present and connected

This weekend I had the distinct honor of presenting at the McEntire Education Summit, hosted by Trent McEntire. Trent and I are old friends- the best kind, where you don’t speak nearly often enough but when you do, it is as if not a day has gone by. Trent is a force in the pilates world, a real icon and one that takes people and their potential seriously.

A couple months ago, Trent and I had a conversation about helping educators enhance their relationships, their connections, with their clients.

This, in tandem with research I have been conducting with a dear colleague and special education expert, Karen Hicks, has launched a new line of professional development presentations for me.

We address the presence and application of movement in academic classrooms, how to conceive and implement authentic arts integration. As a dance educator in a dance-specific setting, I present alternatives to the traditional and often shaming methods of teaching dance. Here is another way to describe it:

What is it?

Empathy-based pedagogy, emotionally-intelligent teaching

What is the application?

Acknowledgement of people first, then organizing movement systems to help them reach toward and beyond their potential. Get the most out of your time, get the most out of your experiences.

What is the result?

Happiness by way of growth, service, and satisfaction. By way of relationships, communication, and support.

Why? (Although I have always known the why, Trent has continually pushed me to find the words).

I believe movement connects. (Bodies to ourselves, our minds, our ideas, our potential)

I believe connections save lives. (Connections of people, ideas, dots, movements, mantras, communities, you name it…….)

But the longer why is that it has taken me years to put down my “dance-traumas” as a friend has described them. The wounds and complications experienced in training my body and mind to master and compete. For what?

In working with the students I see on a regular basis, life is already full of challenge, condescension, and competition. Pitting students against each other, yelling corrections, and delivering nasty looks doesn’t produce anything productive. Even subtle “judgements” set up obstacles over solutions. I am not against competition altogether, but there is healthy competition and unhealthy. I realized that many of the negative messages I received from teachers (of all subjects- NOT just dance!!!) were probably not even intended, they may simply have been received. So my goal is to help people understand those messages and build intention in what they are sending and what they are choosing to receive.

Want to know more?

  • I will be teaching a pedagogy-based movement experience for Dance in the Annex this August (dates to come) in Grand Rapids, MI.
  • Karen Hicks and I will be presenting a professional development session for STEAM teachers at the Mt. Hope STEAM school in Lansing in August.
  • AND we will be presenting at the National Dance Education Organization Conference in Chicago this November (Saturday 11:30).
  • Or I/we can come to you…..

This is the work that has nurtured some of the best relationships of my life. You deserve the same.

 

Bend It Like Bikram

Gloriously, I am back into my Bikram practice. So far, it hasn’t been as frequent as I’d like but I gradually feel myself coming back. In the months away, I continued to teach and dance yet I lost a lot of strength. It has been a strenuous year in terms of body and spirit and thus, the return to a class that makes me feel safe and able to care for myself is most welcomed. It also inspires me to provide that same sense of safety and self-nurturing for my students. More on that to follow…..

One night, post Bikram, I woke to check on one of my kids I heard talking in their sleep. Once awake, true to form, my mind wandered and wondered. There have been several situations  pulling at me to reflect on what I do and how I do it. Within this process, I am pushed to define the differences of those that practice the arts and those that claim it as an identity. I work with both. I am both.

Here is what I decided that night:

I believe anything done with intention becomes an art. Expression is not about the audience but the projection of self. Therefore, the performance never ends, the processing is the constant rehearsal. The refinement results in enlightenment and a lift of the soul created through an authentic act of learning.

 

I view the arts as a humanity- an innate part of the soul through which one creatively problem-solves and articulates deeply-held theories and ideas– so deep they shall be expressed only in artistic form.

 

Artists are those who nurture the talent and commitment to perform at intense levels and who might also feel they know no other way. For them, practicing the arts is beyond a lifestyle; it is a way of life, a way of knowing, a way of being.

This summer I have been more attentive to my dabbling in the arts. I have returned to sketching, painting, crafting, creating, cooking, writing, knitting, even cross-stitching (working on patches for my son’s backpack since patches are really, really hard to find these days!).

I have realized that for a long time I have not claimed some of these interests and meager talents because I don’t have professional level skills nor am I pursuing them as a profession. I say “claim” in the meaning that they are a part of my identity (except knitting, I have called myself a knitter for a few years now). I have also tended to see writing as an extension of my work as a dance educator simply because of the subject matter. I haven’t allowed that identity to stand alone.

I have also noticed that I feel the need to find an excuse to engage in these enjoyments- a recipient for the item I am knitting, etc. I have a hard time allowing myself to do these things because I enjoy them. I feel pressured to be busy and have a product that proves it wasn’t time spent selfishly.

So, I pledge to work on that. I am striving to see “play” as the invaluable tool it is- the time to connect with others, let some things go, and open doors for new ideas and inspiration.

Bending my thoughts to be just as intentional about play and rest and creative expressions, just as I bend my body for nourishment and nurturing in Bikram.

David Howard

When I was living in NYC, David Howard’s ballet class saved my soul. In a city where most dance classes felt like an audition, taught by people who didn’t really understand how to warm up a body or just really loved deep plié in second position, with the body folded over- David Howard’s ballet class kept me grounded.  Well, David Howard’s, Alexandra Beller’s, and a few others.

These were the classes that reminded me of who I was, why I love dance, and that I didn’t have to buy into the hype that can come with trying to “make it” as a dancer.

I was not a rich dancer (oxymoron, I know) and had to be decisive with my time and my money- whose class I could take, why, and how it fit into my life. It was challenging. I was often torn between those with working choreographers who often cast their next show from their classes and so the mentality was that you had to be a regular, and those that fed me in movement and artistry where I wanted to be a regular.

Most of the time, I didn’t have enough money to be a regular but I had even less interest in the former. Yet, I felt pressured. I wanted a job but I hated thinking that I could out teach them, hated watching the dancers in class with a myriad of technical issues not even being acknowledged but being led on, and hated deep plié in second position with the body folded over.

I discovered, however, that David Howard was teaching a mid-day class at Broadway Dance Center. I had been introduced to him as an undergrad and knew this would be well worth my money and my time. It was a basic level class, maybe intermediate or something, that I at first felt ashamed to take given that I had come to believe I was an advanced dancer, needing an advanced class and needing to compete with other advanced dancers (not so much in ballet, for my modern/jazz body and movement ethic, but still the mentality persisted). Then I took the class.

It was filled with “advanced” dancers not necessarily in terms of their technical ability but their commitment, their age (in dance years), and the eloquence in their bodies. Many, I think, had been amateurs that had been dancing for years and acquired beauty in the process. Others were former professional dancers, looking for a place to maintain their craft for themselves. I was the youngest, at 23 or 24. I loved it.

I ended up rearranging my work schedule, splitting my shift in retail merchandising, so that I could take this class. It couldn’t happen all the time, but I kept up with his guest teaching schedule as best I could and would make the arrangements when he was in town. It complicated my life but it was worth it. Necessary, even.

I observed how David Howard spoke to these dancers. How he challenged their bodies but nurtured them, too. How spirits lifted, legs lifted, and it was all done safely in spirit as well as physicality. Soon, I didn’t feel like an outsider observing through motion but an insider, accepted by the group. I felt them take care of me. It was a community and it was powerful.

As a dance educator, I have been reflecting on how this experience has shaped much of my current philosophy and practice. I learned a lot in NYC, often by watching hours and hours of classes at BDC, Steps, and DanceSpace (now DNA) from doorways and through windows, when I couldn’t afford to take class. It was a profound education.

I may not be a ballerina but I am so proud of how David Howard has inspired and informed my work- building a community, taking care of people, and finding joy in movement.  I will always be thankful.

 

Cycle 1: How much of what we teach is “curriculum”?

Let’s face it, I am fortunate in that my subject area- dance- is not included in the standardized tests that my students take each year. That doesn’t mean, however, that I am not careful and intentional in how and what I teach. As I see it, there are three main types of teaching/learning relationships in every classroom and how we choose to acknowledge those relationships goes along way in determining our success in teaching people.

When posed with the question of “what is curriculum?”, my mind begins to flood with complex and conflicting thoughts. At the outset, I would describe curriculum as the intended content a teacher strives to share with their students; information and skills that are developed to reflect state benchmarks. Concepts that will be assessed in formal ways and will result in deciding how money is spent, jobs are allocated, and experiences lived.

When asked “what is curriculum for?” I think it is an attempt to create a common foundation- a common language if you will,  for teachers within a state, a grade level, and subject areas to agree. In theory, this might ensure that students moving from one school to another may not miss essential concepts that help them advance to the next grade. In theory, this might ensure that all graduating high school students might be equipped for their vocations or for college with the skills appropriate for those paths. In theory, curriculum would evolve to draw from big ideas maintained in “the Classics” but also include methods for preparing students to adapt to ever-changing demands of daily and professional life.

And yet,…..

I am distracted by what I have come to know and understand as I have developed, time and time again according to varied teaching environments, my own “curriculum”. I am conscious of how my ability to authentically help  students has shifted with experience and how this has in turn shifted how I choose content and methods for delivering information through experiences. I am embracing my “ways of knowing” to realize that I approach all of life as a dancer and translate every situation and interaction through my mastery and analysis of movement, body language, and non-verbal cues. And I am acknowledging truly, that as an educator my views of the world provide the fabric for my practice- even as I gaze on what I do through the lenses of intentional, innate, and hidden curriculum.

Here we arrive at another question. “What does that mean?” Well, here is what these things have come to mean in my life up to this point.

Direct or Intentional

I would describe direct or intentional curriculum as the stuff teachers set out to teach. This is the material that will be tested. This is the material that has been deemed most important. This is the material that fills books. This is what you write on your lesson plans. I would dare say that in most classrooms, this is boring.

As a dance educator, the direct curriculum is what I check the state standards for- terminology, definitions, age appropriate skill development. Boring. Until….I think of interesting ways to connect these things to non-boring things- images, textures, feelings, forces of motion, patterns as they exist in the world, cycles of ideas/relationships, current events, and more.

I find that when I apply context and guided experience to the programmed “curriculum”, the content comes to life. It isn’t necessary the stuff that is exciting but the discovery of how it is exciting.

Indirect or Innate

Innate curriculum helps me sleep at night when I have reached the tipping point with a challenging class and I stop pushing engagement and allow myself to “lead” class rather than “teach” it. I am not proud of these moments- I have just admitted they keep me up at night. But the innate curriculum is what my arts discipline “does” when I do little more than teach in the traditions of how dance has been taught (follow the leader, do what you are told, do it better, and don’t ask any questions.) This is when I rely on what the arts are credited as doing even when little thought has gone into the “how” of how these things are  achieved- things like providing self- discipline, conditioning bodies, building coordination, self-esteem, and being “fun”.

Innate curriculum is the material we assume is being learned simply because kids are in classrooms. These are the lessons that kids are not being explicitly taught but are using cultural inference to figure out and practice. And it leads to my third teaching/learning relationship category. This is the work that depends on the environment to be conveyed rather than the direct acknowledgment. An example might be: “you should behave in school better than you do at home, because well, you are at school. ” It is a standard expectation that is often assumed and not necessarily uttered out loud.

Hidden Curriculum

This is what kids notice about you and your classroom. This is how kids determine what your real expectations are. This is how kids decide if they will allow you to teach them. There is only one guarantee.

Kids. Notice. Everything.

If you don’t think so then they are your mirror image. They know you don’t think they care or don’t think they can do it and they will show you exactly that.

Hidden curriculum is varied and comprehensive:

  • Why should they turn assignments on time if you are late to school every day?
  • Why should they organize their ideas if you can’t organize your classroom?
  • Why should they be prepared to start the assignment when you say so if they know you will say it three more times ?
  • Why should they like math if they know you don’t like math and are uncomfortable teaching it?

Do you see the pattern?

Many educators, I think, place the power and importance in the order I listed: direct, indirect, and don’t consider the hidden messages in the class. I, however, place the value and therefore power in the exact opposite order.

There is a lot about the field of dance that challenges perceptions of people and of the world. I use hidden curriculum to encourage awareness and even conversations among kids that I don’t necessarily have time to conduct. And truly, kids are smarter than we give them credit for. They are capable of having important and discerning conversations when there is something worthwhile to talk about.  Want them to stop gossiping? Give them something juicy to think about and discuss.

In my classes, one way I do this is in the pictures I hang up. In recent months, I decided one challenging topic is the body and expected gender roles.

Dance challenges our acceptance of the body as something to see, watch, move, and touch. Gender roles in dance challenge our perceptions of relationships in many different ways.

Now, in my teaching I have limited time (30 minutes per week for each elementary classroom, 45 minutes per day for each middle school dance elective class) and we all know class discussion- especially about fascinating topics- can eat up those blocks of time easily.

I have found simply posting pictures of bodies in different kinds of shapes, costumes, and relationships have raised discussions of bodies and people in safe and constructive ways that carry over into the hallway before lunch or on their way to their next class.

While I listen to the conversations as they peruse the pictures, I often say very little until there is a direct connection to our classwork or if they have any questions they want to ask. Or until there is room for me to make a very brief but powerful statement.

I have been impressed at how their imaginations have anticipated movement that came before or after the image they actually see. At how they discuss weight or partnering- often delicate matters- in mature ways. I have noticed that they sometimes will make an accusation and then look at me to see what I think. And that is when I can address how their word choice might be offensive and why. I am not mad at them. I am seeking the opportunity to change their perception and be mindful of others. But I don’t necessarily need to do this in front of the whole class at the same time. Word spreads in other ways and the lesson is shared.

It is also not something that is necessarily in my “curriculum” but serves them in life. Isn’t that what education should do?

So when I think about “curriculum”, I agree with Sir Ken Robinson when he says schools are killing creativity and the paradigm is shifting. Kids are expected to ingest the information and not contextualize or develop a sense of themselves as it relates to the information.

Yet I also wonder what determines college “readiness” or another measures of success. Is it the memorization of a map and ability to identify states based on sight? Or is the ability to find an app on your smartphone that shows you the state as well as the ability to understand what the geography means in terms of what to wear and what you should eat if you visit those locations.

What leads to a fulfilled, productive, contributing life?

Thinking and problem-solving. Willingness to take risks, change assumptions, hazard a guess, and use mistakes to advance your thinking.To reflect on your own existence and make a positive impact on your community and the world at large. This is what fulfills my life and what I hope to inspire my students to do.

Shouldn’t that be goal of education?

What is in your “curriculum”?

Here is the link to a review of two new excellent reads. Check them out! Prepping for the Common Core with Two Informational Dance Texts | Dance Advantage

http://danceadvantage.net/2012/06/21/hitting-the-books-two-valuable-reads-from-oxford-university-press/

You Can Do Anything But Not Everything 1.0

Recently, Dance/USA produced a series of articles about professional choreographers who have turned to working in higher education as a means to keep creating choreography within concert dance and earn a living. Most of the artists interviewed are of notable stature (David Dorfman, Joe Goode,…) and discuss the balancing act required of working in two demanding aspects of the field- choreography and higher education- simultaneously.

I don’t doubt for a moment that their balancing acts are difficult.

I don’t doubt for a moment that they have valuable information and experiences to offer students.

I don’t doubt for a moment that they are qualified to teach.

But I do feel resentment rising in my chest each time I think about the articles.

As someone who has been passed over for others with “better” resumes and not necessarily “better” skills, this touches a nerve.

 Let me be clear, I don’t mean to diminish the depth of artists and the many hats that artists wear as creators, facilitators, curators, teachers, leaders, thinkers, and so on.

However, I start thinking of the underdogs.

  • What about the people that want to teach in higher education because their priority is to teach? 
  • What about the people that are great without having great resumes, and by that I mean as performers or choreographers? 
  • What about the people dedicated to teaching but choose to balance this with having a family and not a full-blown second career?

Underdogs: The people that shape the field of dance in more ways than the stage and the studio.

  • What about the people that guide the critical thought process in the act of creating art in addition to developing ideas, perspectives, and missions leading to non-performance based careers or jobs?
  • What about people that develop critical writing?
  • What about people that explicitly teach dance history and other frames of reference for what and how we communicate in dance and society?
  • What about people that help students translate their experiences from the abstract to the practical foundations that launch them into many types of careers?
  • What about the people that teach the general education classes that can directly impact the support or lack thereof for dance in the local community and into the world beyond college?
  • What about the people that teach the artists to talk about what and how they are creating so they get the jobs the underdogs are seeking?

The problem I see is cyclical.

In the end, the notion of choreographers finding a way to create and earn a living in higher education is a symptom of a larger problem.

Not enough people understand and support dance.

Artists alone don’t seem to be enough to teach the masses about how and why the arts, specifically dance, are important. That is not a comment on the quality or volume of their discussion, simply that we need more people educating about dance than just the practicing artists.

We need people to be promoting the myriad of what dance has to offer in addition to technique and performance. As such, we need to be producing more specialists in more categories under the umbrella of dance- such as arts integrators, theorists, critics, writers, dance scientists, etc.

Higher education is competitive enough.

I also start wondering about the departments that employ the big names from the performance world. I understand the desire to market these people and draw potentially more students.

However, with the teaching loads described in the articles and what I understand from other sources, how often are students truly being mentored by these artists?  Is it ethical?

Other questions arise as I ponder the big name hires:

  • How many programs treat choreography produced in-house as research?
  • What is the culture of the department like?
  • How is the faculty morale as the lesser-knowns may be picking up the less satisfying classes?

Personally, the first thing I would prefer to stop teaching would be straight technique but if a big-name choreographer were hired in my department, I bet that is exactly what I would be saddled with as they chose composition, improvisation, and perhaps theory courses.

  • What does this mean for guest residencies?

Aren’t residencies a better solution in offering students insight to how various artists think and act?  Aren’t residencies more cost effective for colleges and still a means for choreographers to earn a living? Isn’t variety the spice of life?

  • How are the faculty balancing a families expected to compete?

This touches on a separate but related topic of if and how having a family and surviving in academia is a real possibility. In my view, departments that allow for the “how” of that over the “if” are becoming more and more rare.

It is the number one reason that I choose to remain in K-12, where I have plenty of stimulating arts and education problems to solve but can be home at a reasonable hour, leave my work at school (for the most part), and can pace my extra-curricular activities at a digestible rate rather than always operating under the “publish or perish” time frame dictated in the university system.

And on that note, nap-time is over…..more soon.

Picking Up the Steps: An Introduction to Dance Training

I have recently written a post for parents of little movers on Green Spot Blue (a parenting and literary Web site) on dance education and what to look for and expect in a dance class.  The article can be found here.

Here is a snippet from the beginning of the article:

Dance education, like any other type of education, seems to be divided into two main approaches:  hollistic or test-oriented. In this case, however, the test tends to be the end of the year show, most commonly referred to as the “recital”.  Continue reading “Picking Up the Steps: An Introduction to Dance Training”

Playing Superhero: The Dark Side of Discipline

Discipline in the arts is usually one of the major “gains” in training and one of the reasons many parents choose to enroll their child.

Discipline in pre-professional dance, for me, was what separated those that wanted to succeed and those that did.

Discipline in professional dance takes on a different perspective in response to the nature of one’s success. For those with company success, discipline may still be dedication to their craft, daily technique class and the commitment involved. For those without consistent work it can mean carving out the time and money to maintain one’s technique and conditioning and challenging one’s self to stay engaged at the fullest level.

But when all is said and done, discipline can have a dark side. The cape donned in the thrill of physical prowess and being at the top of one’s game can lead, in other scenarios, to a mask of re-hashing and obsession over improvement with less healthy side effects.

This is where I sometimes find myself now. I have come to the opinion that, in teaching as well as other aspects of life, reflection is what separates those that want to be successful and those that are. But there is a precipice where success can fall into obsession the longer one dwells. From the outside things may still look very successful, and they are, but the inside graphs another story.

I have mentioned before that the last twelve months have been challenging. For all the positives, I tend to focus extensively on the areas in need of work. There is my challenge.

Here’s an example: rather than simply rejoicing in the fact we have a 9 month old baby, a bright and active 4 year old boy, a nice home, seemingly stable jobs, a challenging new teaching environment, new and interesting problems to solve, satisfying side projects, and opportunities on the horizon,…

…I find myself dwelling on whether or not my baby has as much of my attention as my son did at her age and what I can do about it, if my son is in the right learning environment and what the arrangements should be made for him next year (whether he starts school or not and where), the dust and the cleaning that is so sub-par based on my pre-children standards and the related shame whenever anyone comes over, the overwhelming awareness of judgement (positive or negative) when working in a new place, with new people, new students, and new curriculum, how to balance what is artistically satisfying with what I do and how I have to do it, what I need to do to maintain my artistic, educational, online, friendly, and familial reputations, and so on.

Instead of material goods, the Joneses that I am trying to keep up with are the top of their fields no matter where they are working: at home, in the classroom, in academia or online. In my mind, I find myself competing with the moms that stay home focusing most exclusively on the family and the home, the teachers that dedicate themselves and many extra hours/days to supporting their curriculum, to the professors that balance teaching and publishing and presenting, and the internet gurus who seem to be able to seamlessly document their lives or their creations (I visit a lot of craft-based lifestyle blogs).

Has my profession taught me to always feel I can’t quite measure up and there is always more work to be done?

Has the sheer number of times as dancers we’ve been told, “there is always a replacement” elicited a feeling that you can’t possibly be less than super-human if you still want to be good at what you do? In all that you do?

Has the emphasis placed on cross-training and generalist approaches to dance academics seasoned me for eXtreme multi-tasking and over-achieving  and thinking it is”normal”?

Or is it all personal?

Which aspect of my personality does this reflect most- the artist or the perfectionist? Can they be separated? Or which came first? Is one a product of the other or the inspiration?

Often, people seek my advice in teaching, or balancing professional and personal lives, or both. But now, perhaps it is me that needs the advice.

In truth, I do rejoice in our kids and family life, love my job and my opportunities, and all that go with it. Yet….

What do you do when you can’t find anything to let go of……  When life demands that you have your hat in many rings and your personality and/or your conditioning doesn’t allow you to be second rate in any of them….

Or am I the only one?

History Moves: Using the Creative Process to Explore Dance History

Here is my December article for Dance Advantage.

Four Confessions and a Concern

Recently, dance educator Sheena Jeffers wrote the blog post, “Teaching Dancers: Non-serious v. Serious” to which I contributed a few brief thoughts as did our highly esteemed friends, Nichelle at Dance Advantage and Dance_Reader. Sheena is an inspired teacher with a clear perspective and serious motivation. Her post was started as a conversation on Twitter that has had my wheels turning for some time. Here’s where I am right now.

Confession Number 1

I don’t think we necessarily need a million more professional dancers but we do need smarter people and an arts literate culture. Dance can do both.

Dance training takes on many different looks and often there is a primary focus: to produce professional dancers.  Anyone else encountered on the road is met with polite interest and tolerance if they manage to hold their own. If they don’t, or they decide to follow a different path, then they simply didn’t have “what it takes”. In this sense, the objective becomes subjective; the business becomes personal. The person that left is dismissed; the one that remained is lauded.

The hierarchy in dance education somehow remains- those that “do” are often more valued than those that “practiced” as if somehow those that watch, fund, discuss, teach, and advocate are lesser than those that perform and create.

Confession Number 2

Once upon a time, that was my view. I felt my “success” was mainly due not necessarily to talent or skill, but desire and passion. I suppose I still do, but in very different terms than when I started teaching.

When I was a student in a college dance pedagogy course, we were instructed to write a paper “teaching” something that we felt we did better than others- something that we felt set us apart from the rest. Expecting turns, leaps, or petite allegro, I suspect my professor was taken aback when I submitted my paper topic as “passion”. After a brief conversation, she directed to another professor (the grand lioness of the department) to talk over my point of view.

We eventually agreed that passion could be inspired but not taught.

That said, I still felt if one was majoring in dance, or pursuing a life as a professional dancer, one needed to “put up or shut up”, “go big or go home”, “go balls to the walls” …you get the idea.  When it came to being cast in a piece or dancing in technique class, it wasn’t that I was competitive with my peers. I was competitive with myself.

But I imagined the life of a dancer to be one of privilege due to sacrifice. I didn’t feel everyone deserved to be a dancer simply because they wanted to be, but because they earned the right to be. I suppose I still do, but in very different terms than when I started teaching.

When I set out to finally accomplish what I’d been dreaming about for years, I was stunned to find it wasn’t my dance experiences that shaped my happiness- it was the rest of me that had gone unacknowledged, unnoticed, undeveloped in the years I focused so sharply on preparing for professional dance. I remembered that I liked to read books, write, spend time with friends, watch movies, take walks in parks, learn, teach, laugh,…..  And it didn’t all have to be connected to dance in order for me to still be a dancer (even professional), and for me to be serious about my craft.

It took years, but I finally understand that I am not a lesser dancer. I am a better person.

These experiences have made me a better teacher. Teaching has made me a better parent and vice versa.

Confession Number 3

Here’s the thing: I hope there comes a time, a turning point in a dancer/dance educator’s life, when that view changes- not just intellectually, but sincerely. When it shifts from being something that we acknowledge could be true (in a very politically correct way) to something we believe. When we truly and honestly push forward with an understanding that each of us wears many different hats, and we each have a role to play in the enhancement of our aesthetics and our communities. When we put aside what separates us from them as a category and instead use it as a tool to push dialogue, boundaries, and forge collaboration.

Confession Number 4

I used to think I wanted to only teach “serious” dancers. For me, this meant dancers that were as dedicated and committed as I was. This meant dancers that saw themselves dancing professionally and would not stop until they “made it”.

Now, I want to teach.

I used to think that I needed to bring students to my level of commitment, understanding, and eventually mastery.

Now, I meet them where they are.

I used to think my favorite students would be the “best”. That probably meant technically/artistically/behaviorally.

Now, they are sometimes the ones that learned the most, those that make me laugh the most, or those that I’ve spent the most time with (which may include detention!). They are always the ones that trust me enough- or will risk enough- to share a meaningful moment, idea, or laugh.

A Concern

I hope this post doesn’t seem critical of the views Sheena and others shared in her original post. My intention is quite the opposite- to highlight that teaching is just as much of a journey as learning. We each have our individual styles, needs, motivations, and goals.

The important thing is that there is thought, care, and a willingness to discuss. Thanks to Sheena, Nichelle, Dance_Readers and others for these three things and so many more.