Comm speech 2

I have to do another speech, so I’m preparing it here before doing an editorial copy to notecards.

I interviewed Deborah Denenfeld about her dance career.

Summary from the interview:

She initially never thought it could be a career, and worked as a programmer/analyist/project leader with non-profits. She worked with hospitals but was frustrated that she “didn’t see a direct link to the people’s lives she was improving”.

She knew a lot of people in the arts, then go involved with the Kentucky Art Council and was working in elementary schools (sometimes doing residencies) teaching dance, during the 1990’s when Kentucky’s schools had a huge reform because they were “so poor it was illegal”. She mentions the idea that being better at the arts makes students better at all subjects.

She met a psychiatrist at Fort Knox who found the contra dance improved memory. She led some contra dances for people with PTSD and brain damage, and she discovered that contra dance wasn’t the best things for them. She then developed a program that worked better. Debora continued it a year laster, but outside the military with veterans. 2013 she raised money and started Dancing Well in 2014. It beings community dance, simple ol’ time group dance, to vetarans who have brain damage and PTSD and their families. Now she spends most of her time running the non-profit, it is 3/4 of her income. The rest comes calling dances and going into schools for weeks at a time.

She says she is much happer working for herself. It also brings a lot of frustrations, she wishes she had a mentor or business partner. But working on her own means she has time independence and personal responsibility. She “has no one to blame but herself”. She feels her work really makes a difference in the world. “There are people and originazations that keep showing up to support me, so that I can continue doing the work… somehow there is some force that likes this program. And every time I reach a point where I am about to close the door, and give it up… which happens, it happens, something new is dropped in my lap to let me know ‘don’t quit, this is important, keep going.’.”.

Purpose of speech: To inform the audience about how Debora uses communication to teach and call dances, and how communication plays a large role in the effectiveness of her work.

I need to talk about her roles specifically, and I can be more general when talking about why communication is important for calling/teaching and for the people she helps by teaching them dance for wellness.

Part 1

(explain what teaching and calling a dance is for context) (explain the importance of communication skills for a caller)

Communication skills are essential to teaching and “calling” a dance. In many dances, such as contra dances and square dances, the dance consists of a series of moves to be performed in order, then a transition, and repeat, like the chorus of a song. The caller’s job is to teach the dance by walking everyone through it a few times. Then the music starts and the caller recites the same steps and keeps everyone on beat and in sync for the first few cycles of the song.

Calling a dance for a group of experienced dancers is fairly easy, but communication skills become very important for groups of new dancers or in elementary schools, both of which Deborah talks about doing often. She must be absolutely clear, and careful not to use contradictory language or make any mistakes, and she has to go at the right pace for anyone. In a way, it’s just like teaching anything to a group of students except that you can actually see where everyone is instead of relying on tests or written assigments like teachers usually do.

Good observation skills are important to judge what needs to be done. If something is too difficult for the dancers’ skill level in the walk-through, a different dance can be substitude in, or the difficult parts changed.

Part 2

(explain how the dancers also have to use communicaations skills and non-verbal equivalents to normal verbal skills, like balance and giving weight) (explain how excercising these skills is possibly helpful for veterans with PTSD and brain damage)

Deborah runs a non-profit called “Dancing Well”, which uses old time group dances to help veterans with PTSD and other brain damage to improve their well being. Dancing excercises many aspects of communication and provokes learning and social behavior that have psychological benefits. For instance, in partner dances you have to listen to your partner’s body language to avoid making mistakes. There is also the concept of keeping confortable tension, where your joints of contacts are not loose like jelly arms but also isn’t like an arm wresting contest. I believe this is analogous to other forces in everyday interactions, and we can learn to be most like a dynamic spring and less like a pile of jelly or a bulldozer with our communication partners.


Part 1