As studio owners looking ahead to the future of dance teaching there are two things we know for sure, i) the world will change and ii) a large part of this change will be digital. Change can be good and helpful but also creates feelings of uncertainty. Can we try to own it and not leave changes to others to shape the world we live in?
Technological change is across every domain and profession, and the pace of the change is now greater than ever before. Because this change is happening at an exponential rate, it is very difficult to predict what the world will be like in a few years, and this can make us nervous. Did you know it is likely that 50% of jobs may not exist in 10 - 20 years. Check out this BBC website’s 'Job Extinction Scale'. I’ve no idea of the validity of this, however, if your job involves driving you might want to consider other options with a 60% extinction possibility. But you’ll be pleased to hear that the chance of automation for teachers is only 1% on the extinction scale and dancers and choreographers are at a relatively low 13%.
The other good news for dance teachers around technology is that we can now use digital technology to extend our art form and continue to make it meaningful and accessible to new generations of young people, in a way that has never been done before. The internet is rich with amazing dance content (and some not so amazing, but wouldn’t it be great if teachers could guide students around their viewing of this content).
According to a leading American specialist on how technology is going to shape our future (her name is Kathryn Myronuk: Radio NZ interview, YouTube INKtalk), it is not just increased processing power and the growth of technology in itself that is causing so much change, it is the convergence of different technologies coming together (old and new) and the ability for people to collaborate, to draw on knowledge and pool knowledge together, that creates such big steps forward for humanity. So can this convergence and collaboration happen with dance?
It may be fair to say that dance and technology don’t seem like a particularly natural pairing if you mention ‘dance teaching’ then ‘digital technology’ is not likely to be the next thing to spring to mind. Looking back the latest ‘visual feedback technology’ for dance class pre-smart phone, was the mirror, and my daughter wears very similar pointe shoes to the ones I wore 30 yrs ago. Well ok, there’s now a bit of closed cell foam at the top! Dance as an art form can be wonderfully progressive and challenging (and for me it’s the ultimate art), but dance education, particularly in the private dance school environment, is perhaps not known for its embracing of technology.
So will converging technologies and collaboration create big steps forward in dance and how? Dance studios as a group are perhaps not particularly collaborative owing to business competition, and the relative isolation of dance schools (among other things) however social media appears to be creating change here, with teachers working together for example in Facebook groups to solve common problems and this will likely continue to increase.
Similarly, dance teaching has not been particularly 'convergent' as it has been primarily and importantly about teaching steps and dance movement. This, after all, is where the teacher’s domain expertise lies, but now we have more and more access to specialist knowledge in supporting areas such as strength and conditioning, psychological training, dance medicine, nutrition, and so on. This information is so helpful for young dancers, but how do we converge it together to create a wonderfully enriched educational environment and how do we work this content into the dance timetable and busy schedules? How do we get this information to the students in the short time we have available with them? And how can we also guide them, pass on our knowledge and keep them appreciating the great things that are happening in dance at an artistic level?
Maybe it is all too much, and we should just let change happen and then respond when it does?
But change is happening so fast it can be hard to recognise and change is here now, think of all the video that gets taken, of all the different ways students and teachers communicate, and of all the different dance content students view, it’s a tangled web. How do we as dance studio owners manage this and should we?
It is possible that we may not have the luxury of leaving it to the next generation of dance teachers to manage change and implement new technology, because if we don’t harness the power of technology now, it may become out of our control. Change will happen around us rather than with us.
I learned the other day that in American factories after electricity was invented, many factories stayed coal powered until the existing managers retired. If dance studio owners and teachers have this approach I fear they will be missing out on sharing a wealth of knowledge with the next generation. Thankfully most studios seem open to change and are keen to adopt new technology for the benefit of their students and we are lucky now to have the opportunity to harness the power of technology and converge our specialist knowledge with it. Combine this with the resources we can tap into, and we have something powerful for students and ultimately for dance as an art form.
Technology can enable us to reinforce and to tap into on the age old tradition of handing down, and passing on dance technique and artistry to the next generation in a way that has never been done before. We have the opportunity to embed that tradition rather than lose it in this busy world. Rather than be ruled by technology, teachers can own it. And we hope that with Movitae we have created something that allows converging digital technologies and knowledge streams to be used as a powerful tool for dance schools, to provide an enriched and private but collaborative environment for their students, parents, and teachers. Let's combine the old and the new in a meaningful way and keep dance learning relevant for the next generation of digital natives while capturing dance’s wonderful traditions.
First published 25th February 2017