Double Skin/Double Mind #5: the teacher as a student
— August 27, 2021

We learn nothing from those who say: ‘Do as I do’. Our only teachers are those who tell us to ‘do with me’.  – Gilles Deleuze

© Mo Alzoabi

At the very beginning of their collaboration, Emio Greco and Pieter C. Scholten developed a dance method called Double Skin/ Double Mind (DS/DM). A way to discover the sensitivity of the body and prepare it for dance through four basic principles: Breathing, Jumping, Expanding and Reducing. Nowadays this method is taught in several dance schools and used in workshops for children, seniors, amateur and professional dancers, business directors, dance enthusiasts and so on.

To safeguard the quality and ongoing transmission, ICK initiated a DS/DM method teacher training program. In 2021 this took place over several intensive training weekends between February and August. This was the first edition where dancers from outside the company, or no earlier experience with the method could apply. Three participants that are based in the United States, followed the training through Zoom. After obtaining the certificate, the participants are qualified to teach DS/DM across the globe.

In this article I want to look closer at the definitions of a teacher and teaching as a practice in relation to the DS/DM method. Thus, I propose to look for the specific trajectories towards the new corporeal experience that are followed by the Teachers of DS/DM method at ICK Amsterdam. I will engage with my own personal observations from documenting the Teacher Training sessions, and also, I will place them in a fruitful tension with other writings on teaching.

A keeper of knowledge

I have always been fascinated by how differently the dance teacher’s practice sounds and verbalizes. Ever since the time when I studied classical ballet in Russia, where the teacher was a mentor and a keeper of knowledge, menacingly sitting opposite us and correcting thousands of mistakes in our movements. Afterwards, with my colleagues in contemporary dance in Moscow, our endeavor was to maintain a relative equal position in teaching each other. Anyhow, teaching calls for constant reflection on power relationships.

Now, having an opportunity to be in a position of a research assistant during my Internship at ICK, I am able to reflect on my own practices as well as to share my experiences of the enriching practice of DS/DM through writing about it.

A guide

Dance researcher Philippa Rotfield notes that postmodern dance practice challenged established ways of making dance through a process of questioning and investigating movement. While being present in DSDM Teaching sessions, I also felt like the teacher was someone who guided the participants through the basic principles in order to decenter and displace the familiar kinesthetic territory of dancer. Through co-experiencing, the teacher guides dancers to the point where they are able to become receptive to a new corporeal experience, to enact a different corporeal logic.

© Mo Alzoabi

Do with me

How can a teacher help the participants question their accepted knowledge about a body and a space surrounding it? I remember the constant repetition during the training of the words: soft flesh, soft flesh, you have only soft flesh. This constant repeating in order to teach made me think of French philosopher Gilles Deleuze’s work on “Difference and Repetition”:

Deleuze uses ‘learning to swim’ as an example. Therefore, we aren’t only repeating the teacher, but recomposing the teacher’s movements – learning is detached from the possession of knowledge. When we swim in the same ocean with the swimming instructor, we do not learn “from” them, but “with” them. We copy not their way of floating in the waves, but create our own way of swimming. It is definitely not mirror-imaging and not replicating the master’s movement. The pursuit of avoiding imitation of the movement by copying is tightly woven to the DS/DM practice. What is more, learning “with” reveals the truly collaborative character of working and learning.

A reckless idealist

How is learning detached from the possession of knowledge in Double Skin/Double Mind method? Well, a teacher is also being a reckless idealist with participants, dreaming of a bigger body (or “other body”, other entity) that floats in the space, even though it might be utopian. A teacher is opening a space for various artistic expressions while simultaneously investigating. Teachers are not supposed to proclaim the truth, because they do not own one, but they do guide, support and sustain what they see. Through doubting a change is provoked, which is an ultimate goal of the practice.

Teaching also means acknowledging the outside situation, outside space, that has their own sensibility and rules. For instance, Breathing in DS/DM acts as a way of communication between the inner world and the outside space. The teacher helps to establish this communication. Expanding also gives the opportunity to blur the limits of the anatomical body in the movement or even deny them. Acknowledging the outer space also allows to lure the body from its habitual tendencies.

© Mo Alzoabi

A keeper of an endless process of constant questioning

As I have experienced it, in DS/DM a teacher does not produce “ready-made” solutions for movement, but rather involves “unmaking” while going to a “zero” and redefining, erasing.

How does a DS/DM teacher help the body to become receptive to a new physical and mental experience? A teacher is a keeper of an endless process of constant questioning. A teacher reminds us of the question “What am I offering to a space?”. A teacher never says where to stand, but lets you question your own position in space and your relation to it, which significantly affects the quality of a movement. A teacher is open to the experience of others and of him/herself. DS/DM is supposed to challenge the dancers to apply intentional and physical choices in response to the presence of the other bodies: the teacher’s as well as other participants. Teaching stands for cultivating a mentality of re-questioning everything and curiosity.

Teaching in DS/DM stands for guiding the participants through different exercises that initially breaks the resistance of the body and opens it up for a new corporeal understanding and strength. DS/DM through diverse defined activities crystallizes new forms of moving, challenging the unique body of the dancer, but never depriving him of its own characteristics. It actually does not teach you how to dance, but it creates the condition from which you can work with creative choices based on the logic of your own body. That is why the teacher is positioned almost as a student: investigative, curious and reflective.

Screenshot Zoom session

Read more:

Cole, David R. “Deleuze and Learning” Encyclopedia of Educational Philosophy and Theory (Springer Reference), Springer, 2017. pp. 1-5.

“Footnotes on Education.” Florian Schneider, 2010, http://fls.kein.org/view/36 .

Rothfield, Philipa. “Experience and Its Others.” Practising with Deleuze: Design, Dance, Art, Writing, Philosophy, edited by Suzie Attiwill, Edinburgh University Press, 2018, pp. 120–53.

Dawkins, Roger. “From the Perspective of the Object in Semiotics: Deleuze and Peirce.” Semiotica, vol. 2020, no. 233, 2020, pp. 1–18.

More about DS/DM on this blog

Double Skin / Double Mind #4: the aging body

Double Skin/ Double Mind #3: Dansen Denken (in Dutch)

Double Skin/ Double Mind #2: The experience of a dancer

Double Skin/ Double Mind#1: ways of documenting and reflecting

— Article written by Kseniia Komoza


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