September 16, 2021

OPEN THREAD: So for the past couple of weeks these posts have had links to the Roy Scheider/Bob Fosse film All That Jazz. Some colleagues of mine and I were talking about different teaching techniques, inspired by The Paper Chase, and I shared this clip as an example of a tough-love approach to teaching. (In response to this clip from Whiplash, shared by a colleague.) That got me sucked into the whole film, which I hadn’t seen since it was new. Really a terrific piece of work by Fosse, who directed and choreographed, and by Scheider, with great supporting work, and top dancers like Ann Reinking. Plus Jessica Lange as the Angel of Death.

As Reinking and Erszebet Foldi (who played the daughter) note, Bob Fosse was a much nicer man than the semi-autobiographical character of Joe Gideon that he created here. And while he was a real “taskmaster,” as they note, that’s how it should be to get the best work out of people.

Teaching law is pretty different from this, but not entirely. The Whiplash approach, in my opinion, takes it too far — even if you believe in “train hard, fight easy” — but on the other hand, students shouldn’t be too comfortable in the classroom, because if you’re too comfortable it’s because you’re not learning and not being challenged.

On a related note, I remember that my old mentor Charles Black mused late in life that he wished he’d given more attention to dance. I suppose I feel the same way. I knew a few dance majors in college in my honors program (all female, oddly enough), enough to know just how hard they work and how much discipline it takes, but that was all. Martial arts and yoga gave me some appreciation of the physicality involved, but the artistry is something I appreciate only at the most superficial level, unfortunately. And that’s despite spending quite a few years as a Dance Dad while the Insta-Daughter did ballet, jazz, and modern. I was a bit relieved when she bailed and went to fencing instead. (She did spend a summer in college at the Joffrey Ballet School, but as staff, not as a student).

Anyway, long digression, but I’ll find some other theme for the coming Open Threads.

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