Merry Christmas Framers! It’s a busy, joyful, and sometimes overwhelming time of year to be sure. We thought we’d give you a little recap of one of our previous MFA Monday arc’s today, and you can click the links in the text to read the whole article. Rosie Trump’s arc “So You Think You Want a MFA?”, in case you missed it, consisted of three posts. Here’s a quick summary:
The first gives tips on how to choose a good MFA program, and how to negotiate the financial aspects of your graduate school career. Rosie also cautions against committing to an MFA program if you are at all unsure about your choice.
The second article gives advice on how to take full advantage of your time in graduate school. She advises about financials and even lays out an example of a 5-year plan of how to make the most of your MFA.
The third and final post discusses the post-MFA life and how to get on your feet after graduating. Rosie gives ideas for how to create opportunities for yourself in your field.
Enjoy these articles and have a very Merry Christmas!
Rosie Trump holds a M.F.A. in Experimental Dance Choreography from UC Riverside. She is a choreographer, dance filmmaker and educator. Her teaching credits include Seton Hill University, Mt. San Jacinto College and Rice University. Trump is the founder and curator of the annual Third Coast Dance Film Festival. rosietrump.org
Well Framers, congratulations! It’s December 21st, 2012 and we have survived. No Mayan apocalypse can slow us down! Good thing too because we’re just getting started at Frame Dance Productions! We’ve got our non-profit status and we’re raring to go!
Last night people around the world partied like it was their last night ever, from the Philippines to Cincinnati.
Now most of us have known from the beginning that it was probably all bologna (except the guy in this video…) but I can’t help asking myself, if it really was the end of the world as we know it, what would I do? Who would I want to see and what would I say? What would you do if today was your very last day on the planet….?
Good Morning Framers! Welcome back to MFA Monday– enjoy this one, we did….
Diane Cahill Bedford holds her M.F.A. in Dance Performance and Choreography from Florida State University. She is a dancer, choreographer, educator, and photographer; she currently serves as Professor of Dance at San Jacinto College South in Houston, TX. Diane has previously taught dance and presented her choreography in New York, Florida, Indiana, South Carolina, New Mexico, and Texas. www.dianecahillbedford.com
M.F.A. Life vs. Real Life
Part III: The Gifts You Receive and Give to Others…
Today, I find myself humbled by the great tragedy of a school shooting in a Connecticut elementary school and asking myself, as a teacher, what do I do for my own students? After watching an interview about a brave teacher who saved her classroom, I was once again reminded about my own fundamental role as an educator. That role is to serve my students. I am their guide, their inspiration, their mentor and so many other roles in their quest for knowledge. While I know many dancers who pursue their M.F.A. are not necessarily interested in teaching full time, or perhaps ever, all graduates will experience teaching and mentoring another person in some fashion. Perhaps that mentoring experience will be solely as a choreographer or as a senior company member to a new professional. But, never-the-less you will be responsible for shaping the life of another person in some meaningful way. How will you shape someone else’s life? This question may not be one you stop to ask yourself in graduate school because so much of the emphasis is on you as the student. But, perhaps this question should become a guiding principle in your own approach.
As a dance artist, much of your life revolves around inspiration. We question what inspires us and try to funnel those thoughts into movement. In an M.F.A. program, you are often challenged to continually find new sources of inspiration, new approaches to work, and basically to be a creative warehouse. This challenge is not unlike the challenges of post M.F.A. work (be it teaching, choreographing, etc). However, in the real world where you are no longer the student, you cannot focus solely on your own inspiration. Especially as a teacher, you must share what inspires you, but you must also find out what inspires your students. As they say, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. As such, your passions and interests may inspire students, but those things alone will not be enough to fuel their creativity. You must also be their mentor: the person that listens to their ideas, fears, hopes, and wishes as you guide them along the path to becoming their own great artists. I suppose that is where we often forget to take notes in grad school. How did our own instructors do the same for us?
Graduate school is the time to be selfish so-to-speak. You are there for your own education and your own growth; your instructors are there to be your mentors and guides. Even though you may be soaking up all the challenges and attention that does not mean you are ungrateful for those blessings. But, one thing your mentors may not stop and tell you is how they guide you. Being a full time teacher myself now feels like becoming a parent (another journey I am soon to embark upon). Your parents may not explain to you how they guided you, but you often wind up following their examples when you step into the role yourself. Sometimes, I wish I had taken better notes of those situations! I think about the subtle questions, the gentle guiding, and the suggestions I was given that helped me find my own inspiration, and I try to duplicate that behavior with my own students. I learn, on a daily basis, what it means to be unselfish in my work.
For some people, this may be a difficult transition. But, it is an imperative one. If after earning an M.F.A. you are not ready to make the focus about someone else, then do not go into teaching full-time. Too often, I hear of or see teachers and professors who do substantial creative work and are masters of developing their craft on a continual basis. But I wonder, in all that creative genius, where do the students factor into the equation? Personally, I am not convinced that the most artistically self-productive people have anything left in the tank for their students. That being said, I am not by any means arguing that teachers should forget to develop their own interests or channel their own inspirations into work. But, if one transitions to the role of teacher, one must be prepared to sacrifice some of their own personal development and gains for the sake of properly mentoring the students. While that transition may not (hopefully) be one of life and death, and while you may not literally be holding your student’s lives in your hands, you will be just as responsible for the development of their artistic lives as your instructors were of your artistic life.
So when you are in grad school, pay attention to how your instructors shape and mentor you. Then, if you decide to teach after you earn your M.F.A., you will hopefully be able to inspire your own students with love and passion for their art and for life. So remember, the greatest gifts you receive in graduate school will be the greatest gifts you can give to others once you complete your degree. And from my experience, when the student becomes the teacher is the moment you really appreciate those M.F.A. experiences and everything that was given to you by those who paved your way.
We have cause to celebrate! Frame Dance Productions has received its tax-exempt determination, and all gifts and donations to us are tax deductible! Yahoo!! Here are some helpful hits for your end-of-the-year giving:
Happy chilly Houston Monday! Cozy up with some tea and read the newest installment of Diane’s MFA Monday arc!
M.F.A. Life vs. Real Life
Part II: An Ounce of Preparation…
Benjamin Franklin once said, “ An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” and I think this quote applicably describes the idea of preparing for a full-time teaching position after grad school. While transitioning into teaching full-time might seem like a natural process, there are many speed bumps along the way. But, when I have hit some of these speed bumps, I have silently thanked myself for putting in the extra time and preparation in grad school I did not necessarily have to do. What are these speed bumps and how do you prepare? First, you must begin with all those classes that have very little to do with dance-making…
One of the best classes I took in grad school was Dance History Pedagogy. Now before your eyes start drooping at the word History, here’s a little factoid to wake you up. Many colleges and universities expect you to be proficient in something else besides teaching and making dance. These areas would namely be History and World Cultures, Dance Science, and Technology. Translation: if all you can do well is teach some traditional dance forms and choreography, you’re going to find yourself at the bottom of everyone’s “wanted” list. With a competitive job market, that is a place you cannot afford to be listed.
Ok, so now that you’re alert again, let us return to Dance History Pedagogy. The main purpose of this course was to design a syllabus and some course materials to teach either Dance Appreciation, 20th Century Dance, or Dance in World Cultures. Without getting into the nitty gritty details, I will say this: do more than is required in these types of classes. Did I have to research and document every reading I would use if I taught the class? No. But I decided to put in the extra preparation, and I think it was one of the best decisions I ever made. Why? Because when I got the opportunity to teach the class in my last semester of grad school, I was more prepared to do so and could spend more hours of my time preparing lectures, grading, and generally teaching the class. How did I get this awesome opportunity? I asked my Department Chair if I could teach the class because I wanted to gain the experience. As my mother always told me, asking is free. You may not get what you want, but you’ll never know unless you ask for it. I highly recommend practicing this technique in grad school and beyond.
So when I began applying for jobs, I was even more aware that my extra preparation gave me a leg up. In fact, I’m fairly certain that part of the reason I landed my first full-time teaching gig was due to my experience in teaching Dance Appreciation. Better yet, when I had to re-vamp the class in five days (that’s right 5 days) due to a standard issue text my college requires, I was able to tweak what I had already prepared rather than having a heart-attack at the age of 29.
Now I know you may be asking why I only had five days to prepare, so I’m going to explain the main speed bump you will probably hit in a nutshell. You will have much less time and possibly resources to prepare yourself for your classes than you think. Much less. For example, I received my new textbooks for all the classes I was required to teach just five days before classes began. You may be required to teach six different classes or more in one semester along with committees and other extra duties for your job. Mix up and stir in all your extra time for creating dance and rehearsals and you have yourself a recipe for a panic attack. But, if you already have resources, planned classes, and other material you spent extra time preparing in grad school, you might be able to breathe a little easier.
Now while my advice is to concentrate on non-dancing courses, this is of course applicable to any of your grad school classes and experiences. While it may seem that you don’t have the extra time in grad school to write out lessons plans, or favorite combinations your instructors gave, or finish those extra Pilates certification hours, you will inevitably not have more time once you are working either. The number of times I have reached for some of those extra materials far outweighs the stress I felt when gathering them up in grad school. And, since I was already knee deep in the process of learning and preparing, it was much easier to do the extra work being in the moment. As they say in yoga, “be present,” so you can concentrate on the task at hand. So, while I may not go as far as Benjamin Franklin in saying my preparation was a cure for the stress of my job, I will certainly agree that it alleviates a great deal of the jolting effect that the bumpy road of teaching induces.
I will have you know right now, I am NOT a crafty person…at all. But doesn’t the holiday season inspire you to make something from scratch? Well, for me it does. We’re coming upon the time of year when you start to realize you’ve got a big ole family, and a little ole bank account. So why not try giving some inexpensive, homemade gifts? You used to get away with it when you were a kid, why not now?
Here’s some links for projects even I could pull off (I think…we’ll see)
I realized I haven’t written about Frame Dance in a while. We’ve been trying to get you all some interesting reads through the MFA Monday column as well as our Eat Well Wednesday column. But what has the company been up to?
Well…our 501c3 status has been approved, which is wonderful. We shot the film back in October, but I haven’t been editing it. It’s sitting on who we call Big Mac getting more and more beautiful– I’m sure. And, I’m getting more and more excited about beginning the editing process. It’s interesting, sometimes after shooting a film I have to get into the editing room as soon as possible, and other times, I need some time to breathe and get some distance before chopping and creating something magical. (No, there is no actual “editing room.”)
Third, we are rehearsing and creating a new work for the ERJCC Dance Month which is in January. Charles Halka, the extremely talented Charles Halka, is composing a brand new piece for violin. He has been watching every rehearsal, and I’m making a piece that is tied in no way to music. That’s been odd. I’m making bits and puzzle pieces keeping in mind that I will want to change the pacing and tempo and dynamics of the movement I’m creating once the music is in play. That will be next week. I’m trying to create movement that has a personality but is yet completely open to the influence of the music. Here’s a little bit of a duet phrase we’ve started. Sorry about the poor videography. Yikes, good thing I don’t make my dance films on iphones. I’m not so great at using the camera….