This was the third Orff conference I have attended, but the first one where I have been a clinician! This was the highest profile audience I have ever addressed; music teachers from Maine to Alaska come to this conference, from college students to seasoned teacher-educators. I was more than a little excited and nervous!
My session was entitled “Jump, Jive, and Patsch! Processing Swing Music and Dance for Children” and I presented it twice. This workshop is the intersection of my dancing experience, and my Orff Schulwerk teaching experience, and I am really proud of how it came together! So much of Orff teaching involves creative movement improvisation and folk dancing, and swing dancing is a natural fit for both of those.
I was nervous because they had me assigned to present in a really small room, and 130 (!) people had signed between the two sessions. I squeaked as politely as possible, and the conference director was able to move me to a larger space, which really helped with the success of the workshop.
I played swing music as people walked in, and I had bought Hershey kisses for the door monitor to distribute. First impressions are everything, and I figured it would also give people energy for participation. =) The introducer read my bio (which is starting to sound pretty impressive!) I took a deep breath, and the lesson just started to flow. Swing dance is something that I really love, and something that I am very comfortable teaching. I had prepared the best I possibly could, so I was really able to be present and enjoy the ride.
It was so much fun to see all these teachers movin’, groovin’,’ and enjoying the music and dancing. Swing is such a joyful dance, I really think that no other dance form can compare to it! Seeing the delight on the participants’ faces as they performed in our final jam circle was priceless. I was especially happy to see one particular person enjoying himself immensely. Doug Goodkin is a nationally-known educator and clinician who specializes in combining jazz music and Orff, and he came to check me out! I was really excited to get his stamp of approval.
I finished off the workshop by sharing the children’s book Jazzy Miz Mozetta.
The story is about Miz Mozetta and her elderly friends who used to be swing dancers. They are old and creaky now, but they end up teaching their young hip-hop -dancing neighbors how to jitterbug. I read the story aloud, and briefly shared the story of Frankie Manning, an original lindy hopper who spent the last 30 years of his life traveling the world teaching the next generation of dancers. I actually got choked up and teary as I urged all the teachers to pass this culture on to their students, and there were many moist eyes in the audience as well. If I can make people cry (in a good way!) I think that means the workshop was a success. =)