Intro to Modern Dance 2015- University of Michigan

Intro to Modern Dance 2015- University of Michigan

Statement of Teaching Philosophy

As a dance educator, I approach the studio as a communal space that is open to all participants’ ideas and thoughts. I invite the students to be a part of this shared experience and process. I offer my knowledge and accumulated memories of my creative practice and teaching experiences to the students, while also providing space for their own individual past experiences to be present and drawn upon as we investigate technique, improvisation, and compositional prompts within the studio. Through embracing a constructivist approach to my teaching practices, I encourage my students to contribute their own movement impulses, desires, and motivations to the classroom environment. In this endeavor, I incite active learning, personal inquiry, risk-taking, experimentation and critical thinking as tools for artistic growth. My goal is to produce thinking dancers. I believe that dance can stimulant both intellectually and physically. Additionally, I aim to have the dancers develop a sense of the creative self by providing an environment in which the students feel comfortable taking risks. Within the classroom, theory and practice can come together and live within the same sphere by placing the body at the axis point. With this approach, students can express a willingness to experiment in class phrases, improvisational tasks, and composition exercises. Together with the students, we create a space where all can feel encouraged to take risks, to embody new modes of thinking, and to test the limits of what is “known.”  I find fulfillment as an instructor through seeing the students tap into their own organic movement style. Creative discovery has no boundaries and I promote the notion that we are life-long investigators in the creative process. If the student can understand his/her own movement, then s/he will not simply copy the teacher’s movements, but will instead connect to a deeper and more personal kinesthetic awareness. This understanding allows the students taking ownership within their movement expression. 

My approach to teaching dance technique is very diverse; regardless of the technique I am teaching, I pull from my heterogeneous background of technical styles including Limon and Horton techniques, Bartenieff Fundamentals, contact improvisation, ballet, and release-based technique to challenge students in learning and integrating this rich, dynamic, and eclectic movement vocabulary into their own bodies.  I use the wealth of my experiences to illuminate technique, provide historical insights, and expose students to all facets of the field.  My technique classes emphasize the development of the students’ sense of the body in motion through a focus on body alignment, core strength, and movement energy, articulation, and flow. By exploring the ideas of space, rhythm, gravity, weight and dynamics within the movement exercises, students will gain an understanding of the relationship between the physical movement and the artistic expression of the movement’s underlying concepts.  This connection continues through developing the student’s eye for observing and evaluating dance. By thinking critically about dance, students develop an understanding of how the art form is related to world through identifying dance as a reflection of and influence on culture and through applying concepts learned in class to other areas of knowledge.

Within improvisation and composition classes, I aim to serve as a facilitator and guide. I insert myself into the practices we are engaging with. I maintain a balance between sharing prepared material and being responsive to the flow, needs, and energy of the room. By inciting curiosity, I compel my students to view the act of composing (in the moment or prescribed movement) as a way to connect to and negotiate our understanding of the world. Within these settings, I teach through example, not only physically, but through my choice of language, critique, and prompts. I continually remind students that dance is more than a performance art, but a relevant form of communication. Providing resources, tools, and prompts, I aim to push my students past any preconceived notions of what dance is. Through spurring their creative energy in new directions, I hope to allow space for the students’ individual voices to be honed and to promote experimentation in the process as we work with a process-oriented framework instead of a product-oriented system.

To these ends, I am constantly looking for ways to reconfigure how I present information as well as searching for new learning methodologies. By continually exploring the limits and possibilities of my own creative practices, I am better equipped to propel my students forward. 

Lastly, this statement of teaching philosophy is a living document. As I continue to grow, learn, and reconsider my creative practices, so too will my philosophy around teaching these practices.