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UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH DAKOTA

FINAL REFLECTION PAPER
SUBMITTED TO ASSISTANT PROFESSOR PATRICIA DOWNEY IN PARTIAL
FULLFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THEA 481: MODERN II
BY
BRIANNA BERNARD
VERMILLION, SOUTH DAKOTA
May 7
th
, 2014
I am absolutely shocked that I am three-fourths of the way done with my undergraduate
college career. I am also surprised to have read in my yearly evaluation that I have completed ten
dance classes. The amount of progress I have made since my freshman year continues to grow
and evolve. I am very lucky to have the opportunity to do what I love every day in class and in
rehearsal. However, when I let stress and pressure overshadow this gratitude, my goals become
cloudy and I do not perform as skillfully as I know I can. This year, I saw pressures from my
every day life affecting my technique and foundational movements in class and in assessment.
The breakthroughs I made in the fall of this year were not applied strongly in the spring and that
reflected in my dance. Despite these set backs, I continue to make improvements, no matter how
small, in my dance every class and rehearsal. These improvements are what I choose to focus on
and remember in an effort to continue to put my best foot (or arm, or torso, or whatever body
party) forward in my dance. After watching the videos from showcase and returning to my goal
statement I wrote in the fall, I have decided the three objectives from the syllabus that have been
the most beneficial for me to explore this semester are a continued development of strength,
flexibility and endurance, a continued development of a working knowledge of the role of core
stability and how it enhances movement, and a continued development of coordinating body
parts resulting in an aesthetic and anatomical connectedness while dancing.
The first objective that has been beneficial for me to explore this semester is “a continued
development of strength, flexibility and endurance”. Between the intense stretching warm-ups in
Modern II to our Yoga Tuesdays and Cardio Thursdays in Musical Theatre Styles, I continuously
got a killer workout every time I came to dance class. First of all, I have never been able to do
multiple pushups while using correct form. Now, after all of the hard work we have done with
strength training while holding yoga positions, I have noticed a definite increase of strength in
my upper body. It is now much easier for me to execute pushups correctly or to hold myself
upright in the plank position for longer amounts of time. These improvements in upper-body
strength have led to a stronger, more grounded type of movement in choreography that involves
my abs, shoulders, arms, and head/neck. Not only has yoga improved my strength, but many of
the floor positions we held in our “Gymnopedie #1” really tested my endurance this semester.
This improvement in strength has also enhanced my dancing because it allows me to use up
every single beat to make the movement count. The very opening sequence (0:58 – 1:11) in
“Gymnopedie #1” is a prime example of this. Rather than quickly pushing myself up into a
pushup position, I wanted to make every beat count and slowly raise myself off the floor,
arriving at the pushup position just in time. Thanks to the hard work I put into Modern II and
Musical Theatre Styles this year, I have definitely seen significant developments in my body
strength.
Second of all, both dance classes this spring have significantly tested my flexibility. The
first warm up we do in Modern II to stretch out our backs has also helped me greatly improve the
flexibility in my thighs, calves, and lower and upper back. All of our work with yoga in Musical
Theatre Styles has made me become aware of muscles in places I did not even know were places
—but now I know they are much more flexible. The pose “three-legged dog” was especially
challenging for me this semester, forcing me to really hold strong and stretch my lifted leg into
the air. This position, as well as the pigeon stretch, has really made a difference in the flexibility
of my upper-leg/hip/thigh muscles that I usually struggle with. As far as specific steps in our
dances, our work in Modern II with hinges and jazz splits, and in Musical Theatre Styles with
hitch kicks has also really pushed my flexibility. Though the flexibility with my split has
improved, it is something that I stretch regularly and my range of movement usually feels like it
either does not increase very much or not at all. However, after this semester, I found that
widening my jazz split has become a lot easier. In our video of “Gymnopedie #1” I was amazed
at how wide my split was at 3:23 seconds during my dancing with Christine. I want to continue
to improve this part of my body’s flexibility even though I was not born with a lot of range in
this particular area.
Third of all, this semester very forcefully reminded me of how much physical endurance
is needed by every dancer. I was tested every single day in Musical Theatre Styles, no matter
what the warm up. Yoga requires such great focus and endurance to hold difficult poses for
longer amounts of time. I really loved these warm ups and they always put me in an incredibly
centered and focused place. Cardio Thursdays were a whole different story, however. While I
definitely still enjoyed them, some of the videos would surprise me in how much endurance they
took. I know my cardiovascular endurance improved significantly because of these videos. I had
to focus on correct breathing in order to keep up with the rhythm of each different combination.
Also, I pushed myself to work harder on every repetition, telling myself it was the last time and
the most important rep. I did the same thing during our runs of our Motown: The Musical piece. I
thought Tim’s “Runaway Baby” hip-hop piece was high-energy last semester, but it was nothing
compared to repetitive runs of the Motown piece. The endurance and it took to energetically
execute this routine was higher than I ever expected. This style of dance is very similar to the
style we used when I was in show choir and I definitely had flashbacks to being completely out
of breath after a huge closing number (where we had to dance and sing). While this routine was
only dancing, it still proved a huge challenge to me to keep up at the beginning. However, after
continuing to rehearse the piece and work out on my own, my physical and cardiovascular
endurance improved significantly. I am now able to do a lot more cardio work without running
myself down right away. Looking back on this semester, I am very pleased to see the results
from my hard work in class and rehearsal to continue the development of my strength, flexibility
and endurance.
The second objective that has been beneficial for me to explore this semester is “a
continued development of a working knowledge of the role of core stability and how it enhances
movement”. The breakthrough I had in Modern I in the fall with the use of my core significantly
improved my technique in the Modern style of dance, as well Jazz and Musical Theatre Styles.
Though I struggled to grasp and use that discovery this spring, improvements were still made.
The floor core warm up has completely changed how I use my body. The idea of “pulling up”
and properly using my abs had always been a bit foreign to me until I started using the floor core
routine. Before, I really did not understand what part of my body I needed to be engaging. After
strengthening and defining my core this past year, I now understand how to properly work these
particular muscles. Repetitious sit-ups, planking for minutes at a time, and working the inverted
sit ups were the three parts of the floor core (I personally added the extended planks) that helped
me in particular. The inverted sit-ups and shoulder stands really worked my back muscles as well
as my abs and made a huge difference in how I used these parts of my body in my dancing.
Specific dance moves in the Modern routines that required contracting and abdomen engagement
became much easier and better executed as the semester went on. This is reflected in the video of
the end of the semester showcase. However, one contraction that still needs work is during the
figure-eight routine. The opening contraction of this routine that I perform with Christine (3:34
seconds) I usually feel like I have to rush through and therefore do not contract my abdomen
properly. This specific move I hope to continue to improve while really harnessing that
breakthrough I had in the fall semester and letting it progress my overall dance technique.
The improvements I have made in my core engagement were also reflected in the
Musical Theatre Styles routine. Though they still need improvement, my turns were much
cleaner and there was a better use of core engagement that kept me aligned and allowed me to do
the four straight turns in a row that I usually struggle with (2:52 – 2:55). There were also
moments that went very well in the piece; including the quick back and forth looks and body roll
(4:13 – 4:20) as well as all the rib/hip isolations throughout. Because of a stronger connection to
the core strength I now have, I can now properly differentiate the separate areas to isolate. In the
past, sometimes my hip isolations would include unwanted movement my ribs, or visa versa. The
improvements in my core engagement have allowed me to separate and specify exactly what part
of my body I want to isolate. Overall, I think the discoveries I have made with my core
engagement this year have led me in the right direction. I cannot wait to continue improving with
them in future years.
The third objective that has been beneficial for me to explore this semester is “an aptitude
for coordinating body parts resulting in an aesthetic and anatomical connectedness while
dancing”. In my Jazz II/Modern I semester reflection paper, I wrote, “Flow and connectivity are
crucial to all forms of dance, and this semester I learned that that especially applies to Modern
dance. Finding the breath shape and a deep connection in the core that extends out to every limb
—both these things shape modern dance and make it incredibly emotional” (Bernard 8-9). This
statement is still incredibly true for how I feel about movement in Modern dance this semester.
This semester’s work has taught me that connectivity cannot simply be internal, but external with
a full awareness of one’s surroundings. Being connected to the other dancers onstage is vital to
Modern dance. In the “Gymnopedie #1” video, there are outstanding moments of connection in
my body to the music, the tempo, and to my partners I dance with onstage, and then there are
moments where that connection falls flat. However, the moments of connection really shine
through and overshadow the moments that need work. From 4:25 – 4:37 in the Modern piece,
Hannah, Emily, and I find a really stunning connection. We’re completely in synch with one
another and the music. I really love watching this part in the video. Also, I think the opening
moments of the piece were very connected and in synch for the entire group.
In Musical Theatre Styles, I also feel like I have improved on a stylistically correct
aesthetic and anatomical connectedness. The Motown number differed greatly from the Modern
piece in style and connection to movement. With it’s high-energy and incredibly quick tempo,
movement for this piece called for connectivity of a more lively or vigorous kind. The constant
up/down or jumping feel of the piece (repeated ponying, the pony into arms swinging motif)
really forced me to really feel and strike each beat, connecting to the music in a very hard-hitting
way. I think this connection definitely showed the significant differences between this style and
the smoother, more flowing Modern dance style.
In conclusion, I am once again so thankful that going to school means I get to dance
every day. I am also glad that I can be very observant and critical of my dancing. I know what
improvements I need to make and I am very capable of making them. Keeping a clear, focused,
and confident mind set in class and in performance will definitely ensure this improvement in the
present and future. Once again, the three objectives from the syllabus that have been the most
beneficial for me to explore this semester are a continued development of strength, flexibility
and endurance, a continued development of a working knowledge of the role of core stability and
how it enhances movement, and a continued development of coordinating body parts resulting in
an aesthetic and anatomical connectedness while dancing. Thank you again for another
wonderful year!