As an educator, I have taught a variety of practice-based and academic classes at the college level. As an Adjunct Professor at University of La Verne (ULV), I teach Laban Movement Analysis, Jazz Dance, and Hip Hop. I have also taught Movement for Actors, Social Dance and Introduction to Performance (focusing on Dance Theater) at the University of La Verne. I have taught guest classes and workshops in Southern California at Cal Poly Pomona (three-day Physical Theatre Workshop), Cerritos College (Modern Dance), Rio Hondo (Jazz Dance and Yoga), and Moorpark College (Modern Dance). Within UCLA’s Department of World Arts and Cultures / Dance, I taught Modern Dance, Bartenieff Fundamentals and Introduction to Dance Improvisation, as well as working as the Teaching Associate for Dance Composition and Kinesiology for Dancers. I have taught workshops on dance composition, Bartenieff Fundamentals, and Laban Movement Analysis in a variety of contexts to dancers, actors, and opera singers.
My work as an educator also includes over ten years as a Teaching Artist in public schools and art centers in Los Angeles, teaching creative movement, dance technique and composition to young people spanning Kindergarten through High School. My work in schools has included offering training and professional development to classroom teachers, coaching them to utilize the tools and approaches of dance pedagogy into their classes. I work with Shakespeare Center L.A’s Will Power to Youth Program, Inner City Arts, the Music Center. I have also worked with LACMA’s NexGen program, MUV Dance and Yoga, and L.A. Unified School District’s Arts Prototype program. I am committed to using the principles of community engagement as practiced by such companies as Urban Bush Women and Cornerstone Theater Company. I have developed a student-centered pedagogical approach to working with young people.
Teaching Philosophy – Spring 2014
Teaching and Art Making
My ongoing practice as a professional artist informs my work as an educator. Whether teaching a practice-based, academic, somatic or composition class, I design the classroom as a creative lab where students learn by trying things out and making discoveries. As both a dance-maker and educator I value ensemble, movement practice, and the ability to name and make meaning from what one perceives.
I am interested in creating an environment in my classes where the students become an ensemble as our time together unfolds. I utilize improvisational structures based in Nina Martin’s Ensemble Thinking and Ann Bogart’s Viewpoints, as well as theater games developed by Augusto Boal in order to build group trust and intelligence. For instance, in a composition class, I create assignments that emphasize collaboration, asking students to work together using a set of guidelines to design dances. These exercises and projects downplay the notion of individual-as-genius, and instead are predicated on the assumption that there are multiple forms of genius represented by those present in the room, and that working closely together will yield more interesting results. One side effect is the cultivation of a generosity with one another, as movers, thinkers and performers. I also believe emphasizing ensemble ultimately allows individuals to trust their own ideas, since their ideas are valued and used by the group.
Prioritizing Physical Practice
In both my practice as a choreographer and an educator, I use the Bartenieff Fundamentals to build connectvity and readiness in the body, utilizing breath support, activating core support and practicing developmental Patterns of Total Body Organization. In a contemporary dance technique class for instance, I scaffold exercises that encourage ease, alignment, fluidity and risk taking. I believe that an integral aspect of “technique” is the presence of the performer. Training in voice and commitment are just as important as other more traditional aspects of dance class. I challenge students to remain engaged on every level, including developing their range of Effort life in their dancing (i.e., their range of expressive qualities that they employ while dancing). I strive to create a focused, supportive, vibrant learning community where it is safe to take risks and have fun while doing so.
Observation, Articulation and Meaning Making
I use my choreography to draw attention to and make meaning from issues or themes that I observe in the world. Similarly, I encourage my students to both embody and speak articulately about the movement they experience in their own bodies, and in the movement they observe others performing. In the context of a dance history class, I have given workshops in the observation methods of Laban Movement Analysis in order to train students to be able to perceive, discuss and make meaning from movement. These tools allow them to cite specific movement examples when forming an argument in relation to the social, political and cultural context of a dance. These observation methods can be transferred to giving accurate and supportive feedback to a classmate in a composition class, or to noticing and repeating a nuance in a technique class or rehearsal. The ability to discern and articulate what one sees is at the core of what I feel is most important about being an artist. As such it is valuable to offer students the tools needed in order to develop this ability.
Dance Everywhere All the Time
I believe strongly that in equal access to dance education, knowing that people’s lives can open up exponentially when they have consistent opportunites to learn through movement. Within my classes, I create an environment where students can access the benefits of dance education regardless of whether they’ve had previous dance “training”. I want students to hone kinesthetic awareness, increase mobility, strength and agility, deepen critical thinking abilities, learn how to collaborate in groups and think together as an ensemble. Especially for young students whose bodies and minds are rapidly growing, it’s important that they get to move as much as possible, building critical thinking and neuromuscular pathways as they move. Studying dance is one way for people to practice moving through the world with confidence, sensitivity, and a sense of grounded readiness.