Through the various companies I have been part of I have gained exposure to different bodies and their ways of moving. My collegiate experience in Kinnect was preparation for the work I would come to find myself doing. I delved into teaching a wide range of dancers both in age and in experience. I believe that my pedagogy was sharpened through involvement in this outreach company but most notably during a dance and Child international conference in Taipei, Taiwan. The keynote speaker talked of finding the individuals in your classroom and fostering their understanding of their own bodies and selves. He spoke of the integration of meditation in classrooms and how this sense of self aided in the expression of the dancer. Since this conference I’ve become more determined to finding how I can effectively teach each student, through increased side-coaching but also incorporating self-studied meditation explorations in my classrooms. I truly believe that as a teacher my main purpose is to help students to understand their bodies. I do not coach them to replicate a movement, nor understand the what. Instead I hope for them to understand the how, by knowing their bodies and its strengths and weaknesses we find together not just the fulfillment of a choreographer's desire but a sense of ownership and artistry.
While working at the University of Utah's Tanner Dance Program, I fell in love with their philosophy and echo Ms. Virginia Tanner’s goal of fostering worthwhile and creative beings. The culmination of experience that is my life/resume reaffirms and informs this dogma.
Each experience did not only shape how I teach but also creates a larger breadth of what I can teach. Every class begins with a play on the brain dance by Ms. Anne Green Gilbert, which builds on the Bartenieff Fundamentals. This goes back to each dancer learning of their bodies and its connections. Every body is different and I feel like sometimes that is forgotten. So I constantly try to find the how in their bodies and not just the what of replication.
When I teach, I aim to find a movement discussion and not dictation. This not only builds on the foundation of self knowledge but also allows for a vulnerability and at the same time ownership within the dancer. This duality is essential in both creation and performance of dance.
These goals and philosophy might seem hard to measure from an academic standpoint, to which I could easily pose the question of how does one measure art? But through informal comments from classroom teachers, to administrative staff, and to parents, this way of teaching has proved effective in fostering not just a competent dancer but a proud one. We could easily record the difference in how the leg moves and their shaping in gross locomoter skills. We could test vocabulary in both verbal response and visceral ones. There are several indicators of growth in dance, but for me the best validation of teaching comes in change of attitude of students to shy or too cool to dance. It comes with seeing a child who has struggled with walking be able to skip through the space in interesting pathways and freeze without faltering. It comes in parents beaming at the inhibition of their child or a teacher telling me of how learning about space started to seep in to interactions beyond the dance floor and showcased in ways of respectful touch and interaction between students for which this was a previous sturggle.
My experience goes beyond the classroom. What I have learned in the projects and companies I dance in continually informs my teaching. I strive to never stop learning of the dance science that allows dancers to dance safely and even more boldly. By continuing to be a student myself I know that I can better serve my students. I am excited to be among the teachers who find growth when moving with the students we are privileged to teach.