The music and slideshow ended with a flourish, the curtain slowly rose, the house lights dimmed, and the director appeared. Show time.
The anticipation was over.
The audience quiets as we are welcomed and encouraged to share our appreciation with applause, whistling, and noise of our choice. Encouraged. Perhaps even challenged by her, “Let the performers know what you like!”
And so it began. 64 acts. Music that I sometimes sang the words to. Music that I cried to. And music that I’m still not sure of the words. Music, motion, and costuming designed for specific effects. An orchestration of performances, directors, stage hands and groups of children on a Sunday afternoon.
A dance recital. The second performance in as many days. Short glimpses of student work spaced out over 2 hours and 40 minutes for 320 minutes of performance. I wondered how they kept the attention of the adorable little “lions” in between their dances.
I applauded for the students when they were older and completely in sync; yet I also applauded for the children who were so excited to dance that they “did their own thing.” I chuckled at the friend who guided another into the right spot. I commiserated with the child who just stood there the entire first routine but managed to “dance” during her next appearance. I heard one counting “five, six, seven, eight” for her group as the music ended abruptly. Appearances mattered. Matching outfits, accessorized with bows and jewelry. Variations quickly stood out. Those who “lip synced”. Those who were a step too fast. Those who were a step too slow. A slip. A fall. A gap in the staging. And yet, it was POETRY in colorful motion.
A splashy intro with a large group. Varying sizes of groups. Partners. Solos.
Hmmhmm. You know where I am going with this. What did it resemble?
An environment . . . an auditorium – not where they practiced.
A spotlight and dimmed auditorium . . . stage fright anyone?
Special outfits . . . not what they wore for practice.
And I have it on good authority (great niece) that some outfits “itched.”
Performing alone . . . an off-stage assist, but no one on stage except the performers side by side.
Immediate feedback . . . applause and yelling (and some that was not heard over the music).
At least 3 separate distinct measures . . . distributed over time (total of 6 over the two days)
No one single “gotcha” moment for anyone on stage!
Progress? What to measure? How to measure?
Could be measured from the FIRST time they attended dance class (summative), or from the first dance class this year (summative), or from the first performance to the 6th, 10th, 12th, etc. Video performances are easy to review in order to notice and name a few specific behaviors.
Symmetry from the audience view? There were times when the line straight down the center of the stage was perfectly in sync. Beautiful moments.
What is most important?
Same measure for all?
Cut points? Averages? Growth? A portfolio of video examples?
NOT high stakes . . .
What qualities of instruction readied them for this performance?
What qualities of assessment could perhaps better serve education?
When do we “applaud” all students for their learning?
When does the pleasure and enjoyment of the participants matter?
Thank you, Betsy, Beth, Deb, Kathleen, Kelsey, Lanny, Melanie, and Stacey for this weekly forum from Two Writing Teachers. Check out the writers and readers here.
Good for you for enduring a dance recital. I gave them up years ago, even though I’m offered tickets from students every year. As with any disciplined activity, be it sports or dancing or reading, there are goods and bads, the successful and unsuccessful, the measures of accomplishment.
So many facets . . . The least of which is a number!
So much to think about, Fran. Do we assess based on how far someone has come from where they started? Do we assess based on one’s ability to be is sync with the group so that the unified body is viewed as a whole? Do we not assess but just encourage someone for trying? I guess we need to evaluate each situation and assess according to what our students need so that they continue to grow and not be discouraged.
I love the many dimensions of these conversations when we begin with real life examples. And consider the child instead of an arbitrary number, percentage or letter! It is so complicated!