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Brad Willcuts

DAN 352: Dance Technique II (Contemporary Dance)
Best Enhanced
“Connecting students to a network of experts to help teach complex techniques”
- Brad Willcuts -

DAN 352 is a dance techniques based class in which the student learns a kinesthetic approach to multiple forms of dance in the contemporary cannon. The student is assessed by their growth in the class, retention of choreographic styles and ability to expand artistically. To facilitate this growth, the class was supplemented by live-streaming dance classes from Los Angeles with top professional dancers from So You Think You Can Dance and CLI Studios.

For this class, Willcuts created a way to use live streaming dance classes from professional dancers to enhance current education while empowering students to connect to future professional careers and allow them to experience the high standards of professional dance expectations. Contemporary dance is a difficult art form to quantify, but with the use of live streaming classes, question and answer Skype sessions, and D2L written communication between professional dancers and students, the students were able to learn from famous dancers with immediate and exciting results. Willcuts was able to barter a deal with the owners of CLI studios http://www.clistudios.com/creative-team/, an online dance learning community populated and owned by the nation’s best dancers and dance companies, for a reasonable fee since they were in need of testing out an experimental idea for Live-Class programs. Due to the symbiotic nature of the partnership with CLI Studios, the students were able to learn from professionals who they would typically never get to work with and CLI Studios got to test out their new program with MSU first.

By using professional dancers to supplement classes, the students learned from the absolute pinnacle of contemporary dance knowledge. Through interactions, Willcuts worked with Teddy Forance, co-founder of the company, to create an online learning experience solely for MSU students. This project was then used to create CLI Studios’ new Live-Class Program which is used by thousands of students all over the world (http://www.clistudios.com/live-classes-d1/). The semester’s work is captured in this online Facebook promotional video, which currently has 35,696 views: https://www.facebook.com/clistudios/videos/1720450551523526/. The course also created a final project video, which was created in combination with Teddy Forance and CLI studios. It features Teddy’s choreography set on MSU students: https://youtu.be/qaDWX65zfF4.

Students appreciated the way technology enhancement opened the opportunity to learn from experts. “I really enjoyed having the opportunity to have Teddy join us via a virtual environment. His instruction was of such high quality that even over a Skype call his ideas were translatable and we were able to embody his choreography. These experiences open performers up to so many more chances to learn different styles and make lasting connections that could make a tremendously positive impact on one's career...Technology allowed us to both experience a new way of moving and make a fantastic, marketable product. As a student, I think technological advances are so important to integrate in order to allow the classroom setting to become much more experimental and stand out from a traditional learning model.” Another student noted, “The opportunity to work with Teddy was unlike anything in my 16 years of previous dance lessons; not only were we utilizing technology for the creative process, but formulating a sense of virtual collaboration- a new skill set I can add to my resume. Being able to mimic choreography is the root of dance movement, however, mimicking isn't art. Having the ability to ask questions and truly emulate the quality of the movement can only be done by a living being. Meshing such unique worlds together, organized with such well-respected professionals gave me the quality dance experience I craved.”

Technologies and frameworks used in the course:

  • Skype (https://www.skype.com)
  • Facetime
  • Go Pro Hero 4 Silver recording equipment
  • AUKEY Ora iPhone Lens, 110° Wide Angle Lens
  • Projection and Projection screen material from the MSU Tech services
  • Desire2Learn (https://d2l.msu.edu)

Team members:

Kirk Domer, Department of Theatre

Karen Vance, Teaching Assistant, Department of Theatre MFA, Graduate candidate