Teaching Philosophy

 

 

 

 

In both my contemporary technique and composition classes, I encourage my students to seek challenges and to make discoveries.  The dance studio is place of exploration, whether it is exploring ways of seamlessly moving in and out of the floor in a technique class, or exploring different textures traveling through the body in an improvisation or composition class.  Dancing is more than just physical movement; it is a series of relationships and problems to be investigated.  True learning takes place when curiosity ignites within the student, when there is a personal investment and excitement inside the individual to solve the problems that come his or her way.  I had an influential teacher in college who opened a door for me, encouraging me to make physical discoveries and claim my artistic opinions.  While studying with her, I developed my personal approach to movement and embodied the conceptual ideas she was sharing in a way that gave me space to translate them into my own original thoughts.  Now I am the one opening that door and 

My practice as an educator and my development as an artist are deeply entwined.  In both realms I live in a world of active experimentation and self-reflection.  As an educator, I am constantly responding to my environment with an awareness of my students’ needs and the culture of current trends, while maintaining a strong grounding in my values and roots.  As a choreographer I am hungry, seeking to make fresh and relevant work while holding onto my passion for developing unique movement vocabularies and exploring experiential concepts through movement.  Being a choreographer and performer currently making work in the field, I am able to draw inspiration from my creative experiences and bring relevant knowledge to the dance studio, offering guidance to students who may soon be entering the challenging world of dance-making in today’s cultural and economic climate.  My practices as an educator are grounded, but never fixed.  I am committed to life-long learning both as an artist and an educator, always digging deeper and reaching further, never completely satisfied.

beckoning my students through, with a hope that I can invigorate them to find a personal drive and connection to what we are doing, and an investment in their own artistry.

           

I feel that physical and intellectual understanding of functionality in movement is an essential base for exploration.  I integrate explanations of anatomical function into my classes so that my students can visualize the internal structures of the body and translate that knowledge into physical sensations.  When alignment and proper usage of musculature begins to fall into place, exciting exploration and risk taking can occur with gravity, weight shift, and momentum.  I often encourage minimalism and a softening in the body in order to “untrain” habituated usage of the wrong muscles, highlighting the importance of making connections internally rather than focusing on external shape of a high leg extension or split legs in a jete.  Once I see advanced students begin to embody proper internal musculature, I weave the importance of external appearance and aesthetic back into my teaching.  Somatic awareness extends into every aspect of our lives, and I stress the importance of proper technique not only to foster the development of intelligent dancers, but also to help them maintain physical health and longevity.

 

I attend to my students as individuals to personalize mentorship.  I believe it is important to explore and reflect on human motivation as an educator so that I can find a way to connect what we do in class to a broader affective rationale, as well as to individual interests.  In this way, my dance teaching is very much influenced by my education in psychology.  Learning is all about making connections, whether it is physical connectivity within the body, drawing connections between material learned in different classes, or connecting movement to a broader understanding of life and purpose.  We are complex beings, coming into class with our histories, beliefs, and individual ideas wrapped inside the physical body.  I make an effort to understand each student as the entire person that they are—their goals, their values, the way they approach their work—not just the movement that I see them do in class.

 

I design my classes so that they both challenge my students and ensure experiences of success.  The challenges keep them on their toes, giving them something to strive for and discouraging complacency, while the successes build confidence and support them in taking risks.  The interaction between the two creates a safe learning environment where mistakes are considered to be a necessary part of the learning process.  I challenge my students to find their own entry into the movement I teach, so they are not just imitating what they see me do, but finding their own physical range and self-expression within it.  I am constantly adjusting this challenging edge based on the level of the technique class I am teaching and the abilities of the particular group of students in the room. 

 

Today’s college students are growing up in a culture of immediacy, with the ability to access endless information at their fingertips.  Young children are often given an iPad to play with as a replacement for human interaction with a parent or sibling.  There is no doubt that this is affecting development of interpersonal skills and learning styles.  Students entering college today function very differently in a learning environment compared to students ten years ago, with shorter attention spans and a desire for immediate gratification.  Because knowledge can be obtained so quickly via smart phones, YouTube, and Wikipedia, patience for depth of learning and development of skills over time has greatly diminished.  Dance training, of course, cannot be obtained on the internet, and takes many years of focused learning and diligent physical practice to develop.  Keeping students fully engaged in the continuous and sometimes repetitive practice of dance technique can be challenging in this technology driven era, which I feel makes it that much more important to preserve and pass on to this generation.  Being able to communicate and express through movement and dance has been essential to cultures around the world as far back as history dates.  Our bodies will always be relevant to us.  As a dance teacher, I hope that I can help quiet the constant distractions of technology, even for a moment, and guide students to value being present, engaged, and rooted in their dance practices, and in everything they do.