Course: DAN 402
Instructor: Sasha Welsh
Description of Course Goals and CurriculumDAN 402 was created in order to help dancers gain an awareness and understanding of their own bodies through a more anatomically focused lens, as opposed to a more traditionally aesthetic one. Dancers often get caught up in how they get into certain positions, while disregarding the detrimental long term impacts some of these habits may have on their bodies. This course guides dancers to be able to make compromises between aesthetics and anatomy so that their dance careers can be extended. This class also is able to help with injury prevention, helping dancers identify parts of their bodies that may need strengthening. Exercises that target these specific body parts are also taught and practiced regularly throughout the semester. In Spring 2020, classes were taught four times a week (Mondays through Thursdays) from 4:30pm-6:20pm. Several guest artists were invited to teach the class twice a week (Mondays and Wednesdays) for about two weeks each. Sasha taught on Tuesdays and Thursdays using a combination of class and informal lectures. The course is divided into four different units, where each one focuses on a specific area of the body, e.g. upper extremities, core, etc. Several readings, reflections, and response papers are required in the course, but most of the class is based on participation and a short informal final project at the end to showcase what students have learned throughout the course.
Learning From Classroom InstructionPeople usually arrive late since they are running from different classes all over campus to the LCA. Bring clothes that you are comfortable moving in to change into as well as a water bottle (socks are optional but highly recommended). For this dance class, a writing utensil may also serve useful because you will probably want to take notes, make drawings, and journal when Sasha teaches the anatomy portion of the course. Classes with Sasha twice a week are usually divided up into two sections: the first part of the class is dedicated to dancing and learning exercises and the second part is dedicated to an anatomy lesson that relates to what we had just learned. During anatomy discussions Sasha usually had a skeleton model to aid in her teaching. She would annotate it depending on which body parts we were focusing on, and always taught us the purpose of the exercises that she made us previously do. The format of the classes on Mondays and Wednesdays were all different depending on the guest artist that was teaching. All of these classes are directed towards students learning about optimizing movement. A lot of the course was inspired by the anatomist and dancer Irene Dowd, as Sasha was her former student and assistant/demonstrator. Some of the exercises you learn include and are not limited to: somatic and conditioning techniques, neuromuscular patterning, PNF, and visualization. You will also get to learn how to use different equipment such as foam rollers, medicine balls, smaller slightly inflated balls, bands, etc. to help with your movement and mobility.
Learning For and From AssignmentsThis class is a P/D/F only course, but there are still many ways that you can make the most out of it. Do not be afraid to schedule individual meetings with Sasha that she offers outside of class because this is where you can learn the most. You can ask her questions that are specific to your body and body structure, and she can give you targeted advice and exercises for any issues that you’re experiencing or for certain things that you want to improve on. Sasha is very approachable and willing to chat as she is very enthusiastic about helping students along their dance journeys. These conversations with her will definitely help with the reflections you are required to write throughout the course as well as help give you ideas and inspiration on what your final project can be. This project is very self directed and for the purpose of showcasing what you have learned throughout the semester. I also highly encourage asking Sasha questions about anything at any point of the class, because someone else is probably wondering the same thing, and it can help everyone else in the class learn more! Also, doing the readings beforehand could aid in understanding and more easily absorbing the material that Sasha teaches during the anatomy portions of the course.
External ResourcesSasha provides many extra materials and notes on the concepts that she teaches online, so that in the future her students can always refer back to them if they are forgetting anything. She also provides many supplemental readings that students can look at if they want to go in depth on anything she teaches. Additionally, reading background information on the guest artists is also really helpful, interesting, and insightful prior to meeting them. It gives you a reference point for what questions you can ask them when they come, so that you can learn more from them and about them and their experiences as dancers/choreographers.
What Students Should Know About This Course For Purposes Of Course SelectionThis class is made for people who have some sort of prior dance experience. You will need to contact Prof. Rebecca Lazier or Sasha Welsh to request permission to enroll. In this course, you learn a lot about your own body and how to take care of it based on how it is structured (e.g. whether you have hyperextensions or weak ankles). You discover what movements are good for it and what are not, how to take care of your body, as well as different warm up exercises you can do that can improve your overall strength, flexibility, and balance. All of these things help lengthen one’s career as a dancer and helps with injury prevention and recuperation. Overall, one will have an increased awareness of their own bodies as dancers after taking this course.
Anatomical Approaches to Contemporary Dance