Daytime Moon’s blog has been moved. Please visit our new blog at:
See you soon!
the team at Daytime Moon Creations
Daytime Moon’s blog has been moved. Please visit our new blog at:
See you soon!
the team at Daytime Moon Creations
I was pretty excited going into today’s class, and very anxious to share my love of creative characters with the group. I was so lucky to have such a receptive and enthusiastic group!
As our warmup, I asked everyone to share their favorite character of all time and act out a favorite line of theirs. We saw everything from Homer Simpson to The Joker to the Witch Doctor from “Princess and the Frog.” After getting all of the different characters in our bodies, we sat for a few minutes to talk about the different kinds of characters that there could be. It’s tough to extrapolate the big picture from favorite characters, to recognize that Superman is a specific character while Hero is the archetype, but our group was able to name a lot of types of characters!
I had been prepared with pictures of a few:
but they surprised me by adding a few characters into the mix that I hadn’t thought of, like a detective!
Then, the conversation got even more complicated as we talked about how within different types is where the fun is: What makes two heroes different from each other? Two kings? Two villains? The group was dead on with their answers: how they feel, how they act, and what they wear. Amazing, right?!
Which brought us to the crux of class: creating our own characters! It started with the “what they wear” part of character, as each student picked a costume piece and began exploring the many different ways they could wear it. Once they’d settled on one, I photographed them each in costume with their face expressing everything the costume made them feel. And together, the group answered questions based on those photographs to help each other flesh out their characters: What do you see? What is the costume piece? What emotions does it look like this character is feeling? What type of character is this? What do they do? Where are they from? What is their name?
And finally, these characters all got to meet each other and go on an adventure! We traveled from the hills of Britain to the woods of Australia, we saw zoos and magic carpet rides and bullfights… It was amazing!
Here are their final characters:
At the end of class, Teddy shared that he loved being able to play at Daytime Moon, and that he’d learned that “there were many unlimited ways of creating a character.”
Successful class? I sure think so! But check out the highlight reel to see for yourself:
See you next time!
“An idea has no worth at all without believable characters to implement it; a plot without characters is like a tennis court without players. Daffy Duck is to a Buck Rogers story what John McEnroe was to tennis. Personality. That is the key, the drum, the fife. Forget the plot.”
I love this quote. Because it’s so true, right? “Boy meets girl” would always be the same story if it weren’t for the specific boys and the specific girls. “Whodunnit” would always be the same mystery if it weren’t for the unique quirks that every villian leaves in their wake as clues. At their core, every character is an archetype: a mother, a lover, a villian, a hero. At their core, every character is a human. And so, creating a character both takes us far outside the realm of who we are and brings us much closer to understanding our core as a human. Embodying another person asks of each of us to understand the drives and feelings of another person, to be (even when the character is cruel or greedy or angry) empathetic to a fault.
It’s work that I’ve always loved doing as an actor, and work that I’m thrilled to share with the students in Daytime Moon’s “Creating A Character” workshop tomorrow afternoon. In all of the full programs I’ve taught, we’ve put so much emphasis on the story that character work has always been secondary. We explore our students’ characters through the lens of their experience within the plot. But, as Chuck Jones so eloquently commands: forget the plot! In my class, we’ll have two hours to simply focus on character. We’ll be creating individuals that maybe one day we could make a story out of, who surely could meet each other in the street or at a party and find some adventures to embark on. But the crux of what we’ll be doing Saturday is simply to find the people–Who are the craziest, funniest, most exciting people we can imagine? And how can we imbue them with a backstory so they become living, breathing, feeling beings?
For the past few weeks, I’ve been watching all of the other workshop teachers have a blast with our participants. I’ve observed their classes, have taken photographs and videos, and helped participants tweet their experiences during breaks. It’s been inspirational and enjoyable, but more than anything I’ve felt the itch to play! Watching the other amazing teachers bring so much joy to our students is like sitting on the bench as the rest of the lineup bats through the order. Finally, I feel like I’m in the on deck circle, and I’m so excited to see the students tomorrow I can hardly wait!
If you can’t make it to class, I hope that you’ll follow the students’ experiences on twitter @Daytime_Moon, on our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/DaytimeMoonCreations, and on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/user/DaytimeMoonCreations. I can’t wait to share all our updates with you!
So join me tomorrow as we play with “the key, the drum and the fife.” We’re having fun with personality! Plot-free.
See you in class,
In her blog entry before yesterday’s class, Michelle wrote about the many positive cognitive effects of dance. She discussed the neural pathways that are reinforced, the effects of physical imitation-style learning, and of the body’s ability to remember what it has kinesthetically learned. As insightful as her entry was, her take home point was much less academic, much more focused on the simple JOY of expression. I’m sure that yesterday’s class was not quite what Michelle expected–when sickness and last minute cancellations effected enrollment, we ended up with only one student in the class, one teacher and two support staff. But that room was FULL of joy!
Kendall is no stranger to Daytime Moon staff or programming, so Michelle was able both to stick with her original lesson plan and make adjustments according to what we know to be Kendalls’ interests. She began with a movement warmup and stretches, getting Kendall and the other two group members, Ella and Emily, warmed up and into their bodies. The group explored different types of movement and how dance can be used as a medium through which to express emotion. After Michelle got all the heart rates up, the group took a breather to watch some videos Michelle had brought in that exemplified different types of dances: ballet, jazz, tap, etc. My personal favorite moment in this was Kendall’s statement that “There’s breakdancing on the floor. Ballet is like the nutcracker dances and men in tights. And jazz is like cool guys in glasses.” Pretty dead-on if I do say so myself.
After looking at all of the different kinds of dances, the group started to talk about what kind of a dance they’d like to create. Kendall said he’d like to create a dance that was scary. He’s very interested in wolves and so he led the group through the story of his favorite character, the Teen Wolf, who is a werewolf. As a human, the Teen Wolf is made fun of, but as a wolf everyone likes him. Kendall and Michelle talked about how this was a situation in which the Teen Wolf would also feel very scared, and together they choreographed a dance sequence that takes the audience through the Teen Wolf’s ostracizing experiences, then to a final fight where the crowd realized that the human and wolf are one in the same. Eventually, everyone accepts the Teen Wolf for who he is inside.
Check out the final performance:
It was really exciting to watch! I hope that, if you missed it, you’ll go back and read the Tweets from the classroom, and check out the Facebook page for other updates. And most importantly, we have the highlight reel from yesterday’s class posted to Daytime Moon’s YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/DaytimeMoonCreations.
See you tomorrow at noon for my class, Creating a Character!
Two blog posts in one day, you ask?!?! Ahhhh, the joys of summer programming. With her class starting tomorrow, Michelle Kuchuk took some time to journal about the many reasons she’s excited to teach tomorrow’s Dance workshop. Most of you know me as the embarassing-ly silly teacher in Daytime Moon’s past programs, but those of you who know me well know that I am incredibly invested in the academic relevance of everything we do here at Daytime Moon. It may seem like we just like to have fun, and certainly that joy is the centerpiece of all of our programs, but there is a substantial amount of scientific data supporting every curricular choice we’ve made. If you’ve gotten a chance to read the article Emily shared with you the other week from Autism Spectrum News, called “Everyone Can Play-Using Theatre to Promote Developmental Gains,” you’ve seen some of the scientific support for theatre. But Michelle has taken this opportunity to share some exciting research about her discipline, Dance. And it’s mind-blowing!
So, from one nerd to (I hope) many more, it gives me such joy to share with you Michelle’s journal. I hope it’ll resonate with you the same way it resonated with me, and that you’ll join us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube tomorrow at 4PM for all of the updates from her classroom!
And without further ado… MICHELLE!
Most of you know me as Jenna’s assistant teacher for all of our regular programs, but tomorrow I’ll be teaching the dance workshop as part of Daytime Moon’s summer series! My mom used to be a choreographer and danced for most of her adult life, and I probably watched Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire tap their way into a frenzy on the day I was born (her favorite movie of all time being “Singin’ in the Rain”). I’ve been dancing at least in some sort of capacity since I was three, having fallen back in love with dance in the last two years, so I was therefore incredibly excited when Jenna asked me to teach our dance workshop! Since I’ve now been working with Daytime Moon for a year and a half, I was also really excited to figure out how I could apply this particular medium into our usual methodologies and reasoning behind our classic theatrical programming.
As it turns out, there is a lot of exciting and newer research to be learned about some of the benefits from learning a skill such as music or dance – benefits that you might think you could guess (as I did), when in reality, the research reveals far more than what is typically held to be common knowledge.
I’ll start at the beginning. The great thing about dance whether you’re Michael Jackson, a Daytime Moon student, the star of Swan Lake, or me, is that while learning a new dance step does require some verbal instruction, we can only dance anything complicated after forming nonverbal knowledge, commonly known as muscle memory. (In actuality, the phrase ‘muscle memory’ is a bit of a misnomer as it is our brain networks, and not our muscles, that store memories of movements. These memories can therefore be more correctly referred to as motor memories. The important point, though, is that these motor memories are specific to movement and distinctly different from the memories of the verbal instructions of the same action.) I can tell you about a plié in ballet or a time step in tap until I’m blue in the face, but you’ll only even begin to interpret the step until you see ME do it, and only truly learn it if YOU do it.
WHAT?! First of all: does the chunk of the brain that gets activated when my student sees me perform a dance step get activated when he performs the same step? Research has shown again and again that there is a huge overlap, that certain networks of the brain get activated when both doing and observing the same action. Does the network get more activated if the student was already a pro at the step he was watching me perform? Yes: a network in the cortex called the action observation network becomes even more active when we watch a step that we are already physically familiar with. This body of research suggests that the action observation network is a ‘general-purpose observational learning network for simulating actions, and it is cued by both physical and symbolic models.’ We learn better by DOING.
WHAT?! Schools typically emphasize reading, writing, and math because these subjects are supposed to produce development in reasoning, abstraction, and semantic knowledge. The only reason P.E. is probably still in some curricula is because of the health benefits – I know I’m not alone in remembering how I ‘got out of it’ in order to take more advanced classes in history and English. Courses focusing on physical knowledge such as wood shop, music, dance, and theatre are being cut, and are often only ‘saved’ when these mediums are thought to help with academic learning. We assume that anyone with sufficient cognitive abilities can gain physical knowledge if they just put their minds to it; this interpretation of the relationship between ‘knowing’ (cognitively) and ‘doing’ is false, and yet it dominates educational policy and practice today. Any importance placed on the arts is viewed through the lens of helping a child learn the core subjects. I’m sure most of us (me included) have defended the arts in this way, and it’s an extremely important and valid point (which I’ll explain in more depth in just a sec) … but it’s actually not the whole story. All of those crazy sentences about action networks and observational learning show us that a whole wealth of ‘other’ knowledge comes from experiencing the physical world – knowledge that is separate from and not JUST supporting cognitive knowledge and training. Experiential knowledge is inherent in creating surgeons, scientists, innovators, truck drivers… the list goes on. Their learning comes from observational and imitative learning, which this action observation network facilitates.
…But yes, there is a whole ton of ongoing research that supports the fact that learning and performing an art – if we practice a lot and are truly engaged – strengthens the brain’s attention system which improves cognition more generally (measured by IQ scores, among other means). Attention plays a crucial role in learning and memory, and this, without question, improves cognitive performance. It might seem obvious, or something you kinda just assumed was true, but it’s actually pretty scientific: our brain changes according to what we do, in other words, our behaviors shape our brain. If we find an art that we like and it completely engages us and then we stick with it, learning and memory (especially) will improve. The more and more we practice our clarinet, the more and more efficient that specific clarinet brain network becomes. And because everything in the brain seems to happen in conjunction, this increased efficiency in the clarinet network causes all of our other attention networks to become more efficient, like, for example, a network called the executive attention network. This particular network is especially interesting because it helps us control our emotions, and choose among conflicting thoughts in a specific moment (should I play the B flat or the A minor?) in order to focus on our long-term goals (I want to be a musician, graduate high school, etc). These abilities are also important in creating social and academic success by helping to develop empathy and manage impulses. Getting back to dancing specifically, it has been shown that empathy can also be gained from movements alone: after watching dance clips, observers could gauge whether the dancer was happy, sad, or nervous based only on their body movements.
The last yet extremely important facet of teaching the arts is based around finding passion. The need or want to learn the skills of music, dance, theater, painting, film, or building your own guitar is a source of important motivation that spreads to all aspects of any learner’s life. Our brain is an unbelievable and curious entity, and research is showing more and more how brain systems are actually driven by passionate interests and physical skills. This is not to say that every single person out there is going to learn ‘better’ by engaging in some sort of art form. But when kids find that particular artistic endeavor that they really love, you’d be hard-pressed to find another subject that would produce such strong and sustained attention that happens to also be incredibly rewarding and motivating.
So what the heck do I want and expect from my workshop tomorrow? This is a one-time workshop and will be an introduction to just getting in our bodies while having a whole bunch of fun, but I guess this blog illustrates a few of the reasons why we wanted to introduce our students to different mediums: so they could find the art form they loved best but still experience it in the context of the practices and approach of Daytime Moon. With dance, it’s nice to know that not all learning has to be so verbal – even though we are engaging our minds. Dance gets into our bodies and our brains in ways that just maybe, we never really expected.
I’ll be blogging again after my class tomorrow (and I promise to leave out all talk of observation networks) but I’ll leave you with this: I was four years old the first time I was ever onstage. I was in a dance recital, and we were all lions. We took our bows, and then 4-year-old Michelle sneaked back onstage for a second bow. In tomorrow’s class, I hope to include not only lions, but the joy that must have been at play for me to have bowed twice.
Don’t forget to follow along on all our social media!
See you in class,
Yesterday’s class, Movement and Physical Theatre, went so well!! Mariko was wonderful and the whole class had a great time.
Physical Theatre and Butoh, the Japanese dance form that Mariko specializes in, are both super abstract. They’re full of pretend and imaginative exercises that require letting go of your inhibitions and stepping completely into a different reality. It’s hard work! But our students poured themselves into it and really had a blast.
Mariko started with breathing exercises that centered the group, asking students to breathe slowly in and out on her counts. She woke up students’ bodies with stretching and slow movement exercises, then started asking students to make sounds as well. The whole group used a beach ball to connect with each other and send sounds flying across the room!
After the warm-ups, the real fun began! Mariko talked the class through a series of movement exercises, where students were asked to pretend all sorts of things! We pretended we were each small seeds in the ground–when spring came, students slowly sprouted, then grew into trees that were tall, strong and swaying in the wind. Then they got to pretend to be different kinds of animals!
We ended with some dance games: tossing the ball while singing favorite songs, putting together movements that whoever catched would have to mimic, and eventually cooled down with some calming breathing exercises.
Here are some more pictures:
And you can see the video of the highlights from class here:
Hope you had fun following along! Tomorrow is Dance with Michelle Kuchuk! I know I’m excited. Are you?!?!
Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter @Daytime_Moon, and keep checking back here for all the updates!
Can’t wait to share,
My name is Mariko! I will be teaching Movement and Physical Theatre!
I am so excited to be working with Daytime moon and cannot wait for class on Tuesday! In my workshop we will be exploring our imaginations. Have you every imagined you were a bird? A lion? Well on Tuesday we will. We can become anything our imaginations can think of! We will be exploring our imaginations and movement through games and exercises.
To follow our progress you can see videos of what we are doing on Daytime Moon’s YouTube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/DaytimeMoonCreations. In the meantime, you can see the highlight reel from last Saturday’s class, music with Ken McQueen:
Also be sure to check out our twitter http://twitter.com/daytime_moon to read updates from the participants and check back with our blog to see how the program went!
See you Tuesday!