher mark if the level of difficulty is performed well. If the level of difficulty is low the points that can be scored will reflect that.

It is certain that if you never perform outside your comfort zone you won’t reach the next level.

Give the responsibility back to the dancers and their teachers.

We all can make our own choices. To restrict people in these fundamental rights is a form of overprotection. If you have a car that can

drive 200km/hr but we restrict the speed limit on our roads to 100km/hr we all understand that this for our own wellbeing. Put that same car on a racetrack and you would expect that it would use its full potential and not only cruise at 100km/hr. The objective is to win the race!

In dancing we all make the mistake that simple choreography is better than difficult movements. That is simply not true! We need to challenge ourselves to become better dancers, do the simple things well and make sure our audience does not fall asleep by treating them with exciting patterns. It is an ongoing challenge to stay focused.

Making good choreography for dancers is like giving them words to express themselves in language. The richer your vocabulary, the better you can converse with the audience (and the judges for that matter).

I am interested to hear your thoughts on this matter.

Peter van der Veek.

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