PROCESS POST: Roused emotions of possibility – choreography as teaching and school leadership

This morning, I realized that I aspire to be a choreographer. While watching “Wayne McGregor: A choreographer’s creative process in real time,” I was moved by the emotion of possibility. Not only was I moved by the literal art and science of McGregor’s work as a master choreographer of physical dance, but I was also moved by the metaphorical force of McGregor’s message – for the translation that this work can be for teaching, school leadership, and education.

As McGregor recounted:

So this is not the type of choreography where I already have in mind what I’m going to make, where I’ve fixed the routine in my head and I’m just going to teach it to them, and these so-called empty vessels are just going to learn it. That’s not the methodology at all that we work with. But what’s important about it is how it is that they’re grasping information, how they’re taking information, how they’re using it, and how they’re thinking with it.


I’m going to start really, really simply. Usually, dance has a stimulus or stimuli, and I thought I’d take something simple, TED logo, we can all see it, it’s quite easy to work with, and I’m going to do something very simply, where you take one idea from a body, and it happens to be my body, and translate that into somebody else’s body, so it’s a direct transfer, transformation of energy.

Likewise, our student-learners are not empty vessels to be filled. They are creative, thinking, energetic forces who can express their constructing understanding of the world…with a bit of support and guidance from a choreographer. [As I learned from Farnam Street’s “What’s the best way to begin to learn a new skill?,”this transfer could also be called engraving.] Student-learners can do so much more than receive, memorize, and recall for testing. They can connect, empathize, and interpret. What could be used as the stimuli? How about world issues? How about big ideas and grand challenges that we face in our schools, in our communities, in our cities, in our nations, and in our world?

School leaders could choreograph the orchestrated dance of a coordinated, collaborative faculty…working in harmonious partnership with business, government, and non-profits. We could dance together with a bit of guidance and support from our school choreographers (school in the BROAD sense).

Later in the talk, McGregor explained:

So they’re solving this problem for me, having a little — They’re constructing that phrase.They have something and they’re going to hold on to it, yeah? One way of making. That’s going to be my beginning in this world premiere.


Okay. From there I’m going to do a very different thing. So basically I’m going to make a duet. I want you to think about them as architectural objects, so what they are, are just pure lines. They’re no longer people, just pure lines, and I’m going to work with them almost as objects to think with, yeah? So what I’m thinking about is taking a few physical extensions from the body as I move, and I move them, and I do that by suggesting things to them: If, then; if, then. Okay, so here we go.

“So, they’re solving this problem for me.” Student-learners, in partnership with their teachers choreographers and collaborators from the “real-world,” could construct phrases to test and trial against a dialogue with the big ideas and grand challenges we face. Our learning architects could assist in designing “structures” that provide for such dancing with ideas and interdisciplinary problem solving. For the accompaniment – the assessment, the communications, the engineering – would have to be re-imagined to facilitate well-architected dancing and duet-ing.

And, nearer the conclusion and the unveiling of the completed dance premier, McGregor articulated:

That was the second way of working.The first one, body-to-body transfer, yeah,with an outside mental architecture that I work withthat they hold memory with for me.The second one, which is using them as objects to thinkwith their architectural objects, I do a series ofprovocations, I say, “If this happens, then that.If this, if that happens — ” I’ve got lots of methods like that,but it’s very, very quick, and this is a third method.They’re starting it already, and this is a task-based method,where they have the autonomy to makeall of the decisions for themselves.

Do I even need to translate this one? “This is a task-based method, where they have the autonomy to make all of the decisions for themselves.” Isn’t this what we all want for our student-learners? Don’t we want to choreograph in such a way that they are not vessels to be filled but the paradoxical wonders of simultaneously independent and interdependent thinkers and doers? That they have autonomy to go and make the dances themselves that will solve our school, community, city, nation, and world issues?

Yes, I aspire to be a choreographer. A choreographer of School 3.0. And I’m looking for dancers.

1 thought on “PROCESS POST: Roused emotions of possibility – choreography as teaching and school leadership

  1. Pingback: Networks, Peer Progressives, School 3.0, and Future Perfect #IDreamASchool #School3pt0 | it's about learning

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