Wednesday, December 20, 2006
Mark Harvey said...
Hi, Kia ora all, Thank you Kristian, Jack and Ali for your comments and sharing your insights, as a graduate and former casual staff member of Unitec, these issues and sentiments concern me as well. I have heard quite a lot of graduates and former staff express similar stuff. (Please note, I am not representing where I lecture in this email - Dance Studies at the University of Auckland - I speak here as a graduate and former employee of Unitec.) It's definitely not a stable world in the land of dance tertiary institutions - yes, I agree with you in that we who are in the institutions need try to keep in touch with our surrounding communities. This is no easy task when you are not often able to have complete control over your dance programmes due to institutional demands such as funding pressures and student demands for employability when they graduate - I'm not trying to justify the changes at Unitec here, because I am not aware of them enough to be able to comment on them, however, I think it's important for us to consider the complex variables involved in such situations, no matter how they may appear and feel. (And, I am not also assuming that neither of you have considered such issues, but I feel it's important to bring this into the conversation here.) Considering what you bring up, how about as a professional dance/choreographic/artist community we propose to have an open public consultative meeting with the head of the Dance section and Tina Hong at Unitec for all stake-holders? This way we may be able to air such concerns and hopefully contribute to some positive developments for Unitec. I understand that Unitec has in recent years called for input from the local professional community, though I do not know the outcome of such calls (having been too caught up with where I work and with family life). Perhaps making attempts to dialogue with Unitec in relation to such concerns may have some positive outcomes - giving direct feedback to institutions can be constructive and I have seen it work on many occasions, both at Unitec (years ago) and at the University of Auckland in recent years. Such a meeting may also open up dialogue between Unitec and other dance teaching institutions so that we can work together in a more efficient manner for our surrounding communities. If possible, can you please indicate by replying here if you or your colleagues would be keen for such a meeting? If we have enough of you then I suggest then let's propose as a community to Unitec for such a meeting. As graduates and/or former staff who keep up our practices, I believe it is important for us to keep positive working relationships with our dance training institutions for many reasons and it seems that this is not happening in this case enough at present (at least from what I keep hearing). Let's try to be constructive as a community and attempt to do something about this, at least so it is all out in the open in a positive way. Cheers
Jillian Davey wrote...Thank you, Kristian for posting such a bold and true blog. I'm currently enrolled in UNITEC's programme and because of its unfortunate headlong jump away from its original kaupapa (along with my utter disgust and disbelief that they have chosen to hire a commercial jazz tutor) I have decided not to return next semsester. I realised, not even two weeks into this year, that the golden days so fondly recalled by former graduates, are gone. I've learned more in these past few months from my flatmate, who just so happens to be a graduate from those golden years, than I have from the programme as a whole. Although I do respect the industry professionals they bring in as a token window to the outside community, I sometimes feel the majority do so grudgingly and without the desire to take the new generation under their wing. I'm now forced to forge my own path and while it does seems exciting it's a shame NZ no longer has an alternative contemporary programme to point a path out to me.
"Changing the bath-water" Michael Parmenter I have been a little disturbed by the tenor of the current debate concerning the change in focus at UNITEC. Firstly, I am surprised that within the discipline of contemporary dance, which defines itself by continually re-defining itself, there are those that expect that UNITEC should cling to a decades-old vision. The dance scene in New Zealand is constantly changing, and one would hope that the training institutions would be changing along with it. Also I would certainly not, as Kristian does in his blog, want to consign the training of dancers solely to the New Zealand School of Dance. This is something that we all need to be interested in and take responsibility for. Yes UNITEC has changed, and there are many changes that I personally feel are changes for the better. One only needs to look at the sophistication of the choreographic contributions of the current students to recognise that a lift in the technical standard of the dancers will result in a more articulate and informed dynamic to their choreographic ventures. Dancers who are well versed in the negotiation of somatic and kinetic possibilities will learn to think with their bodies, and not just in their journals. A number of correspondents complain that UNITEC has lost contact with the dance community. However among the choreographers and teachers currently working at UNITEC, I can name Charles Koroneho, Malia Johnston, Taane Mete, Moania Nepia, Louise Potiki Bryant, Katie Burton and myself. Charles in particular is making a remarkable contribution and certainly keeps alive the vision of creative invention that has marked UNITEC’s past. I personally have a number of concerns regarding the generic nature of the theoretical component of the course, but it must be acknowledged that the dance faculty are very focused on keeping dance-specific studies before the students. The UNITEC course is running efficiently and smoothly. The enrolment numbers have improved markedly over the past couple of years, and I can testify that the focus, sense of enjoyment and morale of the students has never been higher. It seems that UNITEC is fulfilling the desires of the students who are the reason for its being. As for the “South Africans”, rather than bagging, them, I think we owe them a huge show of thanks. They stepped into a difficult situation, when others abandoned ship, and have worked tirelessly to keep the course focused on a creative and rigorous, practice-based pathway.
Unitec never responded to this my blog post publicly or otherwise. That was predictable. Michael predictably did respond but doesn't represent the views of Unitec. Simply his own. His letter makes it sound as if things had improved at this institution. If you actually talk (and listen to) the students a slightly different picture emerges; its more of a case of life goes on. Its not that things things are no better, they are simply no worse. Since Michaels letter The Beijing Dance Academy mysteriously withdrew its interest and presence at Unitec. Michael himself has dramatically declared that the students are not interested in learning and will not teach there again.
Life goes on. Some things never change eh Mr P.
- Carly Townrow wrote...
I would like to begin by asking some of the well informed, ready to judge, very respectable persons who have commented on this forum how many of us currently studying at Unitec that they know personally? With what grounding and knowledge can they so confidently elude to the fact that we are a bunch of dull, uninteresting clones without the tiniest spark of creative ability or artistic voice? I am particularly upset Kristian that you chose now as the moment to air your views when so many of us who you know well and who respect you are still attending the course, doing our best to graduate and clutching at the straws of advice we can remember you and yes even Chris giving us. Not because they are more worthy than the advice we are being given now but because we, unlike a lot of people apparently, respect and appreciate every opinion given to us with regards to our work because the world does not have just one mind. By the way I think you would have really enjoyed the recent Year Three choreographic showing Kristian. Also, is it so wrong that I want the technical proficiency that will enable me to express my creative notions in a clear and interesting way? Why do I seem to be getting the feeling from these posts that real ‘art’ should not have a technical base? In defence of Charene; We are very lucky to have a head of department who puts so much time, passion, energy and care into us and our development. Everything she does she does for the benefit of the students and Michael is right when he says that morale is generally pretty high. And we are very lucky to have as a ballet technique tutor an ex principle danseur, he has extensive knowledge to offer and he was hired for that reason. It must be no easy job teaching ballet to a bunch of frowning girls who don’t always want to be there. He does remarkably well. I have the upmost respect for the way Unitec used to be run. I can almost remember word for word the speech given by Chris Jannides about the foundation of the school on my first day more than two years ago now when I was so wide eyed and hopeful about the future. But I also have an immense respect for the way it is run now. It only wish that this was a mutual respect and that the community which I am very shortly about to join will not belittle me for having attended, and the most horrible of all actually enjoyed Unitec, like it seems that they will. Kristian, I respect your opinions and I miss your classes but don’t create this kind of animosity for our sake. We’re doing just fine. You should know that. It was you that gave us our choreographic grounding. Have more faith in yourself for teaching and us for listening. And as for those newbies who weren’t lucky enough to have you teach them, they’ve still got Charles. Have faith, we’re not that bad.
Kristian responds to Carly...
I think youve taken this kind of personally, the key issues in the blog post (and lets get this into perspective people, its my OPINION on my little corner of the internet ) are; insularity, and the question of Unitecs accountability to the profession. Its not about your potential as practitioners or about technique or any of the other 'interesting' topics that have sprung up out of this storm in a teacup.
Sunday, December 17, 2006
Things that Move Me Created and performed by Oliver Connew - NZ Fringe - BEOP Studios , Mt Eden, Auckland - 2017 Dear Olive...
Some diligent bastard has put the whole thing up on yutube here Apparently CD-ROM still available for purchase here
This review was written for Metro magazine however for reasons I'm unable to ascertain they've elected not to publish it. So I'l...