My creative process and teaching approach both establish precise rules accompanied by unguarded expectations.

 Photo by Carla Alcántara

Photo by Carla Alcántara

Contemporary Class: 80 minute video

 Photo by Carla Alcántara

Photo by Carla Alcántara

Ballet & Contemporary: 20 minute video

 

Teaching Statement

I research art-making strategies that activate us towards each other. I approach my students accordingly as a community of individuals with whom I shape a daily tone of empathy, curiosity, and vigor. My students are audience-participants who know that they are both allies and advisors to each other. We generate creative knowledge that applies both to dance careers and to the work of being a global citizen.

I involve my students in a rigorous curiosity about art-making. My works frequently address the humanity of both my performers and my audience, and in the classroom, I likewise employ inclusive pedagogy as a foundation for taking risks. I emphasize observational skills as a necessary antecedent to both understanding and growth. My seminar students read their work aloud in order to uncover both their own rhythms and the diversity of their colleagues’ choices. In technique, I regularly pair students– sometimes for long phrases in groups, and sometimes for the mere unfurl of a développé–and have them identify changes available to their partners. In forging an in-class audience of performers, I activate critical thinking as well as the compositional performance skills necessary for developing professional artists. In so doing, we further foster empathy, a quality integral to success both as artists and community members.

As with my theater-events, when I teach I attend to pitch and flow, sound and endurance, and the practical realities of the bodyʼs demands. In both technique class and my choreographic research I emphasize movement as knowledge-generation and include theory-as-research practices drawn from Bourdieu to Halprin to Forsythe. I approach my performers and students with the invocation of all dancing as compositional. I include movement generation in technique classes, and even within incisive musical and directional instructions, I ask students to make individual choices. Sometimes I ask my students to undertake movement in a 5/4 meter over music with a 4/4 meter, and I require seminar students to compose an essay in exactly 343 words. I expect this musical and compositional dexterity at all levels.

My creative process includes establishing precise rules accompanied by unguarded expectations. I am curious about how students, performers, and my interactive audience members can generate complex systems out of simple guidelines. I frequently employ improvisational practices of theater-makers and jazz musicians, and I draw methods of editing my work from writers who write about writing. My interest in the intersection of language, media, and movement gives rise to cross-disciplinary material in my teaching. I engage writing in my movement courses, and composition in my theory courses.

I include improvisation and composition in all technique classes not only because I value invention, but also because current choreographers so commonly task dancers with generating material and performing improvisationally. I attend to my students as developing professionals and draw from my research into making and the economics of making in both the academy and the field at large. I create assignments based on real dance work demands drawn directly from my on-going professional experience. My interest in the social and financial ethics of art-making has arisen under the frameworks of arts councils, company commissions, and academic grant structures. I am interested in methods of creating fair exchanges of craft and currency, and I share questions about these transactions with students in preparation for their independent work in our field.

In treating my audience members as participants in a creative effort, feedback methods have become integral to my research. I have used anonymous notecards, choreographer questions, Google forms, videotaping my audience, and responsive memory practices. As a teacher, I invite mentors and colleagues to observe my classes and elicit written and verbal advice. I observe classes, and frequently volunteer to guest-teach in order to sharpen my skills with different students in diverse topics. I provide students mid-semester feedback surveys, then address those named challenges and desires directly with the class. I share with them what their peers proposed and I indicate how weʼll move forward together.

These feedback mechanisms are integral to my interest in continuing my development as a teacher. Prejudice and favoritism are natural predators to good teaching, and I exercise methods of subverting my implicit biases. I randomize groups; I make assignments, when appropriate, initially anonymous; and I slow my deliberations over evaluations and grades. In-class discussions are continued online in order to elicit input from quieter students. Quizzes are frequently un-timed, and I avoid trickery. I work to foster an atmosphere that treats students as individuals.

I believe that both dance and writing have the power to recalibrate the distinctions between us. My somatic approach to technique is drawn from a contemplative practice influenced by Barbara Dilley and a decade-long yoga teaching practice. I employ Bebe Millerʼs Alexander-infused weight studies from ballet to composition, and I include Simone Fortiʼs invocation to notice what you notice in both studio and theory courses. I believe that art, and especially dance, allows us not merely to be ourselves, but to discover the transience of self through the changing body, and in doing so, to reveal the possibility of more fully understanding each other.