As an educator, it is my job to connect students to our dance history, but also to their dance future. I grew up in a household of educators who strongly believed that the smallest successes in the classroom amounted to the biggest rewards. In my own class, I am excited by the daily progress I see in my students. Little successes go a long way, and are etched in me with each class I teach. I have been surrounded by conflict-resolution and have a hypersensitive awareness to human interaction within education.
Much of my upbringing has reinforced my passion behind teaching, but has also dictated what and how I teach. My early ballet training was in Cecchetti technique until attending East Carolina University where I was exposed to Laban and Bartenieff Fundamentals, Release technique, Somatic practice, and Giordano jazz. I have continued to refine and hone my teaching style through graduate school and professional experience.
When teaching modern technique, I focus on initiation and sequencing, weight transfer, spatial intent, pathways in and out of the floor, and gesture. Every class uses improvisation as a teaching tool to develop a clarity and understanding of fundamentals, while bringing forward the creative and expressive potential of my students. In all of my classes I emphasize body alignment and safe practices.
Just as important as what I am teaching, is my approach itself. I often study my delivery, reflecting on where the most engaging moments happen, as well as when there is need for restructure. I learn as much as I teach and aim to create a culture of inclusiveness in the classroom. I celebrate multiple approaches and points of view and believe diversity drives innovation, not only in the classroom, but also professionally. This cultivates leaders and creates a practice that is tailored for every artist.
I believe that diversity and inclusivity are necessary partners and we must, as artists and educators, commit to both. I believe in a community in which difference is valued, where each individual’s identity and contributions are treated with reverence, and where differences can lead to conversations, tolerance, and a fortitude of strength. I commit myself to unceasing cultural change in the classroom and beyond.
Part of my ongoing research is focused on the development of dance and technology, and the impact it has on dance specific audiences, as fewer and fewer find their way into a traditional theatre space. Within this research, I looked at the evolving dance practice and its connection with audience engagement, not just through one performance, but so they will return to see more work, whether it be in the theatre or on the screen. This particular aspect of my research translates into my teaching. My goal is to teach technique and movement while exciting and engaging my students, regardless of their level and ability. From engagement comes passion and from passion comes commitment. An engaged beginning level dancer can become a lifelong audience member and an engaged advanced dancer can become the performer who keeps the audience returning to the work. I am focused on the student, not only assisting towards becoming a professional in their field, but to also become a critical thinker, and to lead with a curious mind. As a teacher, I am in the classroom every day focusing on what movement can challenge and engage my students to make them lifelong artists.
When assessing students, I have a firm belief that each student deserves an individual
evaluation. Guidelines and requirements can be established in the syllabus, such as due dates and attendance policies, but in practice, I understand that each student will come into the space with different strengths, weaknesses, and learning approaches. Their active participation is as essential as mine. I take each students’ progression into consideration. Their individual growth, engagement, and their navigation into problem-solving are a few of the things I look at in each student throughout the semester. My love and passion for teaching comes from the reward of seeing the “light bulb” going off in a student’s head. The idea of knowing that I can make a positive impact surpasses all else.
Beyond practice, being a dance educator gives me the ability and honor to instill trust, coordination, critical thinking, and an appreciation of the arts in all students. These ideas can be transferred and used in everyday situations, which makes our time together in class even more invaluable.
Photo Credit: Lizzie Baker