Transcript of Bonus episode – Dance, Juliet and Romeo

This transcript has been edited slightly for clarity. Listen to the podcast (22:42).

Jackie – The following podcast is brought to you by the Creative Arts Curriculum team from secondary learners educational standards directorate of the New South Wales Department of Education. As we commence this podcast today, let us acknowledge the traditional custodians of all the lands on which this podcast will be played around New South Wales. Their art, storytelling, music and dance along with all First Nations People, hold the memories, the traditions, the culture and hopes of Aboriginal Australia. Let us acknowledge with honour and respect our elders, past, present and future, especially those Aboriginal people in our presence today who have and still do guide us with their wisdom.

Welcome to the Creative Cast podcast series. My name is Jackie King and I'm a Creative Arts Project Advisor with the New South Wales Department of Education. Today we're going to have a dance bonus episode where I'll be talking to some dance teachers about a recently released resource to support the teaching of the new HSC Course Prescription, Juliet and Romeo. Please welcome Julia Livingston, Rebecca Fishburn and Kirsty McCrae.
Hi ladies, thanks so much for joining us today. Can I start our podcast today by just introducing each of you and if you can tell us a little bit about the school or just tell us which school you have come from? So, Julia, can I start with you, what school do you teach at?

Julia – I teach at Camden Haven High School and it's a face to face school, but it's also a distance education centre. So, we offer dance in years 9, 10, 11 and 12 by face to face and distance education.

Jackie – Fantastic. And Rebecca, we've got Rebecca Fishburn. What school do you come from, Rebecca?

Rebecca – I'm at Westfield Sports High School at the moment and in Fairfield West and we also run dance from 7 through 12. But just face to face, we have a comprehensive program there with lots of very keen kids.

Jackie – Fantastic. And lastly, we have Kirsty Mcrae. Kirsty, can you give us a little bit of information about your context?

Kirsty – I teach at Kincumber High School on the Central Coast and we're a comprehensive high school offering dance electives in year 9 and 10 as well as year 11 and 12 and then extracurricular activities as well.

Jackie – Awesome. We're going to start off today and talk a little bit about this resource, and it's a massive resource, that we released at the very end of last term to support our dance teachers in the teaching and learning of the new HSC course prescription Juliet and Romeo. The New South Wales Department of Education, got you guys in at the start of the year to work on this resource. And so, Julia, I was just hoping that you might be able to start us off by telling us a little bit about this resource. And I know it's going be hard to tell us a little bit about it because it is huge. But if you can give us a bit of a rundown, that would be great.

Julia – It is huge. And it's huge because of the length of the work. Once we actually looked at the work, we decided that we needed something that teachers could take into the classroom for it to be really practical, really easy for them to follow, really easy to find information. So, we spent a lot of time talking as a team as to the best approach and what we actually wanted out of this resource. And largely we came up with, we needed the overview, we need to know who's who of the cast and their relationships with each other, where that fits within the choreographic choices of Mats Ek and his background and training. So, we wanted to give a vast overview of all of the content that teachers would need in starting to even attempt to deconstruct this very long work.

Jackie – Fantastic. And I know that is one of the main reasons why Juliet and Romeo was chosen. It's obviously not the only text in the list of course prescriptions. So, Rebecca I was going to ask you why Juliet and Romeo, why is it important to have a resource like this for this particular work?

Rebecca – Well, I can't answer why it was chosen. I wasn’t privy to those conversations, but I think having a resource for the teaching of any new prescribed work is paramount. We're always talking about as teachers that we’re always time poor and there's a million things to do. And so, having a resource that you can go to familiarise yourself with the work and develop confidence to prepare lessons to start teaching the work in the classroom is really vital. And in the creation of this work, we quickly realised how potentially overwhelming teaching this work could be. And we, as Julia mentioned, we had lots of conversations about, okay, what do teachers actually need to be able to go into the classroom and feel confident because, I don't want people to be scared, but on first viewing it is an overwhelming work. It is a very long length up against another core appreciation work that is also quite long and it's 20% of our course, so having a really thorough understanding of what the work is, what its context is, what it's about before taking it into the classroom. I think with this work more than others is really paramount because you don't necessarily have the time to allow you to just put on the work in the classroom and then have those discussions in the moment. You do really, with this work, need to do a bit of the background work and what's amazing about this resource is that we have done a lot of that background work for you. So, if you engage with this resource and kind of move through it, it's our hope that you would be able to walk in and go, okay, I've got an understanding of where to start now, I know who the people are, I know how they relate and I can think about what's the best approach of my context in my classroom to just start teaching this work to my students.

Jackie – Yeah, fantastic. I know when I looked at this resource, I felt like it was a combination of both professional learning for teachers to be able to learn about this work and unpack this work, but then also a resource that provided different sort of activities that could be used by students as well. It's sort of one that could be used by teachers and students. So, Kirsty, are you able to unpack a little bit more? What's in the resource for teachers and students to be able to use?

Kirsty – There are a number of different teaching tools for teachers and students. The consensus amongst the group when we started to put the resource together was that it needed to be able to be taken into the classroom and be used rather than just be something for teachers to be using as a research tool. So, we really have worked to try and include sample options in terms of essay questions or concepts to be considered. We've worked really hard to create resources that you take into the classroom in terms of the character cards, writing tasks, discussion tasks. And then we've also pointed you in the direction of other available resources in terms of websites and access points, along with other teaching tools or teaching strategies that you can start to prioritise or individualise in terms of your own students and how they best learn and how you can best deliver the information that needs to get across to them in order to meet their outcomes for core appreciation.

Jackie – Fantastic. I'm glad that you mentioned outcomes there because my next question is about syllabus and Julia, I'm going to throw this one to you and say how is the syllabus represented or linked throughout this resource?

Julia – Well, I think the whole resource is syllabus focused because we did have the syllabus open with us at the same time as we were building this resource and obviously we couldn't touch on every single dot point within core appreciation, but we have hit a number of them. As Rebecca and Kirsty have said, this is worth 20% of our HSC grade and finding those heavy hitters that we actually need to ensure that our students understand and that we're teaching on a holistic scale directly related to those outcomes was really important for us to be able to deliver straight to the teachers and also the students through those activities. So, I think the syllabus was first and foremost at the forefront of our thoughts while we're creating this resource.

Kirsty – When we're talking about the 20%, we are talking about the whole of core appreciation with Juliet and Romeo, then counting as 10% of the overall appreciation mark. But in terms of what Julia was saying in the syllabus, what we've really tried to focus on are those bigger concepts that people tend to find a little more overwhelming like choreographic style and the thematic interpretations and those kind of concepts, we've tried to offer people starting points that they can then further build on and take into their classrooms.

Rebecca – Just extending on what Kirsty has said. I think it's important to note that because this work is based on a play, there are thematic considerations that come around that. And so, some of the wording that we have used when we've looked at organizing movement and organizing the dance is this idea of acts and scenes which interchangeable to sections. But due to the context of the subject matter of this work, when you're looking at organizing the dance and the way that it is structured rather than looking at Section one, Section two, we've got this idea of scenes happening, which links to the narrative of the work, which links to the character relationships. It's all interrelated in that way.

Jackie – Yeah, fantastic. And something I really liked was how it broke down different movements, and we were able to do that obviously by using lots of screenshots. Rebecca, could you talk about how you think this could help or a teacher using this resource might be able to help improve student outcomes in core appreciation?

Rebecca – Well, I think as we've mentioned before, this resource, while the starting point is for teachers, there are resources to take straight into the classroom. It's also about taking this and putting it in the context of the students that you have and the school that you're in. So, you're starting point for improving student outcomes is going to be very different. If I was talking to Kirsty, if I was talking to Julia, if I was talking to kids in my school. So, depending on your starting point is going to depend on how you use this tool. But the activity cards I think are a really great way to start engaging students at a range of levels to the ideas of the work. So, there's the motif cards, the theme cards, the activity cards and the character cards, and you can kind of use those as different entry points depending on the students that you are teaching. So, there's a range of approaches there in terms of verbal activities, physical activities, writing activities, reading activities. So, I think what's important to start off with is knowing your students and knowing where they're starting and choosing an entry point that's going to help them understand the work so that they can then have an entry point to improving their essay writing. Because if they don't understand what the work is, who the characters are and what the relationships are, then they're not going to be able to effectively describe an interpretation and analyse the work, which becomes evident in their essay writing.

Jackie – Kirsty, Did you want to add to that?

Kirsty – Yeah. So adding to what Rebecca said in terms of those entry points, I think with the work this size, a great starting point in this instance would be to give the kids the overview of the work, get them to already understand who the characters are, what the lay of the land is. In terms of the two acts and the different scenes and the relationships between them. Because in trying to get through this to our work, there's a lot to take on board. So, the teaching tools are there and the activity cards are there to support it, but we really do genuinely feel that it's a good starting point to give the kids a very clear understanding of what is in the work rather than going with that first impressions idea of let's watch it and then you talk to me about what you've seen and what you think is happening. I think in this case, and correct me if I'm wrong girls, but I think the first impression in this case needs to come after they've got that lay of the land and then have watched it so that they can then have and start to have informed discussions about what is being seen and what is happening and then applying your parts of your syllabus as you go through that process.

Julia – 100% agree with Kirsty and Rebecca. But I think another thing about this resource and particularly those activity cards is; appreciation is often, and I'm speaking from my personal experience as well, a component which I don't feel particularly as confident in teaching and I feel that my students, they also feel that as well that it's not their strong point. So that these activity cards provide a bit more of a range of activities that they can do. It doesn't all need to be theoretical approach when we're talking about appreciation, that there are those practical activities where the students do get up and physically do movements and act like the character and so they can begin to embody it. And I feel like that, particularly with dance students, if they can embody something, then they have a far better starting point to create their own interpretation of the movement. So, I feel like that for me, going into the classroom, having those cards there is going to be so valuable as a range of teaching strategies to support my students.

Jackie – Yeah, thank you. I think for this last question, you guys have touched on this in your answers already, but I am going to ask the question anyway because I know when this was first put together, it had something like 174 pages or something like that. It was such a big piece of work which has been turned into a website which is available on our Creative arts curriculum website and all of the links for this resource and to get to our creative arts curriculum website are going to be in the show notes for you to be able to click on and directly access this resource. But I think you guys have touched on the fact that this is a two hour ballet. It can be quite an overwhelming work to be breaking down for the teachers to be breaking down and unpacking and then doing that with the students as well. If you were a teacher who hasn't looked at Juliet and Romeo yet, and you are planning on starting your work on this in term four of this year with your new year 12, how would you as a teacher or how do you imagine teachers would be able to use this resource or how should they approach using a resource like this for their preparation and also then with their students. And I think I'm up to asking Kirsty, so Kirsty, do you want a start us off with that answer?

Kirsty – I think I'd start by saying it's definitely not a one stop shop. There is still plenty of information out there to be accessed to support your teaching in this work. And it's definitely also not a step by step. You know, don't start at the top and follow it through page by page until you get to the very end. It's a resource that you do need to take a little bit of time and work through it and have a look where it fits in terms of the syllabus. I think it's important still to stay with what you're comfortable with or where you feel your strengths lie, when you start teaching a new work. So, if your strength is in watching the work in its entirety and then having a look at what that first impression is and how it fits, then continue to go with that. You do need to work through the resource and find the parts that fit within the component that you're looking at any given time. I really would just suggest that you don't work through it step by step, there is plenty to use across a number of different areas in terms of the motifs, there suggested motifs and what we've tried to do is find you examples of where they're seen so that you get it from a compositional point of view in terms of how the choreographer has used space, time, dynamics, what the relationships between the dancers or the characters are any given time. So, while it's listed as motif, it is important to still take a step back and remember that when you are teaching appreciation, that idea of those compositional aspects do come into play. And it's important that you kind of look at how the two syllabus areas can fit together in terms of teaching these new works so that you can have a little bit of a clearer understanding of how it all ties together.

Jackie – And there's lots of nodding from the crowds there, so fantastic, thank you very much. Is there anything, because I know you know this was a massive amount of work and I just want to say thank you very much for the work that you have done in putting this together, Julia, Kirsty and Rebecca. It was a huge effort. Is there anything else that you would like to add that maybe my questions have missed out on today?

Kirsty – So I will say that while the work, when you first come across it seems enormous, there is a lot to it. I think for me, just take the time to understand the characters and the plot line and then really sit down and go through the resource and see which parts of it really you think are relevant to your students and to your teaching approaches. There are parts in there that may not work for you, but there are other things that you might be able to take away and you might be able to expand on those, alter those that really suit what you're doing or enhance how you're trying to teach your students. As I said before, it's not a one stop shop, it doesn't have all of the answers. But we've tried to cover most aspects of the syllabus and we've tried to focus on those areas where in the past, in terms of core appreciation student responses, there have been weaknesses. So, we have tried to provide support and resources in those areas, to strengthen both teachers and student understanding.

Rebecca – Adding to Kirsty’s point. I completely agree with all of them, by the way. The idea of if you familiarise yourself with the characters and the plot, which Kirsty you just said, I think once we got our heads around that everything else fell into place a lot more easily. A lot of people would have already been familiar with the context of Romeo and Juliet. So, when you look at the characters, that's something familiar, but then we need to look at it in the context of the way Mats Ek has tweaked the narrative. But once you get an understanding of what is going on, then you can delve deeper in whichever way makes sense for you and your students. I think that would be my go to point.

Julia – Yeah, I would agree. I think for the first time when you're watching the work, you spend a lot of the time going, who is that and where do they fit in and what's happening now? So yeah, once you kind of have a look at those character cards and you do have an understanding of all of that, it all does make sense. And it is quite, I won't say easy work, but it's, the interpretation becomes a little bit more clear once you know the who's who. I would 100% recommend to you, have a look at those character cards, even just a glance, have them open while you're watching the work for the first time maybe, so you know who they are, what their relationship is to the other characters and that will just start to clarify things a little more.

Jackie – I think there's some great advice today about I guess approaches to teaching a core appreciation in the first place and then how to approach teaching a work like Juliet and Romeo and the size of the work. Julia, Kirstie and Rebecca, thank you. Thank you for your work on the resource and thank you for your time today to be pulling apart the resource and talking about that to give our listeners a bit more of insight into how they can use it and some of the ideas behind the work. And we look forward to hearing how people go using this resource once they start tackling the work in term four.

This podcast was brought to you by the Creative Arts Curriculum Team of Secondary Learners Educational Standards Directorate of the New South Wales Department of Education. Get involved in the conversation by joining our Statewide Staffroom through the link in the show notes or email our Creative Arts Curriculum Advisor, Cathryn Horvat at creativearts7-12@det.nsw.edu.au. The music for this podcast was composed by Alex Manton and audio production by Jason King.

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