A better approach to syllabus? LMDS responds

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 In our October 26 e-news, we published an article by esteemed ballet teacher and examiner John Byrne, in which he questioned the present approach to teaching syllabus to students. Below is a response from Jane Andrewartha, Director: Movement and Dance Education Centre; Executive Trustee: The Laurel Martyn Foundation 

A Vision for Learning 

Raising the profile of a holistic approach to dance education that fosters progressive training for every student through programs shaped by their own teachers is most timely.  

Did you know that such a method has already been successfully practised in Australia for around 40 years – The Laurel Martyn Dance System (LMDS).  This comprehensive and logical system was developed and codified by Laurel Martyn OBE, an Australian dance icon.  

Laurel was a leader in all facets of her extensive and diverse dance career – dancer, choreographer, artistic director and education. The key driver throughout her marvellous career, right from her early student years, was her passion for understanding the fundamentals as a foundation for learning, and for continuous improvement.   

Her holistic method has its foundations in the Ballet Guild School which Laurel opened in Melbourne in 1947 in conjunction with the Ballet Guild Company. Augmented by Laurel’s own vast experience, and input from many knowledgeable teachers over several decades, LMDS evolved into a complete systematic approach. She brought this concept together in her teaching manuals, Let Them Dance (first published 1985) and Help Them Dance which followed soon after. She oversaw the application of this approach in several dance schools and it has subsequently been in continuous use. 

A thorough systematic approach will help both the teacher and the dancer to understand all aspects of what they are working towards, facilitating the development of artistry, musicality and technique for a well-rounded dance education right from the start. The purpose, progressions, and correlations of movements are fully explained in the LMDS Manuals, while the LMDS Standards provide comprehensive bench-marking. Students may present any compete progression for assessment, showing content set by the teacher, with example classes set by Laurel herself available to assist teachers achieve the necessary standards. 

This is what Laurel said about using such an approach - 

"It doesn’t put exercises together; it tells how to do each movement, what it’s for, and how the development happens – a comprehensive theory of teaching dance so that teachers can fully understand their responsibilities, the artistic side of what they’re doing, and not just the technical side."

She was emphatic that "the enjoyment and love of dancing must constantly be foremost in the student’s mind", and that this requires a high level of teacher knowledge and input. 

This teacher-based approach enables teachers to create individualised learning pathways that answer the needs of their own students and also result in greater rewards for the teacher. This is what LMDS teachers say about using this approach - 

"Creating my own progressions and assessment plans allows me as a teacher to be more creative and have key input into the class content.  Is also allows me to incorporate my students’ ideas into class content more easily."

"The flexibility of this approach means that we can move at the pace required by the class.  We can break things down into as many parts as necessary, and then build up as quickly or as slowly as necessary."

"The programs are balanced:  incorporating all the components gives students a comprehensive foundation that will allow them to achieve their goals."

"This system incorporates a lot of areas that other approaches leave out – improvisation, development of an inquiring mind, the ability to think for yourself and the understanding of your own body and musicality are only a few.  These things are not added extras, but are integral to the approach."

This established dance training system can be used alone or to support other practices to provide a well-rounded dance education and help young dancers to dance their best. 

Read the original article here.



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