After our own introduction to the world of Modern Western Square Dance in a workshop at the PH (read report here) we were very keen to see the Lao reaction to it. Dancing Modern Western Square Dance is a very effective way to learn English words and chunks, as it is both fun and motivating because the language is taught through movement. The underlying language learning method is called Total Physical Response (TPR). The learners are shown and then respond to the Caller’s English commands to show that they can connect the words with meaning by dancing whatever she/he calls them to do. Even small children and non-English speakers can learn to dance the first choreographies in very little time (for more info on TPR click here). This is why we invited all the teachers of the schools to our Modern Western Square Dance Workshop, not only the English teachers. We were also delighted to hear that the English staff of the Teacher Training College which Prof. Martin had visited during her first stay were also going to join us.
The workshop started at 2 p.m. on the first day of Prof. Martin’s second visit. We wanted to give a first impression of Square Dance without too much input. Therefore we performed our first dance: “Train to Boston”.This dance is actually quite complex as the dancers have to follow ten different calls. Additionally, there i s a partner change every 32 beats.
Subsequently, we gave a short introduction to Square Dance, addressing questions like: What is Square Dance? Where are its origins? Why and how do we use it in the English-speaking classroom?Following that, we started our first joint dance called “Jump Start”. This simple choreography was to get the whole crowd dancing. There are three different calls in this dance which is performed in a big circle. It was very nice to see the Lao teachers and the College staff (and their Head!) dancing with so much pleasure and joy. When everybody felt comfortable with the movements, we split up the circle to form smaller groups. Within those groups of six teachers, everybody got his or her chance to call the dance for the other group members. It was just as difficult for them as it had been for us when we called this dance for the first time. However, everybody managed at least a few beats.
To increase the challenge, we introduced another dance, “The Maine Mixer”.
Our Young-Caller Alessandro Pola introduced the different commands to the dancing group. Half an hour later the choreography went quite well so Prof. Martin decided to include a partner change in order to step up the challenge and augment the fun – and it worked!
At the end of the workshop we handed out booklets (pre-prepared by our professional Caller-Teacher Andreas Hennecke) about the different dances. All in all it was a very successful and enjoyable workshop for everyone, so we decided to try this with our pupils at Ban Phang Heng secondary school next.
Text by J. Bauer, stills by I. Martin