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CCCC 2006 in Review

B2 Movement as a Catalyst for Writing

Chris Kreiser, "Communities of Improvisers Then and Now: Classical Rhetoric, Modern Dance, and What They Teach Us about Developing Student Voice"

I am interested in the overlap between the areas of composition and performance studies, so I was glad to see this panel in the CCCC guide. Kreiser analyzed the exercises used in dance classes, specifically in classes that deal with contact improvisation, to see what can be transferred to a composition class. (For those who may be unfamiliar with the term, contact improvisation is movement based not on previously determined choreography, but is created spontaneously based on a theme, some sort of game structure, or through collaboration with a partner or partners.) Specifically, Chris described two exercises used in contact improvisation. "The Fuzzy Dance" is about the dancers moving on the floor in order to "get comfortable." He sees this dance as being "low-level," "repetitive," and "comfortable," and he devised an exercise using "writing technique journals" that fulfills the same criteria for a composition class. The other exercise he discussed, "Walk in Space," in which the dancers move about as they imagine their space diminishing, is used as inspiration for an exercise in which two students collaborate with two published authors. An important point about both of these adaptations is that Kreiser does not attempt to bring improvisation exercises into the composition classroom; he works to understand the goals of the improvisation exercises and he devises exercises that will help meet similar goals.

Barry Kroll, "Arguing with Adversaries: Aiki Rhetoric as an Art of Peace"

Kroll showed how he adapts some ideas from Aikido into the rhetoric classroom. Aikido, he pointed out, is not about meeting force with force, but is really about harmony. In a rare moment in which an academic at a conference gets up from behind the table and moves his body, Kroll demonstrated with a volunteer something he called a "spherical move." It began with Kroll facing the volunteer in a confrontational pose, and ended, by a simple deflection, with the two adversaries standing shoulder to shoulder and facing in the same direction. Kroll explained how this is a useful idea in an argumentation context, since ethical and effective rhetoricians look for areas of agreement; they don't simply batter their opponents. He found that his students respond to this example of training the mind by training the body.

Jennifer Schulz "The Pedagogy of 'Pointing': Play, Dialogue, and Experience in the Writing Classroom," Schultz is a psychotherapist/compositionist at Seattle University and described a group exercise that may be useful as a "warm-up" in various writing classes. She starts with a provocative, or even difficult, text and asks students to freewrite based on that text. She then has them "point" to specific words or phrases that stick out for them (similar to Elbow). Students compile lists of "resonant words and phrases" and use them in poems. The advantages of this exercise include putting everybody at the same level, giving people the pleasure of seeing their words quoted back to them, fostering collaboration, and producing new meaning from a text. Schultz's exercise seems like it would be worthwhile, although I am not sure why it was on a panel that has to do with movement.

— Fred Siegel

CCCC ConventionFor more information on the CCCC 2006 conference,
visit the NCTE Web site at http://www.ncte.org/profdev/conv/cccc/.