Research and Creative Activity

The primary goal of my research program is to study dance cognition and pedagogy.  My scholarship is grounded in the constructivist theory of learning with the aim of improving teacher preparation by applying embodied socially constructed instruction, kinesthetic literacy, somatics and movement analysis and dance technology (e.g. interactive video, social media and handheld devices for instruction). My work supports a paradigm shift in pedagogical practice from traditional technique-driven dance training to the inclusion of new instructional methods (namely interactive technology, somatics, symbolic representation found in dance notation, issue-based instruction and community engaged practice).

Research summarized below addresses teaching and learning in the digital age and specifically notes my ongoing research goals in dance technology. Current practices in K-12 dance pedagogy mandates technology integration in students’ comprehensive dance education. Over the past 20 years, I have written articles and book chapters defining methods of dance instruction in notation integration, multimedia design and assessment and evaluation, and dance technology pedagogy.

 

My research has established new trends in dance education through the thoughtful integration of technology. In addition to the development of Discover Dance (2000),  one of the first interactive multimedia products for K-12 dance education, my research has investigated the use of technology in several thematic areas. These areas include: dance documentation, interactive performance, distributed instruction, and the development of instructional methods for teacher education. Since my initial investigations, other research threads have emerged including the development of interactive and distance technology exclusively for dance educators.

 

As my passion for dance technology continued, I became fascinated with how technology could extend the landscape of dance education into international exchanges between global classrooms made possible by the use of video webcasting, video conferencing, and dance databases. I was asked by Liora Bresler to contribute a chapter on the topic in the International Handbook of Research in Arts Education Technology in dance education. (Parrish, 2007). This handbook is considered to be the definitive reference on core topics related to research in arts education, (with contributions from scholars in art education including eminent American educational philosopher, author, social activist, and teacher Maxine Green).

 

The growth of telecommunication, video sharing sites, specifically YouTube, and social media, have exponentially increased the number of people interested in dance and dance education. Technology presents new ways for students to think about their learning, express their ideas, and problem solve. Toward transformation: Digital tools for online dance pedagogy (2016), details this increased digital connectivity in all aspects of the profession, from instruction to performance, and examines the increased opportunities for students to customize and control their own learning. This article examines the use of online instruction and new media technology in teacher education programs and presents strategies for the integration of technology in the dance, technical training, and creative practice of dance as well as the benefits and limitations of online instruction for dance.

 

Media advances have changed the ways in which we interact, communicate, teach and learn. Flipped Assessment in the Choreographic Process (2017), examines the use of smartphones and handheld devices, to “flip” instruction transforming assessment in teacher education. The application of handheld devices within new media technology in teacher education is also addressed.

 

In 2017, I was elected to serve as the Director of Research for the National Dance Education Organization (NDEO) by lending insight and leadership to a vibrant area within the organization. Of particular note is my support of NDEO’s Dance Education Literature and Research descriptive index (DELRri), an interactive library database for dance education. A constant thread in my research is finding ways to make technology and its associated teaching strategies adaptable to different settings, supported through embodied learning and resulting in increased access to quality dance experiences. My scholarly work defines new models for thoughtful use of technology for dance in the areas of documentation, distributed instruction, dynamic performance, and pedagogical approaches. Descriptions of significant, groundbreaking, and professionally evaluated key works in technology for dance education are listed below. A complete list can be found in my CV.

 

As I consider my research and creative activity, I see my scholarship falling into the following four areas:

 

(1) Community Engaged Practice

(2) Dance Cognition and Training

(3) Interactive Dance Technology

(4) Pilates and Somatics

(1) Community Engaged Practice

Believing that successful teachers are made largely by their experiences I have created numerous opportunities for students to experiment with various teaching methods and curricula. Practical hands-on applied learning experiences help students to understand the needs of all their students, feel empathy for their differences, and develop practical skills for handling difficult situations.  Research initiatives summarized below address the fundamental themes of teacher education, the social construction of community, and the exploration of community engaged practices, activist and issue-based methods, and community partnerships.

1.a. Dancers Connect 

1.b. Artists as Activists

(2) Dance Cognition

I am particularly interested in understanding how pedagogy supports creative problem solving and knowledge construction in dance. I am fascinated by the ways in which technology when used thoughtfully can create community, build gateways to new ideas, and expand access to artistic expression and masterworks of dance. Research summarized below addresses my interest in the development of dance cognition and communication, expanding a dancer’s capabilities to think, recall, and interpret information.

2.a. Arts Integration Academy

2.b. Dance Literacy Games

2.c. Motif Writing

2.d. Embodied History

(3) Interactive Dance Technology

Research summarized below addresses teaching and learning in the digital age and specifically notes my ongoing research goals in dance technology. Current practices in K-12 dance pedagogy mandates technology integration in students’ comprehensive dance education. Over the past 20 years, I have written articles and book chapters defining methods of dance instruction in notation integration, multimedia design and assessment and evaluation, and dance technology pedagogy.

 

I began my journey in dance technology as a Graduate Student at Columbia University and later at The Ohio State University’s Multimedia Dance Prototype workshops (OSU/MDP). There I developed the first ever software to teach Laban’s Elements of Dance, Discover Dance (Parrish, 2000, Parrish 2001- 2005). In this research, I applied case study methodology to determine the effects of the Discover Dance multimedia on fifth graders’ ability to make dances, perform dances, and inquire in the dance domain. Data reflected that when using interactive multimedia, students were engaged, focused, and intent on learning. The results of this study revealed information about the issues of learner diversity, knowledge construction, communication, and constructivist approaches to learning (Parrish, 2001; Parrish, 2005).

3.a. Interactivity and Distributed Instruction

3.b. Instructional Strategies and Professional Development 

(4) Pilates and Movement Analysis

Pilates is a comprehensive body-conditioning method created by Joseph Pilates in the early 20th century. Pilates incorporates six key principles: centering, concentration, control, precision, breath, and flow. I discovered Pilates after an injury while still working as a professional dancer in New York. I studied with first-generation Pilates elder, Romana Kryzanowska, first to heal my injury and then to explore the practice overall. I experienced a complete transformation in my body, increased muscular control, breath support, stamina, improved flexibility, and more fluid extension of my legs and spine. Pilates not only improved my body and sharpened my mind; it also extended my professional performing career.

 

In 2013, I rediscovered Pilates and completed comprehensive teacher certification with Balance Body in June 2017. The certification and test out process involves over 500 hours of classwork and teaching practicum on all seven Pilates apparatus. This substantial investment in professional training took three years to compete. In the process of deepening my knowledge of the Pilates system I renewed my assertions that the system holds significant potential for developing dancers.

 

In Spring 2017, I created DCE 530 Introduction to Pilates course as a part somatics offerings and am currently developing a certification program in Pilates.  I am encouraged by my student’s reflections and application in their dance practice. In a recent self-assessment one DCE 530 student wrote about the value of learning Pilates principles and celebrates her improved balance and pelvic stability, essential to completing a pirouette. “I have noticed that I am can breathe into those blocked passages to remove some of the tension I hold. I believe that working on the floor as well as balancing on a ball has helped my alignment in ballet; because these past 2 weeks I have been getting compliments at the barre as well as landing my single and double turns 90% of the time!”

 

I am intrigued by the pedagogical questions as to how best to teach the challenging Pilates concepts of disassociation and core stabilization while also looking at motivational, anatomical, somatic cuing for instruction. I am currently researching how best to teach the concepts of (a) disassociation, (b) core stabilization, as well as expressing precision when (c) articulating the spine and (d) placement of the neutral pelvis with two research projects: Zeroing in on Core and Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation for Dance Education Pedagogy Research. In the research, I am recording participants experiences within weekly classes using both a Pilates mat and reformer. Once all data has been collected I will begin analyzing and disseminating results. While still in the early stages of this research, five CVPA and university teaching innovation grants (2017-2019) have been awarded to support this inquiry.  

 

More investigation is necessary in terms of the development of developmentally specific pedagogical principles, strategies for layering language acquisition as a foundation for intellectual perception in dance.  In the coming years, I will continue this investigation in Motif Writing, studying the development of movement cognition and applied notations systems for dance making, analysis and documentation. I will continue my investigation in Pilates as a means to meet the needs of dancers focusing on the elements of disassociation and core stabilization. I will present pedagogical research in dance literature and at national and international conference venues.