Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Task 3b: Theories Relating to Networking

Networking is an essential part of a successful career. If a person has the means and the ability to network it can aid their professional development and career progression.

We each use a variety of tools, both internet based and in real life, to network. But are we working to the best of our ability?

What is a professional network?
  • a 'work related community held together by either close working affiliation or a more distant but common work interests or needs.' (1)
Networking [is] creating a group of acquaintances and associates and keeping it active through regular communication for mutual benefit. Networking is based on the question 'How can I help' and not with 'What can I get'?” (2)

A process that fosters the exchange of information and ideas among individuals or groups that share a common interest. Networking may fall into one of two categories - social or business. In the latter category, one of the implicit objectives is to form professional relationships that may boost one's future business and employment prospects.” (3)

Image Source: (4)

Engaging effectively with your professional network may impact positively upon your success... 

Example: a few years ago a couple of performers in the cabaret industry took umbrage at a judge in a certain television talent show using the word 'cabaret' repeatedly to describe an act that they felt was weak or cliched. The two industry performers indirectly worked for this talent show as critics on a YouTube channel run by a national magazine, so they were naturally upset about their work being referred to in a derogatory manner. Using their professional network and connections they created a YouTube response to the situation which, due to the power of personal connections and social networks, went viral, was responded to by the judge themselves, appeared in national newspapers and garnered a public apology from the television show! It just goes to show the power of networking, both personal, professional and through social media!

"Cabariot: Too Cabaret, A Message For Gary Barlow" (2012)

So, how do we create, build and engage our current or intended professional networks?

Axelrod (1984) argues for patterns that exist for cooperation within a network. The “Prisoner's Dilemma” was a game he developed to identify the patterns of behaviour: “to my surprise the winner was the simplest of all the programs submitted, TIT FOR TAT” (5) This strategy was simply to copy the actions of another players last move, or, as the Course Reader suggests: cooperate fully until maximum benefit produced then defect.

The conditions for cooperation were defined by Axelrod as:
I have perceived Axelrod's “Tit For Tat” at work in my personal professional networks: I used to use a website designed primarily for models and photographers to display their work and seek new collaborations. The homepage of the website was designed with a 'ticker' feed to display users messages to the community and a common message was 'Likes for Likes' (i.e. if I liked a photographers image, they would in turn like one of mine, thus pushing the image higher in the chain of priority for the search tool therefore making it more visible to the wider community). On Twitter there was a 'Follow Back' trend, i.e. If I followed a user who had tagged their tweets with this message, they would reciprocate and follow me too, widening the network of connections across the platform.

However Richard Dawkins argues that cooperation, or altruism, is not a natural behaviour, that it is learned. He argues in his book 'The Selfish Gene' that because we learn that cooperation brings mutual rewards, altruism cannot be considered to be entirely altruistic. (7)  This discussion has been going on for an extremely long time! Is there any such thing as a truly selfless act?

[T]here must be some coercive power to compel men equally to the performance of their covenants by the terror of some punishment greater than the benefit they expect by the breach of their covenant.... (8)

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Personally I believe that cooperation is a necessity for a successful professional network. Whether the members of our network are 'friends' or people with whom we have purely a working relationship, cooperation must exist between the members of a network in order to facilitate its existence. Without cooperation the network would be unable to achieve its stated goals or aims.

Cooperation, to me, means working effectively towards the mutually agreed conclusion of a project, or for the further promotion of the network. When I googled 'How to Cooperate' there were hundreds of websites raising different points, each designed to lead people towards to point of cooperation. This indicates to me that people may often find it difficult to cooperate!

The main points brought up from each source, however, were essentially the same. The root of effective cooperation lies in:
  • Each team member having the same goal / Finding common ground
  • Utilising different skills / accepting differences and limitations
  • Effective Communication!
  • Active Listening – engage with the speaker and make notes for further investigation
  • Argue points with facts, not opinion / Don't make issues personal
These are all fairly obvious, yet it seems that when working or networking, we may need reminding of them! I think Effective Communication and Active Listening are the two points I will be taking on board when networking in the future as I tend to let my mind wander at times, and often don't make myself heard when I probably should.

This concept argues that we actively and intuitively seek out networking opportunities in our day-to-day lives, whether professional or personal.

'A successful career requires effective professional networking...' (9)

'It is up to each practitioner to see how to grow their professional networks sideways (to others at an equivalent level) as well as upwards into the established hierarchy.' (10)

'...our tendency to seek out others and form close relationships is an inherited trait that helps us to survive and reproduce by providing us with a network of support that will help us when we are in need.' (11)


To me, this suggests that we innately network, whether we necessarily realise we are doing so or not. There are several events held across London with a specific lean towards a certain group of professionals: I occasionally receive invites to a Dancer's Only event held at a club in Leicester Square, and there are often late night events at venues in Soho aimed at those working in West End Theatres. These are occasions for networking, thinly disguised as social gatherings.

Backstage at shows the members of the cast will affiliate with each other simply due to proximity. This may then lead to a friend request on Facebook, a follow on Twitter, a recommendation on LinkedIn, and the practitioner's professional network has grown through affiliation.

This theory has led me to conclude that most situations could also be taken advantage of as networking occasions. I recently went to watch a friend perform at a venue I had never been to. I was speaking with my friend and the organiser, casually after the event which led to her asking for my business card. I have now opened up a new contact with the potential for future work without any prior intention to do so!

I have been lax about carrying promotional materials in the past, but after clarifying this theory I now take a handful of my business cards with me wherever I go! I am also considering designing a couple of business cards for 'myself' as I intend to work on opening up my professional networks to the industry I wish to work in in the future and I don't think my performer business cards would be particularly appropriate in this scenario!

A brilliant business card design! Image Source:

Social Constructionism
This theory argues for the individualistic point of view towards perceptions of a professional network and the values or engagement each individual places upon it.

What constructionism claims is that meanings are constructed by human beings as they engage with the world they are interpreting. Before there were consciousnesses on earth capable of interpreting the world, the world held no meaning at all.” (13)

I would argue that the Constructivism theory is similar to the Learning Theories proposed by Fleming, Honey & Mumford, Kolb, et. al, as discussed in a previous blog. The meanings ascribed to any specific stimulus is uniquely individual to the one perceiving it:

We need to remind ourselves... that it is human beings who have construed [a tree] as a tree, given it the name and attributed to it the associations we make with trees... 'Tree' is likely to bear quite different connotations in a logging town, an artists' settlement and a treeless slum.” (14)

...learning is always grounded in prior experience and any attempt to foster new learning must take into account that experience.” (15)

Personally my close professional network is also comprised of a group of my good friends: therefore I place a high value on both the personal and professional worth of this network. The worth of this network to an outsider would be higher or lower depending on the individuals perception of the members status within the wider industry.

However, as the individual changes over time, so too will their interpretation of the value placed on their current professional network: if a professional network is no longer necessary to the progression of the practitioner, then it is no longer useful: the Tit For Tat cooperation model in action!

When I was first starting out in Cabaret I placed a high importance on certain shows or events that I felt would positively contribute to my position in the industry. As I progressed to bigger events, the smaller, local networks were no longer of value professionally. I would like to think that I continue to value these connections personally even though, professionally, they may no longer be of direct use to my intended career. I maintain these networks through social media and make an attempt to interact with those involved as I still have a removed interest in their actions and interactions.

I don't know whether I like the theory of Social Constructionism, although I have to admit I can see the point it is trying to make. While I understand that this is obviously how we network, moving through the ranks, so to speak, I don't like what it says about us as people really: consciously placing a lesser or higher importance on a network or an individual based on their value to us at any given time. I think I dislike the almost mercenary perspective it places on networking and, to me, argues against the theory of cooperation mentioned previously.

However, at the same time, I know that this is, as I said, the way we network and social groups become more or less important to us at different stages of our lives and our careers. The value we place on a network today may increase or decrease tomorrow, and similarly, the value we place on our current professional network is specific to us: another person may place higher or lower value on our network than we do ourselves.

Communities of Practice
Communities of Practice was defined by Lave and Wenger (1991) as 'situated learning' – social, informal, often connected with specific social groups, self organising rather than hierarchical: therefore based in a 'community' as opposed to a traditional learning model. (16)

communities of practice are apparent in many professional and other social contexts or 'situations' are that we are all engaged in a number of communities of practice, whose characters and the nature of our engagement my vary considerably and change over time. Our sustained engagement within our communities of practice produce learning...[and places] emphasis on participation over acquisition of specific bodies of knowledge.” (17)

I believe that this links back to a previous blog regarding reflection in the arts: interaction fosters learning and therefore consolidates a professional network. children who are exposed to the arts engage more effectively over time.

A community of practice is a set of relations among persons, activity, and world, over time and in relation with other tangential and overlapping communities of practice. A community of practice is an intrinsic condition for the existence of knowledge, not least because it provides the interprettive support necessary for making sense of its heritage...” (18)

Nowhere is this concept seen more clearly than in Social Media and Web 2.0 – it is a collaborative process of engagement to spread and consume information. Communities of practice also exist on specific websites: fashion bloggers will comment and inform other fashion bloggers, musicians will post videos on YouTube inviting critique (and criticism) from other musicians, etc.

My personal community of practice is based upon those individuals who I work with the most often: they are invited (formally and informally) to comment and advise upon aspects of my personal professional practice, and each member of the community reciprocates in kind. We learn through connecting with one another. I also learn from my wider community of practice, based on my Facebook page: for example - if a performer posts a picture of a costume I particularly admire I might use it as inspiration on a mood board when planning my own costume.

The Cabaret community of practice is comprised of a wide variety of practitioners who, while they may appear to have opposing views, all have the same goal: the continuation and growth of the industry. This is as I stated in my previous blog: that a professional network should be comprised of those who have different areas of expertise, similar areas of interest and the same goal. I am not suggesting that the cabaret community is a perfect network, though. There are too many egos at play to possibly consider it a perfect community, however for the most part, the participants in the community are mutually supportive and supporting, and the industry is founded on this cooperation.

I like the term 'Communities Of Practice' as it implies disparate entities working, if not together, than for the same outcome, which, to me, is the main working style of the cabaret industry!


There are as many theories and opinions on networking and how to be successful as there are ways to network! This task has helped me look at the ways in which I engage my current professional networks and investigate deeper into the methods by which I make use of the communities with which I am involved.

I believe that many of the proposed theories of networking are innate behaviours: Darwin, however, posed the famous theory of evolution; 'The Survival Of The Fittest', so from an evolutionary, hereditary perspective, the idea of altruism simply does not fit, whereas cooperation for mutual gain does. I feel that this purely selfish interpretation does not take into account networks that are built on a foundation of friendship, but it does provide a starting point for investigation into why we are drawn to network and affiliate with others. A network of individuals working towards a single goal is naturally stronger than one person working alone, so maybe that is Darwinian in its way!

"Simply, a 'professional network' is really a group of friends who like each other and are willing to help each other out when times get tough professionally." (19)

The methods discussed in the Course Reader provided me with points for consideration while working through this task, and I am sure I will be utilising some of these theories, and focussing on some of the points raised, as I begin to build a new professional network for my intended future career.

  6. AXELROD, 1984
  8. HOBBES, 1651 P.120

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Theatre Thoughts: Ethics of Image

Thoughts on ethics of training, promotion and image...

Image Source:

Ethical Considerations
I recently made a comment on a blog that led me to a conversation with a dance teacher friend of mine about the ethical implications of images. The student in question had posed an interesting point that made me think deeper about the pros and cons of the point she raised. As a dance teacher she had stated that she always used current images on her website: this is obviously an important advert for the school as she mentioned that previous schools she had taught at we using extremely old images, and promoting themselves on the stage and television success, of students that were no longer at the school and not taught by the current teachers of the classes. Ethically, can a school promote themselves this way when the teachers now there were not responsible for these success stories?

In my day job I work with a lot of dance schools, and they often post pictures to Facebook or their websites of their students, shows, classes, etc. Their websites are simple and easy to navigate showing the location of the school and their class times, to enable parents to decide whether the times and locations are suitable for their children and their lifestyles. I understand this. However the scary thought that occurred to me while commenting was the following: the images are easily accessible through the website, that anyone can find and view. The classes are clearly marked and the location and times are obvious. Anyone can see a picture of a particular child and easily work out where they will be and at what time. This is quite a terrifying thought and it's terrible that we have to think this way, but what are the ethical implications of this?

On the one hand, the schools have to advertise, otherwise the business would fail. On the other hand, how can a school successfully advertise themselves while still protecting the identities of the children involved?

Image Source:

Another blog that got me thinking was the importance of image in the performing arts. As performers are we judged more for what we look like than what we can do? I believe yes. I have lost work in the past because of my body type and (in my opinion) less talented performers are having greater success because they adhere to the current commercially acceptable ideal.

In an industry based on talent, why does image hold such great sway over the casting process? When I was training, we were told to always attend auditions wearing full make-up with neat hair, and auditions I attended were full of model-type dancers wearing not very much to show off their figures. Now, I can dance as well wearing my jazz-pants and a vest top as I can wearing fishnet tights and a bra. My make-up has no effect on my voice. However to suggest to a performer that they attend an audition in a pair of jeans and a hoody would be unthinkable (unless that's what the character would wear!)

So why this focus on image before we have even had a chance to show what we can do? I understand that for certain jobs we have to look a certain way and presenting ourselves in this manner allows a casting director to see us more clearly in that role, but otherwise, surely the better dancer/actor/singer deserves the job over the one who has had their hair and nails done for the day?

An actress friend of mine has recently been cast in a new show. She is desperately trying to loose weight before rehearsals begin, despite getting the job while looking a certain way, and under no pressure from the production team to change her appearance. Why is she doing this? To feel better about herself? To fit into what she believes the expectation of her character should be? I don't know.

P.S. I wrote most of this while trying to fight a cat off the laptop (fighting my typing fingers and chasing the mouse pointer across the screen) so apologies for any random spelling mistakes or the odd 'Q' that might appear! I did proof-read before posting but this is just an apology in case I missed any!

Originally Published at

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Task 3a: Current Networks

This task called upon the tools of reflection covered previously in the course to look inwards and out at our personal networks, identifying both the ways in which we currently use and engage our networks and the tools we could use in the future to make more effective use of our established methods.

Network Definition: from OED online

What are the current and different ways (tools) that you have, or do, engage your professional network
Below I have posted a picture of the ways in which I engage my current professional networks.

The first column shows the tools I use both personally and as a performer to engage directly with my industry: I have a separate Facebook Profile and Page, a Twitter account for my performance persona as well as for 'myself', separate websites, different LinkedIn and YouTube pages, under both my performer name and my real name. These are direct points of contact with my professional persona and therefore I aim to keep it distinct from my given name, as far as possible, due to the personal and ethical implications of the work I do and how it may reflect upon me as a person in the future.

The second column shows the tools I use less often and less formally: i.e. I only have one account, one presence on these platforms. I found early on in my performance career that these tools did not necessarily work for me in terms of engagement with my intended professional network and therefore I only use them informally and not as a tool for work (either performance or otherwise) They are simply a platform for pictures, images, and my interests.

The third column shows the tools I possess for networking away from Social Media – offline engagement, if you will! These show ways I engage with my professional network personally: face to face, when we are backstage at shows or at the same event together. My close professional network have a text message thread that we use to contact each other and make a point of meeting at least once a week. I am fortunate in that my close professional network is completely comprised of close friends: we all work regularly together and this fosters a sense of solidarity and contributes to a solid support structure.

What are the established (and different) ways that others use their networks, especially if they're more established or experienced practitioners that you admire?
Many of the practitioners I admire have been able to harness the power of Social Media outlets that have not worked for me personally: a friend has become a respected fashion blogger through building her network on her blog page – my performer blog is little more than a glorified diary! Another practitioner has grown her brand through Instagram and now has a 'bricks and mortar' vintage clothing shop, which she attributes in part to harnessing the power of this outlet.

I have also heard of people being offered jobs, both for performing and for other, so-called 'real life' work, on the strength of their LinkedIn Profile: this is another outlet that, while I have two profiles on the network, I have never been approached for work, or gained a booking through. LinkedIn is something I intend to look at more in the future when applying for work outside of performing as I believe it has the potential to become a useful tool in my personal arsenal!

Many Cabaret performers use Facebook to advertise shows they are either producing or performing in: it is a way to both promote the show itself, and as a method to enhance personal visibility: if you look busy, you will attract more work!

A poster using an image of myself: used during the tour of a show I performed in. 
Image originally from Scott Chalmers Photography - image use from

Are there methods, approaches and technologies that you use socially that might apply and help you develop your professional networking?
This is an interesting question: is how we network online, or in a personal context different to how we present ourselves professionally?

When I am posting as my performer persona, I write how my 'character' would write – I tend to be quite informal and write in an upbeat style as this is the image I wish to project to potential employers. When I am networking either after a performance or at an industry event, I try to portray the same persona – I use words I wouldn't necessarily use as 'myself': I have caught myself saying things like “This cocktail is simply divine”, or “Your shoes are darling!” whereas, as myself, I would say something along the lines of “I like your shoes”!

If language can be considered a 'tool of networking' then yes, I change my language and style of speech to fit a character.

However, as myself, if I was networking for a job that required 'me' as opposed to my character, I would be much more formal and polite. I speak with a general RP accent anyway so can sound quite 'posh' at times, which can go in my favour depending on the job I am applying for!

I wonder whether using the tools I use as 'myself' would aid or hinder me when networking as my character? In the Cabaret world, everything is heightened and dramatic, and to network effectively in this environment requires me to match that level of emotion, both in person and online. In my real life networking situations, this wouldn't be appropriate at all!

Also, online Social Networks can appear to be quite 'self-orientated': “I am doing this...” “I think that...” and so on. To network this way in a face-to-face scenario would be extremely off-putting. In real-time situations there is much more of a need to engage directly with the person you are speaking with – conversations on Facebook and Twitter can develop through comment threads, however initial statuses, posts or links are nearly always from the point of view of self-interest. Despite networking arguably being always in self-interest, it would be important in an offline scenario not to appear this way! However, the confidence we project online would be a useful strategy to incorporate into face-to-face networking.

Image Source:

When you reflect upon current networks, can you think about the motives of others to be in the network and what values and purposes they have in mind?
In my personal professional network, I am lucky that my close working relationships are with a group of very good friends. Our motive for being in this network is obviously work, as we perform together regularly and produce a couple of shows together, however we are also friends outside of this and often just 'hang out' together outside of a business context: we place value on our personal as well as our professional relationship.

Other networks I consider myself a part could be considered to be purely for work. My motivation for being part of certain networks within the cabaret industry is simply to be 'seen' and to make myself more visible to potential bookers. Within the wider network of my working acquaintances there are a couple of people I consider to be work-friends, and others that I have a purely professional relationship with and would not network with outside of a show or event.

The disparate personal networks of working relationships within the Cabaret industry are all brought together by Social Media networks: there are performers who I have never met, yet I am friends with on Facebook: I follow people on Twitter that I met once, years ago, etc. The motive for us to be on Facebook is to promote ourselves for work and bookings, to make ourselves visible and available and to make connections through Social Media that may lead to real-world connections.

Image Source: - I adore this image as it encapsulates perfectly the notion of the entire world being online, or 'plugged in to the network'!

What would your ideal network look like, and why?
Personally I feel I have found my ideal personal network! The group I work with regularly is comprised of a couple of my very good friends. As we developed a friendship out of our working relationship we each understand the industry and are able to negotiate our place within it – both for ourselves as individuals and ourselves as a group.

We are made up of a group of people who specialise in different areas of the performing arts industry (there is a sound and lighting technician, we have actors, script-writers, musicians, etc), and I feel that because each member of my personal network has something different to offer to the group we can become stronger as a whole, rather than a personal network entirely comprised of, say, drag queens, who would be in competition with one another rather than working as a coherent group.

I believe that this is what a 'perfect' professional network should be: a group of people with different areas of expertise, similar interests and the same goal.

My ideal professional network for my intended career would consist of  practitioners already working in the field, alongside those at the same level to myself who are looking to make a career in the industry. I would also like to network with those who may have retired or moved on from the specific career: this way my ideal network would be comprised of those who are at all levels of their professional development and it would give me the benefit of hindsight, current experience and enthusiasm for role development.

What realistic things could you do towards developing your ideal network?
As mentioned, I am currently happy with my personal professional network! However, to develop it further we would need to expand our network while keeping the core group intact. We can do this in several different ways:
  • As we produce shows, we could expand our network to managers of venues to incorporate them into our themes and ideas
  • Bringing other performers into the network to provide them with opportunities for performance and for further networking!
For the purposes of my intended future career I am aiming to develop a network of practitioners who are working at a higher level to myself. I could do this in a variety of ways utilising Social Media such as LinkedIn and Google+, and looking at attending industry specific networking events. I am researching the industry through print books and internet sources in order to find out more about the field and consolidate my ground knowledge before I approach institutions or individuals for further networking opportunities.

My close personal and professional network! Image used with permission of those shown.

What tools and methods do you need to use? What do you know about your current, and intended networks, and importantly, what do you not know?
In my opinion the network that has worked best for me as a performer is Facebook: as I mentioned in Task 1, the ease of use, high visibility of posts and sheer amount of users adds up to me being able to promote myself easily and effectively with a wide reach.

However, for myself as a 'real person' I know I definitely need to expand my personal professional networks in order to progress in my intended career: I don't know anyone, either personally or professionally who works in the area I wish to pursue, and I am unsure of how to actively go about making connections in this arena. I believe that in order to make the connections I am aiming for I will make greater use of LinkedIn and Google+ as opposed to Facebook (which I use less formally as 'myself' as the only people I add as friends are my actual friends and family!) and use these two platforms to promote myself in the area I am looking into.

I am also intending to research professional networking events aimed at those already working in the area to see if it would be possible for me to attend myself and therefore make personal connections alongside virtual ones.

How have you considered the ethical concerns for networking in the workplace?
As considered through my blog in Task 2, there are many concerns regarding ethical issues in the Cabaret industry: since beginning this course I have been more aware of instances of poor ethical conduct, both in myself and others, and I have been taking measures to address these: including not mentioning performer or venue names, and not tagging people who may appear in my photographs unless permission has been given.

However, on the contrary to this, I have been more aware of respecting the work of others, such as photographers: I recently went through all of my images on my performer profile and made sure the photographers were correctly credited with links to their website or Flickr pages.

When among my personal professional network I do not feel I need to consider ethical implications as they are also my good friends. However when we are performing, whether together as a group or singly at separate venues, again I have become aware of not mentioning names of performers or venues, and not taking photographs backstage unless the other performers around me have given their permissions for me to do so.

As I mentioned in a previous blog, there is always alcohol on offer at Cabaret venues, purely because of the nature of the art form. I never drink before or during a show as it invalidates a performers liability insurance, however, even though I don't usually drink very much anyway, I am making more of an effort to further limit the amount I drink after the shows while still at the venue, to help me make more balanced decisions about the ethical implications of anything I might say or do!

Image Source:

When I first read through this task, I was initially quite confused as to how to begin. I read through the Course Reader and related reading materials several times, searched a little bit online, and then came back to it with a fresh perspective and an inkling of where to begin.

I found the questions posed in the Reader offered excellent starting points to base further inquiry and it has helped me reflect on the ways in which I currently engage, and will aim to engage, with my professional networks, both immediate and future, online and in real life. It has also led me to think more about questions relating to the ways I make use of the networking opportunities available to me, and which ones can be utilised in a personal, professional and future context.

As with many of these tasks I find myself stuck to start with, then as soon as I start writing, I can't stop! Each sentence seems to lead to twenty others and I'm starting to get a little concerned about the word limit on the assessments! 

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Task 2d: Inquiry

Reflection in my personal professional practice was not initially something that was immediately obvious to me, however after studying Reflective Practice I was able to reconsider. I believe I take a 'reflection-in-action' approach to my performance style, however while researching learning and reflection I realised that I do more 'reflection-on-action' than I initially believed:

I specialise in Cabaret, which, by its nature is very spontaneous and occasionally haphazard. Venues rarely have the same layout or audience, and I have to be aware from show to show of how to tailor or adapt my acts to appeal to the client̬le I am presented with: this can be something as obvious as changing the music or the costume, or something as subtle as a facial expression Рbawdy humour may not be appropriate in certain settings where a more refined demeanour is suitable. I realise now that this could be considered an example of 'Reflection in Action', in line with Schon's theories on reflective practise.

I have, for several years, written a blog of my cabaret goings-on. Usually this is more of a diary, detailing things I have done, people I have performed with, and the odd musing that arises from this. I occasionally write more detailed blogs dealing with questions or issues that I either have myself or have been raised by those I work and spend my time with. These have included: 'Combating Burlesque Bullying' to 'A History Of Burlesque'. I realise now that these are reflective pieces, questioning and establishing my professional practice as I see it: an example of 'Reflection on Action'.

Reflection: Simon Turner Photography

What questions do you have?
Regarding my personal professional practice I have been mulling certain aspects of my industry over in my head, or occasionally writing them down in a folder I diplomatically call 'essays' but are really more like extended arguments with myself.

The main questions that have arisen for me in the past are still those that I can talk about or reflect upon for hours. These include: 'What makes a good performer?', 'Why Burlesque?', 'What is the future of Cabaret as an industry and art form?', 'Can a Cabaret show be a coherent performance, linked in any way, or is it, by its nature, disparate?', 'If Cabaret becomes mainstream does it necessarily lose the aspects of Variety and Taboo that underpin it?', 'To what extent is it the performers responsibility to incite audience reaction?', 'Is there such a thing as an “original” act any more?', 'What, if anything, does the word “professional” mean in the Cabaret industry?', 'How does Burlesque Striptease performance affect ideas and ideals of feminism?'...

So you can see I have lots of thoughts and questions already: some of these I have attempted to answer in the past, with varying degrees of success, as I don't know if there is a definitive answer either way. The arts world is constantly in a state of growth, flux and re imagining – without this ephemeral quality entire industries would stagnate.

Definition of Cabaret from the Oxford English Dictionary

Do you see practice that makes you question your ethical code of practice or your personal sense of relatively appropriate behaviour?Always: however in many instances I am forced to question my own ethics. In the context of a performance I often see acts or routines that are challenging: the fact that I am off-put or even offended by these performances, rather than being a reflection on the performer themselves, is an indictment of my personal taste.

Some performers deliberately set out to shock: there are events and venues that specialise in showcasing the extreme end of the variety spectrum with acts including bondage, self-harm and sadomasochism in their routines. These are obviously meant to incite an audience response but also to make us question the limits of our personal ideas of what is or isn't acceptable.

However, the instances that make me question my sense of appropriate behaviour usually take place off-stage. In an industry founded on self-employed artists, the competition for slots at shows can be fierce and obviously this can lead to behaviour between artists, and artists and promoters that could be termed inappropriate: there is one venue promoter in particular who is known for hiring female performers who flirt (rumour says more) with him; accusations of nepotism and favouritism are levelled at most long-running shows or venues, and I have witnessed scenes at times of networking that I would definitely deem inappropriate behaviour in a professional context. Alcohol is always on offer at cabaret venues and this can obviously lead to behaviour that would be out of place in any other working environment: however, again, maybe my reaction to these situations is more to do with my own code of ethics and behaviour rather than an indictment against a particular performer, promoter or standards of conduct.

In the context of Web 2.0 I have made a conscientious effort recently to hold myself to a higher code of ethics. I have never particularly exposed myself emotionally on Social Media as I feel if it is a platform you are using to promote yourself in a professional light it should only be used for work-related business and not personal business – I have several separate Social Media accounts for my performance persona and my real life! I have also never subscribed to the 'Name and Shame' culture: I had an experience recently with a performer criticising an employers attitude on Facebook which quickly spiralled (as these things do thanks to the brevity and anonymity of the internet, into the employer in question receiving threats against themselves, their family and their business, and the performer themselves receiving a police warning for inciting violence! Fortunately none of my personal experiences have been so bitter, however I am acutely aware of the need to remain professional at all times.

Internet Troll: image from ComicVine

What in your daily practice gets you really enthusiastic to find out more? Who do you admire who also works with what makes you enthusiastic?
I am enthusiastic about the entire Cabaret industry! I adore the idea that a variety of performers can come together for one night or one show, create a memorable experience for the audience, then go their separate ways: someone could visit the same venue on two consecutive nights and witness a completely different show.

I have been wondering whether it is possible to create this same sense of spontaneity using a fixed cast of variety performers: several attempts have been made on a small and large scale to recreate this and unfortunately they have, if not failed in their entirety, failed to capture audiences imaginations. A West-End Burlesque production last year hired a couple of variety performers from the London circuit, and auditioned for professional dancers to fill out the cast, and the run closed early. I admire the performers involved for their willingness to experiment with the boundaries of the art-form (even though the show itself was produced and funded by a large, faceless corporation. However it seems to me to answer the question: Cabaret nights are abundant across the country and there are a plethora in London – maybe it is the sense of a passing moment, that the show you are watching will never really be repeated, that truly encapsulates Cabaret?

On the other hand, there are several smaller groups attempting a similar sort of thing: a regular cast of performers working together without the hand of an overriding producer or production company. These smaller groups, because of their nature, are able to experiment more with style and location: despite the cast being fixed for each show they can capture the 'one-night-only' effect of a cabaret show with a rotating cast, yet can still build a strong working relationship between group members. I have a lot of admiration for these groups as they tend to take Cabaret shows to venues and audiences that may not have witnessed such a show previously.

The Spiegeltent at The London Wonderground, which played host to several Cabaret shows over the Summer season: image from

What gets you angry or makes you sad? Who do you admire who shares your feelings or who has found a way to work around the sadness or anger?
As cabaret and burlesque become more mainstream I have found that there is a lean towards a more 'commercially acceptable' body-type. I have personally experienced this on several occasions: one promoter telling me explicitly, that while they felt I was one of their best performers, I had to loose weight if I wished to continue working at the venue (naturally I told them, very politely, what they could do with their job!). On another occasion the issue was skirted around somewhat with the booker replacing me as lead performer at corporate events, but keeping me on for the open events.

I get very angry when I see mediocre performers (in my opinion) able to earn a comfortable living from Cabaret purely because they fit a particular aesthetic, when better performers (again, in my opinion) are working another job or two in order to support themselves and their performance career, simply due to the fact they do not look a certain way.

A performer I particularly admire for this is an American burlesque dancer who has been outspoken about her difficult upbringing and has a history involving alcoholism and domestic abuse: she is also over six-foot tall with an Amazonian physique. She created a routine using voice-overs: over the music disembodied voices shouted hurtful things, the names she had been called, the things she had been told and the abuse she had received. The routine itself is spectacular, culminating in near nudity as she celebrates her triumph over the bullies and the restrictions she had placed on herself as a result of the abuse.

What do you love about what you do? Who do you admire who also seems to love this or is an example of what you love?
As previously mentioned I love most aspects of the industry! I love that a group of otherwise unrelated performers can come together to create an incredible experience for an audience.

Personally I love the feeling of being on-stage. It is a very selfish sort of experience as the audience are clapping and cheering for something I have created: Cabaret and variety performers usually create their own routines, costumes and choreography. When I know I have performed a routine well to an appreciative audience then the feeling as I leave the stage is unmatched. Occasionally, after shows, audience members may tentatively (or not, depending on the amount of alcohol imbibed during their evening!) approach to say how much they enjoyed the show, or a particular routine, which is wonderful.

However the performers I admire the most for this are the hosts or emcee's of the evening: they are the ones responsible for whipping the audiences into a frenzy before the performer sets foot on stage, and they set the tone for the night. They have to remain in character throughout a two or three act show, deal with drunken hecklers, remember the running order, perform several songs, and keep the energy high and audience 'on-side'! There are a couple in particular who have this down to a fine art and are therefore in demand across the world for their skills.

What do you feel you don't understand? Who do you admire who does seem to understand it or who has found a way of making not understanding it interesting or beautiful, or has asked the same questions as you?I definitely don't understand why people are drawn to cabaret as a performance style: many burlesque performers in particular come from no performance background or have no prior performance experience. I feel that it is something to do with the fleeting nature of cabaret: they feel there is no 'hard work' to be put in, no long-term commitment, and no one to let down if they are awful! My opinion is always that: burlesque is a performance style where the audience expectation is that you will end up nearly nude. Surely being naked in front of a room full of strangers is a classic nightmare scenario?!

Having said that, a couple of the top performers on the UK circuit come from a non-performance background: several studied costume and fashion design, and therefore have an understanding of materials, fabrics and shapes that look good on stage. One performer in particular is renowned for her gorgeous costumes, beautiful props and visually stunning routines – she trained in Theatre Design and makes all of her own props and costumes herself. Another performer took up Cabaret performance as a hobby, then realised her limitations and set out to train herself: since starting Burlesque around five or six years ago she has re-trained in Circus, taken classes and workshops in Clowning, Ballet, Pole-Dance, and Acting, and been invited to master-classes in elements of Cabaret performance. Prior to taking up her place at Circus school she held a perfectly respectable accounting job, which fell by the wayside as she found her true passion!

I Don't Understand....: image from

How do you decide the appropriate ethical response in a given situation? To what extent are disciplinary responses different to that you might expect more generally in society?
This was an interesting question for me from a couple of different points.

Backstage: most cabaret shows will have at least one or two burlesque striptease dancers on the bill. Because, as previously mentioned, the expectation of this sort of act is to end with partial nudity, there are often a lot of naked people backstage; I have seen people sitting doing admin while nearly naked, we chat on the phone, do our make-up, eat, drink and greet other arriving performers in a state of near or total nudity. This has become completely normal for me (although it's interesting to see the reaction of newer performers or those who have come to cabaret from other disciplines such as circus!) The correct ethical response is to not even react. The naked body is a natural, common, human thing, and therefore does not even need to be commented on. However, if I was in a communal changing room in a clothes shop I would not strip down and parade around in my panties! Performers often have to be helped into their costumes which obviously deems necessary a level of physical contact that would have people reaching for their pepper spray if it happened in public. However, backstage, everyone accepts that it is a so-called 'safe space' and therefore are much more intimate, even with relative strangers, than they would be elsewhere.

On Stage: I posted above the OED's definition of 'Cabaret': I have also heard it defined similarly with the additional: “Entertainment that breaks down the 'fourth wall'.”
Cabaret performers are 'characters'. The character may be a complete opposite to the performers natural persona, or simply a heightened version of themselves. This gives a cabaret artist license to do things that would otherwise be deemed inappropriate: for example, I have seen performers who sit on members of the audience, steal drinks or food from their tables, drag them out of their seats and make them complicit in their acts, all as part of a routine. I have been guilty of one or two of these myself! This is behaviour that would be completely unacceptable in any other given circumstance, however the creation of the performers character, and the licence given to them by dint of fact that it is a 'performance' permits the audience to allow this. One of my favourite quotes on this comes from a cabaret comedic-magician who talks about the smoking ban as he lights a cigarette: “Smoking indoors is still allowed if it is part of a venues entertainment programme, so the next time you're stuck at a bar and fancy a cigarette just pop a little box down on the floor and stand on it. If anyone tells you to stop just tell them it's performance art.

Post-Show: This is where it all gets a little bit muddy for the professional cabaret performer. As mentioned, alcohol is served at cabaret shows, and therefore there can be occasions where audience members feel that, because they have seen a performer in a state of undress, or that a performer may have accosted them during a routine, they then have the right to continue this kind of behaviour once the show has finished. I recently saw a fellow performer, while onstage, during her routine, be groped by a female member of the audience who, when challenged, responded with “Well you put your foot on me in your last routine, and I'm a woman as well so it doesn't count!”

Fortunately, situations like this are few and far between, however unfortunately they do happen and the performer simply has to carry on rather than interrupt their act. After the show it can be harder to remain polite but firm as heightened emotions (from alcohol or the persons natural temperament) can often spill over into an unpleasant situation.

Promoters or bookers will often visit other shows in the area to both support a local scene and scout performers for their own shows (this is not like poaching or head-hunting as we are all freelance and not committed to just one venue or event!) so it is always essential to remain polite and professional, even when the show is over and the performer may feel that their job is done. Also, to be unprofessional at an event would almost definitely mean not getting booked there in the future and for performers who live from one gig to the next this would be a disaster!


This task has raised some very interesting questions for me about further lines of enquiry to consider. Prior to this I only had a very muddled idea about where to take a professional inquiry and had no clear route I thought I could take this down.
Answering the questions posed above has made me consider a couple of things that I hadn't previously thought of, and opened up different routes to explore based on questions I already had. When I looked through my journal I realise that I am questioning or commenting on the same things time and time again, and this will form the basis of my enquiry.

I am leaning towards a focus on performance in and of itself – in the context of my personal professional practice the performance element is what I enjoy the most, rather than the administration, promotion or creation of an act, so this is naturally where I will find the most 'food for thought'.

The two questions I have posed below I have developed as they will allow me to cover many of the aspects I have already considered in the past or discussed in this blog, and I feel they will have a wider arc of discovery than a question with a narrower focus.

Image from

Questions that I am considering so far:
* What makes a good performer? Why do audiences react differently to two performers of the same style? What makes one performer popular (to audiences and bookers) and another less so? Is there a marked difference of opinion on this between casual audience members, cabaret enthusiasts and others in the industry? Is there a difference of opinion regarding body types, or a particular 'look' that is considered by audience members to make a 'better' performer?

* How much is it the performers responsibility to incite an audience reaction? How much of the reaction is dependant on the host creating the atmosphere? Audiences are expected to cheer at visual cues; how much of their reaction is based on following this protocol? How does audience reaction differ from venue to venue, or between acts, between styles, or from one event to another? What is the expected audience response across art forms other than cabaret, and, if there is a difference, why?

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Task 2c: A Critical Reflection on Reflective Practises

Reflective Practises offer alternative ways to look at your experiences, in order to compare them to your own and other people's existing understanding beyond its present capacity, and to learn something 'new' (1)

Whether your form of reflection is writing (I always find writing things down, and puzzling things through on paper is a useful way to make sense of learning), meditation (Concentrating and reflecting on a problem in this way, without outside distractions can be a useful way of solving issues when they seem particularly confusing), or talking them through with another person, (gaining another's perspective can be useful when trying to work things out: people often learn through teaching!) it is an invaluable tool when learning something new, whether physical or academic, whether we realise we are reflecting or not!

Learning about reflection has helped me see that I use this tool all the time in my day-to-day life and my professional practise, without even realising I was doing it!

...learning is always grounded in prior experience and... any attempt to promote new learning must take into account that experience...” (2)

As an example of this: I have recently been trying to learn a new language, Polish, as my boyfriends family are from Poland. Regardless of the fact that it is a difficult language anyway, I find that I am struggling to pick up even simple words and phrases and remember them when needed. Boud's statement resonated with me regarding this: I learned French from an early age, and continued studying French and Spanish during school. Because of this I can pick up elements of Italian and make myself understood, in a basic way, in these three languages. However Polish has Slovak roots rather than Latinate (the basis for many Western languages) and this is something I have never come across before. I believe this is the reason I am struggling so much with the language as I have no prior experience in anything similar.

From a dance perspective: Ballet is considered the root of all dance, and any dance training will base their foundations on this discipline. Without ballet, and the experience of this art form, it is harder to learn most other dance styles (even Tap and Contemporary: as the old saying goes “You have to know the rules before you can break them!)

Understanding what you don't know is important because it is the first stage of learning: seeing something is missing. Then you are open to finding.” (3)

Sometimes we know something without even realising that we know it: “One must understand what is being defined in order that one judge for oneself the accuracy... Moreover, the definition itself must be understood...” (4)
Recently on this course we were introduced to the idea of 'Web 2.0' – as someone who uses computers and the internet casually I immediately thought we were being plunged into the dark recesses of computer programming. However, we can refer to this simply as 'Social Media', which makes it, to my generation, a lot simpler, more accessible and more easily understood. I knew what social media was before I heard the term Web 2.0, however if I had no experience of the internet; specifically Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, YouTube, etc – I would not have been able to make sense of this definition when presented with the alternative. My experience of social media, prior to beginning the course, allowed me to learn both a new term and investigate it further, building new learning on the foundations of previously existing knowledge.


Learning and Reflection in the Arts

Dewey (educationist: professional educator/educational theorist) saw education as an 'experiential action': the quality of a persons education was linked to the level of engagement with and consciousness of this experience.

Studies have backed this up, time and time again - the more a child is stimulated by, and interacts with, their environment, the more they will learn: “...devote substantial time and effort to a task... care about the quality of their work, and when they commit themselves...the work seems to have significance beyond it's personal instrumental value.” (5)

Tristan de Frondville is a Project Learning Consultant in the USA who also advocates the use of journals. He makes the point that in Japan (ranked top in the world for education, based on student development and investment (6)) teachers make use of “...the last five minutes of class as a time for summarizing, sharing and reflecting... Students write regular reflections on the work they have done.” (7) This is used as a way to stimulate reflection and conversation, and a tool to initiate conversation between students and teachers.

...interaction with the arts led to a unique and valuable experience.” (8)

StageCoach is a UK-based network of part-time performing arts schools: they recently conducted a survey among the parents of their students: they were asked whether they thought their child had improved in several different areas since taking up an element of the performing arts as a hobby:


I believe, along with Dewey, that this is because the performing arts requires a level of engagement above and beyond simply sitting and learning: it is physically and mentally stimulating and, by its very nature, encourages interaction, skill-development and personal reflection-in-action.

As performers we naturally learn and develop by engaging with the material we are given: reading the script, practising those tendu's, etc. Naturally the harder we work (engage) in a Ballet class, the better we will become. Reflective practises can be used in this instance to study our movement and reflect on our progress ("How can I make this turn sharper?" "What do I need to do to jump higher?" etc.)

Reflective Thought [is an] active, persistant and careful consideration of any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the grounds that support it and the further conclusions to which it tends.” (10)


Theories On Learning

David Kolb developed the idea of a 'Learning Cycle' to be used as a tool for reflection on how you learn, and a tool for approaching experience.

This is a representation of Kolb's Learning Cycle that I copied out myself as a way to make sense of what I was looking at... (11)

This 'Learning Cycle' can be used to represent practises and reflection in the arts: we watch the teacher demonstrate a move, we mark through a routine, we prepare ourselves to dance, then we perform the movement. Once this is over we reflect on our execution and the process begins again.

Kolb's Learning Cycle is a useful tool when faced with an immediate issue: I feel that it helps break down a problem solving process into easier steps, however in the example of a dance student I presented above, this process may be subliminal rather than explicitly recognized.

Although we all have concrete experiences, reflective observations, abstract concepts and actively experiment, the difference between us is the point at which we start to learn... (12)

Kolb... believes that one can learn by being a converger (strong in the practical application of ideas, approaching learning in an unemotional fashion and has relatively narrow interests), a diverger (one who has a strong imagination, is good at generating ideas and seeing things from different perspectives, and has a broad range of interests), an assimilator (one with a strong ability to create theoretical models, who excels in inductive reasoning, and tends to be more concerned with abstract concepts than with people), or an accommodator (one whose greatest strength is doing things, is comfortable taking risks, performs well when required to react to immediate circumstances, and solves problems intuitively)” (13)

Several studies have used this basis as a starting point for their own research: For example Honey and Mumford created four 'Stages' based on Kolb's 'Cycle' to put forward their own theory on how we learn:


These two theories both show that reflection on experience and personal development are considered to be essential components of the learning process.

At which point in Kolb's 'cycle' do you feel you enter learning?
Using the example of this blog: I already felt like I knew what I was doing as I have kept a blog for several years. When I set up my original blog site I relied mostly on trial and error to determine the layout, the backgrounds, the fonts, etc. I would visit other peoples blogs across the platform to see what the possibilities for design were, and experimented with different backgrounds, layouts and formats using the features available through the website. According to Kolb's Learning Cycle I enter Learning through a combination of Active Experimentation and Reflective Observation.

Other Insights
Richard Felder (co-developer of the Index Of Learning Styles) took Kolb's theory a step further and proposed that there are eight types of learners:


There is also the VARK Style: a guide developed by Neil Fleming to determine Learning Styles.


This theory gained popularity in the mid to late nineties and an attempt was made in several Primary Schools to adopt Fleming's theory as part of the methods of teaching: a personal source recalls taking a test and being labelled a Kinesthetic Learner. She was given a blue sticker to wear. This was supposed to enable the teachers to identify students who may struggle learning new information and allow them to adapt their teaching style for individual students. This source states that the children wore the coloured stickers for a couple of weeks, then the move lost momentum, possibly because it was difficult for the teachers (who probably fit into one of the learning styles themselves) to teach in individual styles.

From these examples we can see that most researchers agree that we all learn in different ways, however there is some debate on quite how many different ways there are! Maybe it cannot be defined exactly, as I believe most people will learn through a combination of different styles depending on the subject or activity they are learning from.

For the purposes of this task, and for my own interest, I took the VARK Questionnaire. My results were:

This is what Fleming terms a 'multi-model learning preference' and from it I can see that I take in and absorb information and learning in a variety of different ways, with a lean towards reading and writing: I accept this as true as I find that when I'm struggling with new information I have to either read it through several times or write it down, even if I am reading it from another text, the act of reading then writing allows me to make sense of the process of learning. Even when learning a piece of choreography I use my own form of notation to mark my movements and write down, longhand, each step of the routine. This also serves to support my earlier theory that people learn through a variety of different methods and in a range of styles.

An example of my personal notation when learning a new routine

I would imagine that people in the Performing Arts have just as varied styles of learning: Actors would probably learn best through reading (scripts, stage directions, etc), Dancers obviously have to learn choreography through actually dancing (although there are several different styles of notation there are probably only a handful who could simply study a sheet of Labanotation and be able to perform the routine on stage!) and Singers would probably learn best Aurally or Auditory.

Howard Gardner is an American developmental psychologist who proposed the theory of multiple intelligences. He believed that a learning style “...should not limit you by making you feel you are one kind of learner, but they can be used as a tool for your understanding of how you and others learn. They give value to the different ways we can engage with real world experiences.” (17)

Gardner cited seven Criteria to determine when a behaviour can be called an 'intelligence', and eight Abilities that he chose to meet those Criteria. These included:


Gardner believed that intelligence was “...the ability to create an effective product or offer a service that is valued in a culture [or] a set of skills that make it possible to solve problems, [or] the potential for finding or creating solutions for problems, which involves gathering new knowledge.” (19)

However, an opposing argument against the Multiple Intelligences theory is that Gardner is challenging the view of 'intelligence' as it is traditionally understood and instead his 'Abilities' are actually real-world 'Skills'. In particular Robert White states that Gardner's “...application of criteria for his 'intelligences' is subjective and arbitrary...” (20) In his argument, White claims that the 'Abilities' are simply words chosen at random and that another researcher would have proposed completely different categorizations. I personally agree with White's statement, however I believe that the names of the 'Abilities' or 'Skills' are simply definitions for supporting the learning process and therefore it doesn't necessarily matter what they are called as long as there is a general agreement about what the abilities and processes are.

Honey and Mumford, who created the 'Stages' based on Kolb's Learning Cycle also proposed four different learning styles:


Honey believes that by knowing your learning style a person can “...become smarter at getting a better fit between learning opportunities and the way you learn best. This makes your learning easier, more effective and more enjoyable... However to be an effective learner you should also develop the ability to learn in other styles too.” (22) Once again this corroborates an earlier statement that people learn with a variety of different methods and styles, and that to pigeon-hole a learner into one style may actually have a detrimental effect on their overall progression and development.
All of the theories and models discussed show, either directly or indirectly, that Experience and Reflection on an Experience are crucial steps in learning.

While this may have seem slightly removed from the original point of the essay I believe it is essential as it corroborates the earlier point that when a learner is engaged with the material being learned, the quality and depth of learning is enhanced.
By understanding your learning style and preferences you can gain insight into your own development whether academic, personal or professional. Reflecting upon the ways in which you have learned something can be useful in identifying your personal learning style.
It is important to have an understanding of styles of learning and types of intelligences when considering your own personal practice. For example: having trained as a dancer, it may be assumed that I have a Musical or Bodily-Kinasthetic intelligence (GARDNER) and learn through Active Experimentation (KOLB), However, through research and my own understanding of how I best assimilate new information I believe I have a Verbal-Linguistic or Intrapersonal intelligence and learn through Reflective Observation.
Reflective Practice is allowing me to understand more about the ways in which I and other people learn and develop skills.

Donald Schon (1930-1997) introduced two ideas of 'ways of learning' (and the personalities he felt they corresponded to), that are directly applicable to learning in the arts


He proposed that learning can happen at the time of the event, or that it can happen while looking back on the event, although Kottcamp argues that “...Reflection-In-Action is harder to achieve but more powerful for improvement of practise...[However] Reflection-On-Action is accomplished...when full attention can be given to analysis...” (24) Which he also likens to 'on-line' and 'off-line' engagement, or, that we can learn 'in the moment' or by reflection on the moment once it has passed.

I believe that, as dancers and performers, our backgrounds impact on the way we reflect and therefore learn. I think that, without most of us realising it, we are utilising Schon's theory of Reflection-In-Action most of the time: when training we learn and remember the steps to a routine by doing them, when performing we correct our positioning, allow for variations in the staging and react to the music all while dancing our little hearts out! Personally I feel I use Reflection-In-Action whenever I perform; to adapt my routine to the audience reaction, to the shape of the stage, the layout of the room, any hazards (such as a stray glass of wine or a previous performers prop!) that might appear on the stage, etc...

However, I now realise that I also use Reflection-On-Action more than I initially thought: when choreographing or creating a routine I like to write notes for myself and occasionally film my routine so I can watch it back and attempt to view myself impartially. For me, a combination of the two styles of reflection work best.

My opinion is supported by J.C. Polanyi, a Scientist who stated “...we can know more than we can tell.” (25) This upholds the importance of reflection to support learning in order to better articulate our process and practice by suggesting that all knowledge is tacit (understood), it is just the level of understanding that varies, so a range of practises to support reflection are essential learning tools.

Schon's theory of artists utilising Reflection-In-Action is also supported by Twyla Tharp, the choreographer, who believes that dance is a tacit knowledge: something that is simply understood: “...memory of movement doesn't need to be accessed through conscious effort.” (26)

Tharp is suggesting that reflection does not necessarily need to be written down. The course reader makes the point that Reflection does not have to happen as a written process but that it is still important to articulate the reflective process in order to recall ideas or plan for future actions:

The journal is not the process but becomes the outcome of the reflective practise with which you engage.” (27)

In an industry such as the arts, which is constantly changing and evolving, it is important to reflect on our personal professional practise in order to make sense of change, identify areas for improvement and growth, and allow us to chart our own development as performers. A combination of Reflection-in-action and Reflection-on-action is, in my opinion, the best way to learn, utilising our Kinesthetic preference as performers yet utilising other methods of reflection in order to make sense of our learning processes.


Ethical Issues on Reflection

Keeping a personal, private journal does not necessarily carry any ethical issues: it is a record of our own thoughts, actions and emotions, and therefore we owe it to ourselves to be as open an honest as possible, even when considering difficult topics.

However when publishing personal reflections, ethical issues do arise. Work on the internet is protected by copyright laws in the same way that hard-copies are: always ask permissions when using other peoples work, or at the very least credit the creator and link to the original work online. Some website terms and conditions allow free use of work posted on their sites, so we should make it a habit to check these: it is also advisable to add your own terms and conditions on your profile page of any website where your personal work is displayed (Flickr, Instagram, etc).

Names of people and places are often changed when blogging online, or not mentioned at all: I make a point of referring to personal sources as “A friend” or “A colleague”, and never mention venues by name unless I have asked permission and the venue is happy for me to use their name in the context of my professional practise.

Ethical issues regarding children fortunately don't arise for me very often as my personal professional experience is strictly over-eighteens! However for teachers, dance teachers, social workers, nurses, etc, it is advisable to not post pictures of the children they work with online, as the world of Web 2.0 can be extremely small and we rarely have as much control over our privacy as we believe (This blog by a fellow student on the BAPP Arts course makes this point very well). It is fine to use personal images as long as those pictured have given their permission, however the law does not usually take into account or consider the permissions of those under the age of majority, which is usually age fourteen (28)



This has been an extremely interesting task: I have been challenged in several ways and been made to consider both my own use of reflection in my professional practise and the ways others have approached and studied the tools at their disposal.

A variety of resources and approaches, to me, seems the best way to reflect on personal practise in order to aid both professional and personal development: since keeping my journal I have noticed a deeper personal engagement with my professional practise as it has encouraged me to consider questions and trains of thought that have previously been idle musings, and develop them into critical questions that assist me in questioning my code of practise and professional involvement. This opinion is supported by those I have studied, such as Honey and Mumford, and Fleming.

Finding out the ways I, and others, approach reflection allows me to experiment with different approaches that I would not have considered: a friend suggested using a dictaphone and showed me an app for the iPhone that writes, as notes, personal dictation! This is a wonderful tool for me and corresponds with the Learning Style I identified strongest with, as proposed by Fleming (Read/Write), and allows me to easily access any notes without having to listen to months worth of dictation.

All of the research into intelligence, styles and methods of learning uphold the important of reflection in order to support the learning process. It has impacted on me how essential reflective practices are, especially when studying something new, in order to make sense of both the information being learned and the process of learning. After all, as discussed at the start, all new learning must be built on a foundation of existing knowledge and reflection allows us to make links between knowledge already gained and new information.

  4. McFEE, 1992