Saturday, June 14, 2008

Dance, it's good for you!

Like many, at about 5 year old, I found myself in dance classes before I was ready to appreciate the lessons. I may have asked for them, or my parents may have "seen something" in me that suggested an interest or talent. Either way, I'm grateful for those lessons; dance, like sport, encourages some confidence and physical self-possession.

Below, I've posted three pretty enjoyable routines.

1. Female performance from a Korean dance competition.

2. Rehearsal for a 4.08 collaboration between The Atlanta Ballet and Antwan André Patton (aka Big Boi, of OutKast fame).

3. Classic MJ doing the Moonwalk and the Robot over a hard beat.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Visualization Excercises and Other Adventures in Teaching

Early in college, although majoring in finance, I was interested in studying the causes and implications of boys' poor performance in reading and writing. Given the choice in an assignment, I would find a way to talk about it. In public policy, economics, public speaking, I found a way. Then, in the Spring semester of my sophomore year, I decided to do some fieldwork, to lead a group of middle school boys through half a dozen weekend sessions in the language arts (just imagine their enthusiasm). The sessions packed-in reading comprehension, vocabulary-building, and essay writing. Having just boys, all African American or Hispanic, I chose subjects and texts which addressed facets of masculine and minority identities. We covered Malcolm X's path to literacy, and Hemingway's The Revolutionist. Below, you'll see pictures and responses from one of the sessions; the exercise was to describe the image as it became clearer. I chose The Banjo Player by Henry Ossawa Tanner.

Sample Responses:
Image 1: "Someone putting their hands up. Black, orange, green, grey, white. Outside."
Image 2: " A child sitting on someone's lap. The grown-up playing a guitar."
Image 3: "A grandchild sitting on his grandad's lap taking a guitar lesson."

Another exercise was to explain "What does it mean to be a man?" and "What kind of man will you become?". (remember, these were 6th-8th graders)

What does it mean to be a man?

"To be a leader, and a good role model. To be wise. To be strong"

" be strong and smart. To be a good sportsman, like playing football or basketball. And no one can hold you back from your dreams."

"Men are superior beings. They rule and conquer for their beliefs, through a lot of history we have. To take care of things like yourself, family or business. To be respectful at all times and regulate on a lot of disorderly conduct in a vicious (lively) manner..."

What kind of man will you become?

"A rich, successful man. Hard working. Own a business. If I'm going to get there, I will have to get through high school and college. I will also get good grades."

"I [am] going to play football in the NFL."

"To be a strong, rich and wise man...You are going to have to pay attention to your education। You are going to have to get a good job, and you have to be strong emotionally and physically. And you have to go to college."

Two Voices, Lifted

This is the month for it. The song is "Lift Every Voice and Sing" (also known as the "The Negro National Anthem", for the uninitiated). The song is challenging to pull-off for a lot of reasons, not least of which is the emotional import of the lyrics. So, you'll find versions that are too earnest or too detached and self-important, too conservative in style or too messed-with. The traps and their victims are obvious. But I've found a couple of fresh versions to enjoy.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Favorite Art from Early Adolescence (Part 1)

by Maxfield Parrish

In my early teens, I started to appreciate the more romantic, heroic imagery of Maxfield Parrish. It was probably the right time for it, before enthusiasm has a chance to be dampened and balanced by experience. Parrish's paintings are remarkable for their vivid colors and glow, effects achieved by his use of glazing, where bright layers of oil color and varnish are applied alternately over a base rendering.