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Negotiation between traditionalism and progressivism paradigm

Dance education is not either traditional or progressive, it is often both at the same time. Hence, The dance students must adjust and cope in between different aesthetic and pedagogical paradigms almost on a daily basis during their dance education


Both traditions seem to co-exist to some degree. As such, this paradigmatic dichotomous situation is not a black and white picture, or as it might look like in the overview table. However, this co-existing of two paradigms might create ambivalence within the dance students that need to cope with changing learning cultures on a daily basis.

A central finding was that dance teaching seem to be a private, in contrast to team practice. This was to a great extent down to the dance teacher herself, which was also found in higher education dance institutions. The students appeared to perceive each teacher to have their own ‘style’ of teaching, requiring them to enter classes with ‘different head[s] on (Rimmer, 2017). Hence, the dance students had to adjust and cope in between different aesthetic and pedagogical paradigms almost on a daily basis during their dance education (Haraldsen et al., 2020; Rimmer, 2017; Østern, 2017). In one dance lesson they might face an authoritarian and controlling teacher focusing solely on skill acquisition, and in the next, entering a reflective and creative dance class with the expectation of an active and reflective learning practice (Østern, 2017). In turn, this might nurture ambiguity, narrative tensions, and the feeling of a conflicting identity all of which are found to be associated with more emotional frustration, ill-being, and critical views towards the dance culture (Aalten, 2005; Haraldsen et al., 2021).

Despite the fact the paradigms seem to follow the line of dance genres, making classical ballet the most traditional, and the contemporary the most progressive, it is not the context or dance genre per se that determines teaching and learning quality or paradigmatic positioning. For instance, some traditional, and technique-based approaches have transformed into the more progressive field of somatic dance education (Dragon, 2015; Rothmund 2019; Østern, 2017). On the other hand, the apprenticeship culture, the tacit taken for granted knowledge, lack of critical reflection, and teach as you were taught, are also identified within more progressive -based practices (Dragon, 2015). In other words, it is not the ‘what’, but the ‘how’ that seems most important. Specifically, how dance pedagogies or choreographic processes are led and organized, are of most importance for the quality of the experiences of the dance students and dancers.

Hence, which paradigm the teachers work within and how they approach teaching and learning are vital, more than the type of dance technique per se. A more progressive and democratic approach to teaching aesthetic dance forms does not mean students will not develop strong technical expertise or gain thorough understandings of specific traditional dance techniques. Rather, such learning occurs from a more holistic perspective when students can be more actively engaged in own learning, critically reflect, exert agency, and undertake responsibility for their personal movement choices.

Aalten, A. (2005). We dance we don’t live’. Biographical research in dance studies. Discourses in Dance, 3(1), 5-19.

Haraldsen, H. M., Nordin-Bates, S. M., Abrahamsen, F. E., & Halvari, H. (2020). Thriving, Striving, or Just Surviving? TD Learning Conditions, Motivational Processes and Well-Being Among Norwegian Elite Performers in Music, Ballet, and Sport. Roeper Review, 42(2), 109-125.

Rimmer, R. (2017). Negotiating the rules of engagement: exploring perceptions of dance technique learning through Bourdieu’s concept of ‘doxa’. Research in Dance Education, 18(3), 221-236.

Rothmund, I. V. (2019). Å gjøre dansen til sin: Bachelorstudenters levde erfaringer i moderne-og samtidsdans. Doctoral dissertation, Institutionen för kultur och estetik, Stockholms universitet.

Østern, T. P. (2017). Norske samtidsdansutdanninger i spennet mellom modernisme og postmodernisme-tidligere dansestudenters refleksjoner over påvirkningen av en danseutdanning



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