Teaching dance is unlike teaching any other subject. Students studying the field of dance as a movement practice are required to engage mentally and physically with the topic. This requirement is what draws me to dance practice, and the reason why I believe it is important to teach future generations of dancers.
PC: Caitlin Mahon
I grew up doing ballet and studio competition dance. As a young dancer, I was so concerned with shape and doing something the correct way that when I started dancing in college, I did not understand how to take class in a way that would enable me to grow. As I moved through my dance education I realized technique encompasses both my balletic notions of alignment, shape, and precision, and also artistry. The ability to show personality through dancing is as important as knowing detail, placement, and specificity and it’s something I continue to work on every day.
I have learned through my years as both a student and an educator that every student is different. Some students are analytical, others respond best to imagery, others still respond best to language, or spatial environment. Every class is different, and it is important to be able to read the room on any particular day to best connect with the students.
I believe teaching is a two-way street. Learning about dance is a collaborative experience between students and teachers and I am excited that I learn more about my chosen field every day by teaching my students. I admit that I do not know everything there is to know about a particular movement aesthetic, which makes teaching dance so exciting.
As a teacher, my goal is to guide the class. Students should be allowed to bring their own artistry and curiosity to any class, whether it is codified ballet technique, or choreography class. I am less interested with students learning to copy what I do and more interested in their ability to personally invest in any movement material, new or old, they are investigating. I use central themes throughout each class I teach to provide students with options if they feel stuck or cannot find their own interest on a particular day. These themes could include different body initiations, attention to weight, attention to sensation and many others.
My movement interests in class generally include finding expansiveness through the distal ends and utilizing the space to facilitate balance via the idea of spatial pulls. I believe that if a student can figure out how to take up a lot of space efficiently, then the architecture and activation of the body enables a student to do subtle and proximal movement as well. While I am interested in virtuosic movement as a part of technique, I also believe that students should be able to pick up detail of movement. This could include gestures, rhythmic timing, or initiation of body movements. I utilize anatomical information because I think visualizing the place where an exact movement is coming from helps with nuancing movement vocabulary. However, I also understand that not all students are aware or have learned about specific anatomic information, so I also try to use qualitative language so students can tap into a more sensory experience. I believe mixing the use of anatomic and sensorial language enables students to engage with traditional ideas of technique as well as the artistry that students must find for themselves.