Teaching Dance Through Technology
Bringing together technology and dance comes naturally to me, because before becoming a full-time dancer, I was a top entertainment producer for a national TV network. Soon after I gave up my career in corporate America to devote my life to dance, I saw the need to use my professional expertise as a producer in the service of dance and cultural diversity.
Thus, in 1994, I founded Dances of the World Society as a network of individuals and organizations that support my work in rescueing dances in danger of extinction by documenting these dances audio-visually. Indeed, it is part of my life-long mission to make a contribution in preserving the dancing intelligence of humankind by producing multimedia educational materials, instructional videos and documentaries, thus creating a legacy for generations to come.
In 2002, I produced my first instructional DVD: Zambra Flamenca, for which I composed an entire choreography, and which I then taught on the screen in a three-camera shoot; The DVD also included a short film about the history of the dance form. Now, that DVD has evolved to become a multimedia online course
In 2006, I was commissioned by WorldDance New York, an international distribution company, to compose six choreographies for a three-DVD package release.
In spite of my many years of experience as a choreographer, composing six dances for the screen in a three month period represented a new challenge; Since the dancers for whom I would be choreographing would not be in front of me, I had to think of different ways to make my choreographies simple enough so that almost anybody could learn them, and, at the same time, I needed to keep my choreographies challenging enough to be exciting. Also, since I had no possibility of receiving feedback or questions from my dancers or students during the creative process, as a choreographer, I had to anticipate what the challenges would be and address them beforehand.
In teaching people a choreography through a mass medium, I learned to become very clear in my instructional skills. Moreover, based on my many years of experience teaching classes, I was able to further develop the capacity to plainly and clearly breakdown the steps and intelligibly explain the dynamics. This experience helped me gain a new level of mastery in the choreographic process: in order to achieve an excellent level of clarity in my presentation, I had to, in the first place, have that level of clarity already present in my mind when composing the choreography. In addition, I also learned to bridge the theoretical and practical aspects of the choreographic process in order to present to people, through a mass medium, a seamless, enjoyable experience.
Creating those instructional DVDs and developing my multimedia online dance school provided me with the opportunity to develop the ability and the knowledge to teach and choreograph for the screen, using mass-media to reach a worldwide audience.
Now, people enjoy learning my choreographies at their own pace and in the comfort of their own homes. I learned to use a choreographic language that is stimulating and innovative, rich in visual images, and one that challenges the students who study at home to explore new directions in movement, to learn to understand planes of space, and to be able to follow a wide variety of combinations, phrases and sequences with increasing levels of complexity, all while having fun. This required that, as a choreographer, I had to go beyond the normal concepts of my relationships with space (in this case meaning the space around me) and start thinking “tri-dimensionally” about three levels of space at once: first, my space; second, the way the camera or cameras were to capture my space (camera angles, shots, zoom levels); and third, the space around each person learning the choreography, which could vary a lot.
Along with teaching choreography through technology, I produced the music I needed. The production of musical resources for dance has been a very gratifying and exciting experience!. As I analyzed the interaction between the disciplines of music and dance, I examined the use of music in teaching movement and music in relation to the choreographic process; then, I went on to produce a series of albums that contained the six songs for the six choreographies I was composing. In each album, I also included practice tracks, where the students can hear the rhythmic and the melodic accompaniments in separate tracks, thus, making it really easy for the students to get a feel for the music, and to understand the elements of rhythm and melody as they relate to dance.
Furthermore, I selected and wrote lyrics, arranged traditional music, hired musicians, rented a recording studio, directed the production and voilá: Duende Flamenco Practice Music Series was born. I am glad to say that my music has achieved international digital distribution worldwide with iTunes, Amazon and other download sites. Furthermore, this experience has immensely assisted me in the development of the skills every choreographer needs to understand the interaction between the disciplines of music and dance.
It is very rewarding to receive wonderful feedback and reviews from students around the world. I am happy to know that by developing my online dance lessons using audiovisual media, I have employed the art of dance to reach thousands of people in many parts of the world inspiring them to dance.
I love the idea that we can stream a dance lesson in our mobile devices and practice anywhere at our convenience. I am really passionate about using the technology to enrich the lives of people through the art of dance making.