Assignments for 6/17/10

Assignment #1:
Reggaeton Research Experience (Grades 9-12)

Pretest: Answer these questions to the best of your ability without conducting any additional research.

1. What is reggaeton?
2. Where did it originate?
3. What are three of its main characteristics?
4. What American music style does reggaeton resemble, in your opinion?
5. Describe "Gasolina."
6. What styles of Latin music influenced reggaeton?
7. In your opinion, why don't you think reggaeton is as big of a music genre in America as it is elsewhere in the world?

Now, visit these sites to learn more about reggaeton:

Listen to "Gasolina" on

Now, take the pretest as a post-test. Submit both your pre- and post-test results at the end of the class period.

Assignment #2: Beginning Choreography (Grades 9-12)

Female singers were particularly successful in popular music during the last ten years for their introspective, soulful and sometimes folksy music. Most of you have listened to Alicia Keys, Nelly Furtado, Norah Jones, Pink or Michelle Branch. Choose a song by one of these artists and analyze the lyrics. What themes, emotions or images come to mind for you? How would you describe the feel of the song?

Using your answers to these questions as the basis, create a short 2-minute dance that captures your introspective side. Remember, these dances do not have to be literal interpretations of the songs - I'd prefer that they were more abstract. Be prepared to discuss with the class how the song lyrics you chose influenced your movement choices.

As always, these dances must incorporate the basic choreographic elements of time, space, energy and form. You do not need to perform your dance to your chosen song, although that is an option for you if you would like.

Where Has Music Gone in the Last Ten Years?

The chapter I chose to read for our last assignment was the last chapter in the book: Getting Back to Business. Among other things, the chapter profiled rock 'n roll's reemergence post-9/11 and the development of female singers, hip-hop, Latin music and raggaeton. What did I learn from this reading?

America Was Mad, and So Was its Music
Following the terrifying months after 9/11, the country was thrown into a precarious climate; citizens were encouraged to carry on with their lives as normal, but too much normalcy was seen as crass and in bad taste. I remember working for the Target Corporation public relations department during this time, and the marketing team decided to mount a marketing blitz for the hip store based on the notion of "staying home." Suddenly, Target consumers were encouraged to stock up on stay-at-home items and snuggle up in cozy little cabins as smoke gently drifted out of the chimney. Target's philosophy was that if Americans were staying home, then the company should capitalize on the trend. But as Reebee Garofalo points out in this chapter, American music changed during this time too. People may have been staying home, but they weren't suddenly listening to feel good music. No Barry Manilow here. Rather, they were listening - and buying - music that was angry, incongruent and much like the rock ' roll of early days, "in the buildup to the War in Afghanistan, which enjoyed tremendous popular support, it is not difficult to imagine that the more aggressive sounds of hard rock might have been the preferred sounds" (511). Funny, it's hard to picture Mom and Dad cozily wrapped up on the couch, with little girl and junior playing on the floor, while Creed and Blink 182 plays in the background.

Female Singers are an Anomaly -- Sort of
A significant section of this chapter was devoted to the female singer and her rise to power in the music industry during the last ten years. While I appreciated the information about contemporary female artists, and even smiled when the author came to the same conclusions about Norah Jones as I did in my review of her music, I was somewhat dismayed that the author believed that only in the last ten years have female singers "come into their own." I'm sorry, but if the last ten years was about the female artist leading the pack, just what does that mean about female artists in the 80s like Madonna and Cyndi Lauper? Garofalo writes, "As if to provide a balance to the male-dominated, angst-ridden post-grunge sounds of the period, there was also a new generation of female singer/songwriters - Alicia Keys, Norah Jones, Michelle Branch, Vanessa Carleton, Nelly Furtado, and to some extent Avril Levigne and Pink - that eclipsed teen pop with a more soulful brand of introspection" (512). While I agree with the author's conclusion that much of the 2000s was dominated by testosterone-filled music reflecting the nation's testosterone-filled determination to conquer the Middle East, I disagree with his assertion that introspective female writers suddenly showed up on stage. Annie Lennox, Fiona Apple and Tori Amos bared their souls with smart lyrics and emotional nuance before Alicia Keys graduated from high school. Perhaps these early artists were not as well lauded, a reflection of the institutional sexism pervasive in the American music industry.

Some Male Singers Have a Softer Side Too
Jack Johnson, Dave Matthews, John Mayer, David Gray and Howie Day all combated the heaviness of bands like Creed with folk-infused, acoustic-style music. All became successful too. Toward the middle of the decade, hard rock had run its course, and listeners were perhaps ready to embrace a softer side of music. Hence, male musicians like the one's listed above, found success with their soulful and sometimes more romantic type of music. Garofalo suggests that despite their success, these musicians found a formula that worked, and used it over and over again. Perhaps, but these artists are still selling albums, which doesn't make a noteworthy artist per se, but does suggest they have staying power in the industry.

Hip Hop is Back
At one point, a sudden changed occurred on Billboard's Top 10 list. African-American musicians dominated the music scene. In 2003, the Top Ten Singles in America were all by African-American musicians, and hip-hop went from a subgenre in popular music to the genre in popular music. But interestingly, hip-hop iconography did little to shift towards mainstream America. Hip-hop may have enjoyed crossover play on radio stations, but its leaders lived out their tough guy experiences on the street, on stage, on television: geographic rivalry between the east and west coast continued and the society's perception of rappers as thugs seemed to be an image commodity, until Kanye West arrived on the scene. Son of two college professors, West tipped the traditional image of hip-hop rapper on its head. His lyrics and stage presence were no less fierce, but his image was definitely different from others in the hip-hop industry. He wore expensive designer clothing, and seemed to embrace the bourgeois look, if only to criticize it in his music. His colleagues in the industry didn't take to kindly to West's antics. They quickly ridiculed him for not "coming up" on the streets.

It's a Small World After All
Latin music enjoyed brisk success in the last decade, and a new form of hip-hop emerged in Puerto Rico and New York City: raggaeton. Part reggae, part rap, this style of music is comprised of hypnotic beats, sexually aggressive lyrics and swooshing melodies. Born in Puerto Rico, reggaeton has only recently made it to American radio airwaves, thanks to producers Loony Tunes and the single "Gasolina." While I haven't heard a whole lot of pure reggaeton, I believe that a lot of contemporary music played on radio stations is probably influenced by this previously underground style of music. The real question is whether the non-reggaeton artists are even aware of the style's influence. As Garofalo has suggested several times, the American music industry reinforces racist attitudes held by Americans, and I doubt raggaeton is any exception to that rule.

Preparing to Write: Assignment #1
What makes for a good dance review? Research a few dance reviews on or Pay particular attention to reviews written by Rohan Preston and Linda Shapiro.

Next, make a list of ten characteristics of a good review. Be specific. If you notice that the reviewer uses bright adjectives, note that as a characteristic in your list. Be prepared to submit your list of ten characteristics as part of this assignment.

Take a look at titles of dance reviews. What do you notice about them? After searching on the and websites, list five of your favorite dance review titles.

Read the article at this website ( about writing a music review. In one to two paragraphs, describe how writing a music review may be similar to writing a dance review.

Finally, think of two or three questions you'd like to ask a professional dance critic about his or her work. Tomorrow, we will have Linda Shapiro come in and talk about her job as a dance critic.

Submit all of your written material to me as homework.

The Real Deal: Assignment #2
Find a dance show in the next two weeks to review. You are welcome to find any type of a dance show, including a concert at a professional theatre, a dance competition, a dance battle, a dance television show (like So You Think You Can Dance) or a local studio's dance recital. Choose a show that you are really interested in seeing.

Write a 1-2 page review of at least two dances in the show - you can write a review of the whole show if you'd like. Make sure to think about the information you learned in Assignment #1 while you write the review.

Your review should be typed, include a catchy title, list the dance event's information (date, venue, performers/choreographer), and be free of grammatical/spelling errors.

Remember, when referring to the choreographer or a performer in the show, mention their first and last name initially, then refer to them by their last name only for the remainder of the review. After all, chances are you don't know him or her personally, so you shouldn't refer to him or her by first name only.

Norah Jones is genuinely sultry. Her voice, popping on radio airwaves with momentum over five years ago, has proven to be a consistently good sell. Some part jazz, some part pop, most part sweet, Jones' iconic voice is recognizable and alluring. She comes from a prolific line of musicians, and her albums sell like hotcakes. It's understandable if you want to climb into her mind, snoop around and figure out what she's thinking or how she creates. After all, her lyrics are clever, her music enchanting, and her thoughts don't pander to the adolescent but instead reflect an older, more mature listener's experience.

Her latest single, "Chasing Pirates," explores her fantastic adventures while dreaming. Not the typical Jones' love song that we've come to expect from her, "Chasing Pirates" charts the singer's encounter with her own imagination; it sends her flying, sailing and on all sorts of other magical experiences typical of a night time dream. As she sings about her extraordinary escapades, "and I don't know how to slow it down; my mind's racing from chasing pirates," we some how feel a part of the adventure too, as if we are also chasing pirates in our own minds. This is a testament to the relaxed mood of the song. Within a few measures of the intro, we feel the cool breeze rushing through our hair, hear the ocean as waves crash against the shore, and it feels right to just let our mind go. Like Jones, who sings of "the silliest things flopping around in my brain," we too are instantly transported to a place where the bizarre reality of our dreams exists: swashbucklers, clouds floating overhead, and time passing slowly.

Jones' songs always seem unhurried, and "Chasing Pirates" is no exception. Instead of a pulsing beat driving the music forward, this song seems to invite the listeners to dawdle as the bass guitar slides up and down the scales and the drums trip out a light, almost delicate, beat. If the song is about dreaming, the wistful melody seems to support the theme. The rhythm rocks side to side like a boat out at sea. We can't help but be lulled by the continuous, rhythmic sway of the beat.

Interestingly, Jones, who normally sings smart love songs, took a step away from her traditional soundscape to create "Chasing Pirates." This single seems different. Its opening intro is oddly retro and reminiscent of Madonna's song, "Like a Virgin." We don't hear Jones play the piano because the song's sound is more electronic, less acoustical. Her departure from her normal sound may come from a genuinely experimental place, or it may be the result of a clever marketing trick to ensure her audience base continues to build. Either way, this song is refreshing, if not down right soothing. And like a siren at sea, you can't help but listen to her voice over and over again as she sings about the pirates in her dreams.

"Public and Private" Blog & Assignments

I'm not a fan of Twitter. Correction -- I've not signed up for Twitter, I've never used Twitter, and I am not planning to do so in the near future. Facebook, on the other hand, is a friend of mine. I first started using Facebook shortly before the birth of my daughter, and it proved to be a useful tool to get the word out about her birth. Since then, I've used it to keep in touch with my long-lost friends, answer students' questions about homework, and find out new information about people I haven't seen in ages. A small part of my life "exists" on Facebook. I have pictures from my wedding, from the hospital after my daughter's birth, from my vacations and social outings with good friends. Not everyone can see all of these pictures, especially those images I deem to be very personal.

One day, out of boredom, I Google searched my name and discovered - to my dismay--that a picture of my daughter when she was 12 months old popped up. I thought the private pictures were exactly that: private. But alas, her picture was floating in cyberspace. I worry what consequences this will have for her and for me down the road.

Do celebrities worry about the consequences of publishing their image all over the Internet? How much of their Internet identity is under their control, and how much of it is manipulated by the context (publicists, consumers, hackers, etc.)

When I think of bad-boy rock stars (or bad-girl rock stars too), I wonder how much of their image is manufactured by publicists and agents. Take Amy Winehouse for example. The poor girl is really messed up. She is abusive (and abused); she's an addict and a wild card. But so are her songs. Have you heard her early work? She doesn't pretend to be Mariah Carey; she's a misfit who sings about her woes. So every time I hear that she's in jail, I wonder if I'm hearing about her latest transgression because her publicity team wants me to know about it. Similar to the celebrities whose PR team posts Twitter updates to perpetuate a star's image, Winehouse's bad behavior Winehouse's public persona (Marshall, 2010 p. 44).

We are all guilty of feeding the celebrity gossip frenzy. I don't buy supermarket tabloids, but I glance at them when I am in the check out line. I also watch entertainment television shows, like Entertainment Tonight, when I feel compelled to know how the "other half" lives or when some a celebrity has committed a particularly egregious public faux pas. I must also admit that I was transfixed by Michael Jackson's death and subsequent funeral last summer. As I watched the numerous television shows and news clips devoted to Jackson's last days, I realized that I was compelled to watch these ridiculous shows because I was given a small, inside-glance at Jackson the person, not Jackson the singer. Marshall writes about this idea of the public private self as an identity that "implies some sort of further exposure of the individual's life" (p. 44). I learned about aspects of Michael Jackson's life that had been previously unknown to me: he had a secret closet in the master bedroom of his Neverland Ranch, he loved eating fast food, he had a noted addiction to pain killers, he was afraid of being alone. Indeed, I felt like I knew him better as a person after watching the 24-hour coverage of his death, and I certainly felt more connected to his music after grieving alongside his family and friends in the very public, televised funeral. How much of his life was opened up after his death to ensure that his albums would continue to sell? Was the public exposure of Jackson's private life also a simple publicity stunt undergone to raise more money? The answer to both of these questions is probably yes. But having the opportunity to remember what made Jackson so great and inspirational to me as a kid in the early 80s by watching the coverage of his death was also important to me. It's as if I'm willing to forgive the insincerity of his funeral because I got something real out of the experience.

So have various opportunities to construct and present our identity served or hinder our lives? President Obama's advice to graduating seniors is well taken: beware what you put out there, because it just might come back to haunt you (Marshall 45). Veteran political reporter Helen Thomas recently learned this the hard way; her comments to an interviewer about Israel and Palestine have been deemed inappropriate, and she's suffered the consequences because of uttering them. Granted, her thoughts were shared the good old-fashioned way - through an interview - but the point is well taken. Using and abusing social networking sites - or misspeaking in an interview -- can have dire consequences.

Teachers don't earn the same income as celebrities, but they too have to think about their public personal identity because they are held to a higher moral standard than many other people in society. They may not have a microphone shoved in their faces or television cameras documenting their every moment like celebrities do, but one misstep in conversation with a parent, community member or colleague could land them in hot water. Teachers are seen and judged in public based on their physical appearance too. Like celebrities, teachers who drop into a local Target store on the weekend wearing less than socially acceptable clothing or with substandard grooming can become the target of harsh criticism. By now, you may be thinking, "give teachers a break. They are humans like the rest of us!" Or, perhaps I just hope that is what you are thinking. But the real world is not so forgiving of educators. We all know that female teachers can't dress too provocatively lest they woo their high school students; educators shouldn't socialize at public watering holes or engage in otherwise public "risky" behavior (like going dancing at a club). Yep, teachers are considered moral agents, and unlike celebrities who make a gazillion dollars, teacher salaries are modest, at best. One would think that since teachers are expected to be upstanding citizens, the field of education would only recruit well-behaving individuals. We all know that isn't true either.

How different the world would be if teachers, like celebrities, had PR assistance and ghost Twitter writers to manage the very public, private side of their lives.

"Presentation of Self" Assignments

#1: For Advanced Modern Dance Technique
All quarter long, you've been journaling about your experiences in this dance class. You've been asked to reflect upon your technique, your weaknesses as a dancer and the goals you'd like to achieve by the end of the class. Now I'd like you to take a moment to think about yourself as a performer and not as a student.

Every time you dance a combination in class, you are also performing - for the teacher, for your classmates, and for yourself. In fact, I bet one of the reasons you like to dance is because you like to perform. Take a moment to think about yourself as a performer. What things do you do to get ready to perform? How is your identity as a dance performer different from your identity as a teenager, a girl/boy or a regular high school student?

Once you've discovered your performance identity (and you all have one), write about ways in which you can consciously enhance that identity. In other words, what can you do to maximize your dance performance identity in this dance class?

Finally, take a moment to think about how your life or your dancing would change if the performance element suddenly disappeared. We could spend years debating whether this is actually possible, and that's not the point. Rather, I want you to think about how you present yourself in class and what you would do or what things you would change if you knew you didn't have to present a certain aspect of yourself through your dancing.

Your journal response should be 1-2 pages at a minimum. As always, I won't read your entries, but I will ask you to share a thought or two in class when we begin a whole class discussion about "performance self" tomorrow.

#2: Dance Careers Job Searching and Resume Writing
This assignment has several steps to it; make sure you do each step before proceeding with the assignment.

Choose your favorite contemporary celebrity. Using images in newspapers, magazines or online, create a collage that best depicts his/her public persona. For example, if you think Beyonce is seen as a fierce and sexy rock star, create a visual collage that represents this. Try to find images from both their public and private life (just pick up a supermarket tabloid to find "private" images).

Next, analyze your collage based on the public and private images you gathered. What can you tell about this celebrity based on his/her public life? What can you tell based on his/her private life? Are the private life images flattering or not? Write a brief paragraph outlining your conclusions.

Next, create a collage of yourself using public and private images. Gathering private images shouldn't be too hard... just ask your parents. But to gather public images, you will need to use an online search engine. I recommend using Google, but you are welcome to use the search engine site of your choice.

Once you've completed a search of yourself and created a collage of images, briefly responds in writing to the following questions:

1. What sort of information was available to the public about you via the Internet?
2. Did you find any information about yourself on the Internet that you didn't know was there, or that you would rather had not been publicly available? If so, what?
3. Based on the information you found in your research online, what do you think is your public image? Good? Bad?
4. Do you want employers to know about your online identity?
5. What steps can you take to rectify your public identity?

Finally, take a look at the fictitious want ads for dance positions I posted on the classroom wall. You will need to choose one job to apply for, but before doing so, look at your collage about yourself. Determine if your public image, as accessed through the Internet, will be a good fit for the job or if it will eliminate you from the candidate pool. Write a one-page resume for the job, using elements of your private/public persona to highlight your qualifications.

Censorship Assignments for Grades 9-12

Assignment #1
After completing our unit on censorship, it's time to put your knowledge into practice. Choose one of the following artists/artworks to begin this project - note that each topic was either affected by censorship OR is a topic/artwork that explores censorship:

Elvis Presley
The Crucible by Arthur Miller
Chicago Tribune (1930s)
American war photos
McCarthyism in the 1950s
Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
2010 Itawamba Prom in Mississippi
MTV censorship: "Beautiful Girls" by Sean Kingston, "They Don't Care About Us" by Michael Jackson or "Hip Hop is Dead" by Nas
Salman Rushdie
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Irish step dancing
"I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" by Maya Angelou
"My Name is Rachel Corrie" by Katherine Viner and Alan Rickman

Spend thirty minutes researching as much as you can about this topic online. At the end of the thirty minutes, you should be able to briefly summarize your topic, explain what aspect of the person/artwork that was deemed offensive, and the rationale for censorship presented by authorities. Put your answers into a brief power point presentation to be shared with the class at the end of the hour.

Assignment #2
In 1990, Edward R. Morrow, an established voice in the publishing industry, wrote, "Censorship cannot eliminate evil. It can only kill freedom. We believe Americans have the right to buy, stores have the right to sell, authors have the right to write and publishers have the right to publish Constitutionally-protected material. Period."

Morrow believes that censorship has no place in the free society of America. Building on his thoughts and using your chosen topic from the first assignment, write a letter to the authorities (the U.S. government, a local newspaper, a school board, the Governor, etc.) defending and/or explaining why your chosen person or artwork shouldn't be banned. Your letter should be at least one-page long and should articulately explain your position against censorship based on your research in this unit. If you chose a topic from history (i.e. Elvis Presley) you must formulate your argument based on the social context of the time; do not argue that the chosen topic shouldn't be banned using current attitudes toward culture!

Assignment #3
You've spent time learning about people and/or things that have been banned and you've even written a formal argument against censorship in this unit. But now it is time to take a look at the other side of the censorship argument. Who decides when something should be banned in America? What organizations or individuals usually play "morality" police in our country? What are the reasons they give for using censorship?

On the web, research the following four organizations that encourage censorship in America. Familiarize yourself with their history, but more importantly, make sure you understand their arguments for censorship.

New England Watch and Ward Society
Parents Music Resource Center
Censor the Book
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)

Now, imagine you are a concerned school board member and you have decided that some controversial material has been introduced in the district and should be banned. Choose ANY piece of art and/or person who you think might be controversial and using the arguments laid out by the above listed organizations or your own thoughts about censorship, write a letter to the parents explaining why the school has decided to ban your chosen topic. Make sure to clearly identify the person or thing you think should be banned and explain thoroughly why it is controversial and thus should be banned.

Remember, you are writing from the perspective of a person who believes in censorship. You may not personally believe that the individual or thing you are writing about should be banned, but in order to successfully complete this assignment (and learn what the other side thinks), you must write your letter as if you do believe in censorship.


Authentic vs. Fake Assignment #1: Debate

Lady Gaga's music has skyrocketed to the top of popular music charts in the last eighteen months. Her larger than life image has graced many publications, and her songs get regular play on local radio stations. But is she an authentic musician or simply an overexposed music fad?

Read the attached article from Rolling Stones magazine about Lady Gaga. The article was written in May of 2009 and profiles the singer as an artist and woman.,54532%5D

After reading the article and using your previous knowledge about her, think about the stakeholders who might have an opinion about Lady Gaga (i.e. her fans, her producer, a music critic, a parent, etc.) Decide if you think she is an authentic musician or a sell out from the perspective of one stakeholder listed in the last sentence. Make a list of at least six points that support your conclusion; make sure the article or your previous knowledge supports your points. Remember, you are arguing that Lady Gaga is a real musician or an act not based on your personal opinion but rather what your chosen stakeholder in the debate might think.

At the end of class today, we will host a live debate. You will be asked to argue your thoughts on Lady Gaga from your stakeholder's position. You will be assessed not only on your ability to thoughtfully defend your position, but also your ability accurately portray your stakeholder's stance.

Assignment #2: Quick Presentation

Make a list of your top five favorite musicians/bands. Rank them in order of most authentic (#1) to least authentic (#5). Next, find a partner in the room and compare your lists of favorite artists. Note whether you share any favorite artists or not.

Next, decide who is the most authentic musician/band from your combined list of ten names. You both must agree on the single answer. This is an opportunity for you to work cooperatively, but you must also stay true to your thoughts. Don't cave into your partner's ideas if you don't agree with them. Use compromise, logic and persuasion to find a mutual answer. After you've decided on the most authentic performer (and you determine what authentic means), come up with at least three reasons to explain your conclusion.

You will briefly present your findings to the class at the end of this exercise. Be prepared to explain and defend your answer.

Assignment #3: Essay Prompt

We all change our behavior a little bit when we encounter new contexts or situations. The way you talk at home with your parents is very different from the way you talk with your friends at school. Likewise, celebrities "construct" their identities to appeal to a certain faction of society.

Think about a current celebrity and explain how his or her identity has been created specifically for fans. In a five-paragraph essay, explain how your chosen celebrity's identity is manufactured and why it might be created in such a way (think about the lessons you've learned in your interpersonal communication class.) In your conclusion, explain whether you think your chosen celebrity's manufactured identity strengthens or hampers his or her performance.

Assignment #4: Induction into the Hall of Fame (adapted from the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame Lesson Plans)

Imagine you have been asked to nominate your favorite celebrity to a local Hall of Fame museum. Your chosen celebrity could be a musician, actor, politician or anyone else who leads a high-profile life in the media.

In order to complete your nomination, you need to submit three things to the nomination committee:

1) A cover letter explaining why the chosen celebrity should be included in the Hall of Fame. Make sure to include in the letter a description of his/her celebrity identity, the breadth of his or her artistic work and a rationale for why this individual authentically represents his or her field.
2) A short video compilation of his/her work. You will need to use iMovie or other film software programs to create the montage. The compilation should about three minutes long and include highlights of the celebrity's best work.
3) A one-page resume of the celebrity, which covers his or her education and professional work in the field.

Next, you will give a 3-5 minute speech about your celebrity to the class as if he or she has been chosen for the Hall of Fame. Make your speech celebratory; after all, your nominee just made into the museum!

Let's Talk About Big Diamonds: Real vs. Fake Musicians

In the early 90s, a group of friends and I woke-up around 3:30 in the morning, piled into a car, and camped out in the Ridgedale Mall parking lot so as to be the first in line to purchase Aerosmith tickets. When we arrived at the mall, it was 4 a.m., and not another person was around. We congratulated ourselves for being the first to arrive; indeed, we considered ourselves to be true Aerosmith fans because we sacrificed sleep and comfort to sit outside in the dark, on our lawn chairs, patiently waiting for the ticket office to open. Unfortunately our tickets, despite our sacrifices, were not great. We didn't get seats close to the stage; instead, we were positioned up and off to the side.

Many years later, I again went to the ticket booth at the Ridgedale Mall to purchase tickets for an Aerosmith concert. This time, though, the circumstances were different. My friend and I waltzed up to the ticket counter in between shopping stops, and casually asked if there were any tickets left for the show, which opened in two days. To our surprise, there were still tickets available. We walked away from the counter with tickets in the sixth row.

The sixth row tickets were amazing. I enjoyed an up-close view of Steven Tyler and his iconic scarf-draped microphone, and I could virtually see the sweat drip off Brad Whitford as he played the guitar. And yet, despite my close interaction with the band, or what David Pattie might term "experience" with the band, I somehow felt guilty for acquiring such good seats with such little effort. Somehow the experience of waking up early, racing to the mall, and waiting in line with hundreds of other fans felt like a more authentic experience. The seats weren't great, but the struggle to get the tickets felt real. It felt like the experience a serious fan of a rock 'n roll band should encounter.

If you asked other Aerosmith fans what it meant to be a real fan of the band, you'd probably get very different responses. Some might think that an authentic Aerosmith fan would be one who sees their shows all over the country - especially in Boston. Others might think it's more important to actually meet the band members. I bet a small faction of fans believe they are "true" because they belong to the Aerosmith fan club. Herein lies the problem: how do we do identify authentic versus fake? What litmus test must a music fan, or band for that matter, pass in order to be consider hard-core, true and thus, authentic?

If you ask culture critic Kembrew McLeod, you might get a response based on his analysis of authenticity in hip-hop culture. According to him, those inside of hip-hop culture, specifically the musicians, clearly delineate between real and fake rappers on a six-point continuum: social/psychological, racial, political/economical, gender/sexual, social locational and cultural. An analysis of various forms of discourse reveal how those inside of and outside of the community revere individuals that "keep it real" while deriding those that sell out to major record companies.

I'm reminded of a similar paradox that occurred in the dance community in 1994. Bill T. Jones, a well-established New York City choreographer premiered a new concert titled Still/Here. The piece was based on the dying process, and thus included video-footage of terminally ill patients discussing their thoughts about dying. The show toured throughout the country, and by most accounts, was considered a success. But for all the popularity Jones experienced during the tour of the show, he was never able to fully overcome the harsh criticism Arlene Croce had of the show. In short, Croce, as critic for the New Yorker, wrote a review of the concert that was both scathing and full of contempt for Jones. More importantly, she wrote the review of Jones' concert without ever watching the work. You see, Croce was adamant in her conclusion of Still/Here as nothing more than "victim art." This type of art, according to Croce, is especially scurrilous because it manipulates and imposes upon the audience - viewers are expected to show sympathy for the dying performers. After all, audience members aren't free to watch the show and objectively review it because half of the performers wouldn't be alive in 3-6 months. Croce, and others who were critical of the choreography, would be seen as unsympathetic, and at worst, heartless. So Croce refused to see the show, but still wrote a review.

The dance community responded to Croce's review with fervor. Some were upset that she dared to write a review without actually seeing the show. Others were upset that she labeled Jones as a perpetrator of "victim art." But at the heart of the situation, the dance community was upset by Croce's behavior because it essentially labeled Jones as a choreographer whose work is forced, and ultimately inauthentic.

Nearly twenty years after I first sat outside in the dark, early morning hours for coveted Aerosmith tickets, I am again reminded of the debate between authentic and fake music artists. When I began teaching at my current school, I was clueless about popular music and its culture. I had spent the previous eight years listening only to public radio and cutting edge composers because my job was primarily as a dance/choreographer. When I began teaching teenagers, I realized that I needed to reintroduce myself to contemporary popular music so as to understand what my students talked about in class. Actually, my students invited me to discover contemporary music artists - they told me I'd really enjoy them. I was particularly encouraged to listen to Jack Johnson, who in 1994 was at the top of the popular music charts. I must admit, after initially listening to some of his songs, I found that I kind of enjoyed his work. But I was loath to share this information with my students or friends, lest I be labeled "mainstream."

Later that year, I was discussing popular music with a tenth grader, and Jack Johnson's music came up in the conversation. Newly initiated to his music, I spoke well of his folksy, melodic tunes, but the student had an entirely different opinion. The student couldn't stand Johnson because he was a sell-out. Jack Johnson held mass appeal, so this student concluded that Johnson's music was bad. McLeod labeled this problem as old school versus mainstream identity. If I had pressed my student for further justification of his opinion toward Jack Johnson, I'm sure he would have referenced the music of his "youth": music of the 1990s. Jack Johnson, in the student's eyes, was too popular, too bubble gum, too mainstream, and thus, not real.

Perhaps part of my student's problem with Jack Johnson was the way in which the musician was marketed. Johnson is seen as a relaxed former-surfer with a determined interest in all things environmental or that which relates to human rights. If Johnson portrayed himself as a little more "bad boy" (like the rocker in David Pattie's essay who cut "4 Real" into his arm), maybe he would be viewed differently by some music consumers, and my student.

So how do we tell the "real" musicians from the "fake" ones? I decided to ask my teenage students, who collectively comprise a significant portion of the music industry consumption, this question. Their responses were interesting, if not polarizing. In fact, asking them about real and fake musicians led to a vicious debate whereby students nearly physically took sides of the debate by standing on opposite ends of the classroom.

First, students pointed to context as an indicator of authenticity. For example, if a student dresses up as a nerd, but still hangs out with the skaters, he/she would then be a fake nerd. Likewise, if a musician dresses up or markets him or herself as a rapper, but hangs out only with beautiful models, he or she might be seen as inauthentic.

One student pointed to the overall sincerity of artists during their performances. As the student put it, if a singer seems sincere, then he or she is the real deal. In such situations, one must rely on intuition to determine if a singer is sincere. When asked if sincerity can be determined by physical characteristics, the students couldn't answer. That which is unseen becomes a primary commodity in authenticity.

Finally, the class determined that a band's stage show can be a determining factor for authenticity. I call this the big diamond theory. When a woman flaunts a large diamond ring on her finger, I always wonder what aspect in the relationship is missing that would warrant such an ostentatious display of love. My students felt that bands who use extreme set designs, pyrotechnics or other accoutrement during performances are probably covering up for an inadequacy elsewhere, and thus they are not authentic.

In an age when realness seems to be a worthy topic (organic produce, locally grown food, natural childbirth, etc.), determining whether a musician is real or fake seems especially relevant.

Online Music Resources Report

I went straight to education-based websites to begin my research on teaching popular music in the classroom. While I was reviewing the information on each site, I began formulating a lesson plan for my World Dance and/or Beginning Choreography classes.

1) (accessed 5/28)

I began my research at the Smithsonian Traveling Exhibition site. There, I found information about the contributions of Latina/Latino Americans to jazz and popular music. The Smithsonian currently hosts a traveling exhibit called "American Sabor: Latinos in U.S. Popular Music."

2) (accessed 5/28)

Next, I visited I searched the online resources for teachers and found exciting lesson plans and resources about hip-hop culture, copyright laws and appropriation. Three documentaries with supplemental lesson plans especially jumped out at me: Copyright Criminals, Copyright Criminals: Sampling in Other Forms of Media & Industry and Hip-Hop Sampling: Theft or Tribute?. Because I was so jazzed by what I found on this website, I actually ordered a free copy of the DVD and education materials for the Hip-Hop Sampling program.

3) (accessed 5/28)

I also found a definition for "appropriation" on the pbs. org website. When I begin to discuss appropriation in terms of music and hip-hop dance, I hope to use this site as an instructional resource.

4) (accessed 5/28)

Next, I visited the Kennedy Center website. I had hoped to peruse the many lesson plans provided by the ArtsEdge program at the Kennedy Center, but I wasn't able to access the website, so I focused my attention on the artists they profile on their main site. I found several clips of musicians/dancers that I could use for my appropriation unit in class. Specifically, I found a clip for Tappers w/Attitude, Bang on a Can, Tony Bennet, and Ray Charles. I had hoped that the site would also include a clip or biography about Elvis Presley, but none could be found. I did a little more research on the web and finally hit the motherload.

5) (accessed 5/28)

I found what seems to be a wonderful resource for music education and pop culture. VH1 hosts a site called VH1 Music Studio with access to literally hundreds of lessons and VH1 specials about popular music. Two lessons caught my eye: And You Don't Stop: Thirty Years of Hip Hop and VH1's 200 Greatest Pop Culture Icons. Both of these resources will be helpful when I teach my appropriation unit in class.

At first glance, the lesson plans provided by VH1 Music Studio seem fairly solid. They provide historical information relevant to music, additional website resources, and a list of the National Music Standards for with the lesson plan aligns.

Popular Music and Dance Lesson Plan for World Dance Class

Objective: To define appropriation and understand its role in dance and popular music.

After spending eight weeks studying dance forms from around the world and the various contexts for performing dance (political, social, spiritual, time, etc.), students will spend one week researching ways in which contemporary cultures beg, borrow and steal dance forms from other contexts.

The class will begin in the computer lab. Students will look up the definition of appropriation on the PBS website (specific url will be provided).

Class will briefly discuss the definition of appropriation. Students will be asked to surmise when or where they may have experienced and/or benefited from appropriation.

Next, students will individually watch three video clips from the PBS website:
Hip Hop: Birth of Sampling (5:28), Can you Own A Sound? (5:18) and Hip Hop Sampling: Theft or Tribute (5:45). Students will also be encouraged to visit to discover what artists have used samples in their work (this site was provided by the PBS sampling lesson plan). After viewing all three clips, students will respond to the following three prompts in short essay format.

1) After viewing the documentary, explain whether cultural appropriation is a good or bad thing. If you think it's good, why? Who benefits from it? If you think it is bad, explain why. Who loses out from cultural appropriation?

2) Give an example from the video modules you just watched or from your own experience in which people used or borrowed something to create thing new in music. Clearly explain what was borrowed, from which culture it was borrowed and identify who borrowed it.

3) Next, think about dance. Using either your own dance experience or information learned in dance classes at this school, give an example of when people have appropriated a dance form.

Students will then watch an episode of "Dancing with the Stars" on Specifically, they will watch Episode 3 from week 4 of the 2010 season; in this episode, dancers perform the jitterbug, paso doble and other ballroom styles.

After viewing the episode, students will respond to the following two prompts in short essay format.

1) We've studied various forms of Latin Dance, ballroom and American social dances. After viewing this episode of "Dancing with the Stars," decide if the performers have appropriated the dance forms or not. Write a one page argumentative essay stating your opinion. Make sure to formulate your argument using the information learned from this appropriation unit. Cite your sources, when necessary.
2) When and how have you benefited from appropriation in your dance experiences?

Finally, students must choose one of their five essay responses and post it on the World Dance Class website. They will be encouraged to comment on other classmates' postings. The public postings will become the basis for a whole class discussion about appropriation, dance and the role of entertainment on the following day.