Why the arts?
As a dance educator of students of all ages, I believe in student-driven learning and emphasizing the societal impact of the arts. I want my teaching to go beyond the learning inside my classroom. Am I inspiring personal change for students to carry with them past their time with me? I encourage my technique students to go beyond the external form of the dancing body and to dive deeper into exploring the movement through internal sequencing and mental approach. The thinking and emotional dancing bodies are key factors to enlivening and creating movement. My hope is for my students to use dance as a vehicle to learn more about themselves and their artistic values. Within this, I find my students developing in their self-worth, determination, and understanding their importance as an individual within a connected community.
I strive to create a classroom that holds high expectations and a positive environment while encouraging individual risk. The development of a supportive classroom community is vital to the growth of my students in all subject areas. I approach dance technique courses through a lens of honoring the rich history of dance while also pushing it forward into the 21st century approach. I claim where my movements come from if it descends from a direct line of theory or codified movement technique. The lineage of movement should not be washed away. However, my students must also develop skills that will serve them throughout their dance career. I structure my classes through specific movement principles that can be applied regardless of teacher or choreographer. I also believe in the necessity of reflection and often ask my students to synthesize their learning. Dance is not limited to the external form, but is driven from internal impulse, kinetic chains, and energetic threads. I want my students to remain curious about movement, not just blindly absorb or hold onto only one way of thinking. The more my students are exposed to, the more they will able to make their own aesthetic decisions as an artist and educator.
I am better able to teach my students when I bring my full self into the classroom, to level the playing field of a natural power relationship, to encourage a journey full of risk, and to build connections and community. I do this through teaching from multiple perspectives (kinesthetic, verbal, and visual) as well as building personal relationships with my students. I want to lead by example in honoring who I am, both in the past and in the present moment. By embracing who I am, it is then possible to embrace others, our similarities, and our differences. Opening up a sacred space for individuality allows for the students to give more freely and become less self-critical. Taking this stance as an educator increases students’ ability to self-direct their learning and to become a more engaged citizen of the classroom and overall community. I strive to balance interpersonal and intrapersonal learning so students can ground themselves as an individual while also gaining skills in working as a group.
As an educator, I am also teaching my students how to teach. I find discussing pedagogical approaches in the moment can help students begin to understand how different dance structures are structured and why. The art of teaching is developed through the physical act of teaching and preparation. It does not naturally happen only due to dance experience. I want my students to be prepared for the current demands of the field.
The Importance of the Arts
Arts are a vital part of a child’s development and I am passionate about the necessity of arts being in the K-12 schools, regardless of location or socioeconomic status. I have seen the power dance has to develop interpersonal and intrapersonal skills even at a young age. Dance is powerful because it connects people and lifestyles. I find advocacy in dance does not just mean creating the next generation of dance artists, but also, a dance audience. Some of my students may become dance makers or performers, but it is important to me that they gain an understanding of the arts’ impact on individuals and society at large.
When giving my students feedback, or in any conversational setting, I want to talk with them. I want to share what I am witnessing, but also value their approaches, temperaments, and opinions. I do not want to dictate as we are always learning new ways in which to see the world. I want to affirm, not devalue. I want to challenge, not diminish. I want to discuss, not debate. I want to offer, not overbear. I remind my students that we are always arriving, as the journey will never be finished. We can celebrate our accomplishments and personal gains while also continuing to strive forward. Dance allows for this constant learning as our bodies and our minds are constantly changing. I am able to come into solidarity with my students by understanding more than just the dancing body. The link within the mind, body, and spirit is a vital aspect to becoming a fully embodied and aware citizen of the world.