I learned long ago to appreciate art from many different perspectives and was impressed when I caught a 20 second clip of the vid "Single Ladies" a week or two ago. I downloaded the entire clip on iTunes and was really impressed. Technically it is amazing, and the choreography is extremely dynamic.
When I mentioned the clip to a friend I found out that there were lots of funny versions on YouTube so I decided to check a few of those out. I eventually stumbled across an interview with Beyoncé where she explained that her inspiration had been a YouTube video by the choreographer Gwen Verdon, who was the wife of choreographer Bob Fosse. Beyoncé had seen one of the pieces that Verdon had choreographed to a song called Mexican Breakfast in the 60’s. When she saw it she had admired it for being an outstanding example of what could be done with a single take. She further wondered what could be done if you were to take that concept and update it, using technology. The result? Single Ladies! There is even a YouTube version where the Verdon/Fosse version and the Sweet Charity scenes have been combined with the music from Single Ladies, including the run up the wall and the "signature move" that everyone will remember from SLs,
The connection with school reform and redesign? I am always amazed by what creative, talented, inspired artists can do with the ideas and forms that are a part of their heritage. I am also inspired by the creative educators I see who are able to take the influences of the past and update them in new and inspiring ways that are themselves copied and emulated many times. This is the value of the best reform efforts I see going on. They update the past that few of today’s students could relate to, and breathe fresh air into them.
However wonderful and inspiring you may find this particular Beyoncé work, when it comes to a metaphor for school reform, this is my advice: Take a look at all the hundreds of knock off attempts to copy Beyonce’s new work. Everyone seems to think they can copy what was done and be a star! However, most of these are poor quality and laughable and will certainly have little lasting effect. Small wonder to me that most school reform/redesign attempts have very little impact.
I read an article yesterday about a district that had “researched the best school redesign/reform work” and had come to a conclusion of what they would do in their district. My prediction? Look for the equivalent of a knock-off imitation. It will bear strong resemblance to the best of the work that inspired it, but as far as impact on student learning – I wouldn’t hold my breath. Note: Hotlinks to the vids are available on my blog at http://twelchconsulting.com/blog/2009/01/13/25/
Added by Tom Welch at 11:21am on January 13, 2009