Dance the Bay – Learn about this excellent outreach program in the Bay Area.
Changing Models Changing Systems – Co-‐President Beth Megill shares her reflections on trying something new.
We did it!!
Your letters made the difference. Thank you to everyone who took the time to write a letter in support of SB 725. The Senate Education Committee took a vote, and it passed unanimously! It will now move onto Appropriations. The passage of this bill through our state government means that the arts standards in California will be reviewed and revised. The reverberations of such a revision will include: increased awareness of the arts by the Cal legislators, a stronger footing for qualified dance instructors who are credentialed in dance as a single subject, and improved arts delivery to our students in k-‐12! Thanks to Nor Cal President Jessy Kronenberg for representing dance on this essential measure!
On Behalf of CDEA, Beth Megill (SoCal President)
Dance as an Inspiration
My Experience with Dance the Bay
by Maansi Shah
I began learning dance at age 5, and under my teachers’ guidance, we were not allowed to even drink water for the duration of the class. Discipline was strict, and the structure rigid, but within that structure, I found that dance offered a freedom of expression and movement. It was with the intent of sharing this freedom and joy that I joined Dance the Bay.
The first day of class at the Boys’ and Girls’ Club of Oakland, I went into the room with the expectation that this would be similar to dance classes that I had attended as a child. The kids, however, had other ideas. I at first resisted what seemed to me to be a failing of sorts, a lack of leadership and authority.
However, once I managed to calm the chaos, I realized that dance was about more than technique, an idea that took getting used to. Over time, however, I grew to appreciate the open space that this created; it allowed dance to be purely for fun. The classes allowed me to learn about teaching, about myself, and about dance, fueling my passion for the art form.
Founded by UC Berkeley students Elissa Lee, Rishi Sinha, and Connie Shao, Dance the Bay came together under one unified belief: dance should be accessible to everyone. We believe in the power of dance to inspire, uplift and bring joy to individuals and communities.
Last fall, I joined this budding organization, as a teacher for its Ignite program. Ignite strives to make dance available for youth by providing dance at preschools and after school programs. We teach hip-hop, contemporary, yoga, and creative movement, all the while emphasizing dance as an outlet for creativity and selfexpression.
Dance the Bay, however, extends beyond the teaching in Ignite. The organization seeks to simultaneously be a structured body and an open and inviting space to voice ideas and think creatively about the role that dance plays in the community.
Dance the Bay Illuminate seeks to draw from the vibrant dance community at UC Berkeley and in the Bay Area to bring dance to communities with limited access to the arts. These monthly classes and/or performances will take place in senior homes, homeless shelters, and children’s hospitals and will provide the opportunity for students to engage in performance opportunity, teaching experience, and service learning.
Additionally, Dance the Bay Inspire collects stories about arts and dance education and its impact on people’s lives, striving to inspire others to do the same. Inspire is the culmination of many of our artistic director’s passions – writing, dance, and people.
Dance the Bay is a burgeoning organization that is in the process of inventing itself. The roles within it are being defined, the core of the organization is slowly cementing. As a new organization, Dance the Bay is flexible, adaptable, and open to inspiration. As we seek to inspire, we seek also to be inspired.
Changing Models Changing Systems
Old Grooves and New Thinking
by Beth Megill
This past year I have been working on a large dance literacy project for my sabbatical. The process has been fascinating, invigorating, perplexing, empowering and rewarding. I have had a chance to ask the big questions about my teaching, about the art of dance, about teaching the art of dance and about the meaning of learning. I have discovered where my own training has influenced my practices and where my trial and error approaches have guided me as well. One of the biggest ideas I have pondered revolves around the idea of modeling.
I have adopted teaching methods from a variety of sources some consciously and some unconsciously. Coming from a household in which my dad was a music professor, I see a lot of my dad in the way I teach and the why of my teaching. I also have strong practices from my early ballet training, which have shaped my ideas of technique, musicality and expression. But, regardless of the source of these acquisitions, they are above all acquisitions. They were practices modeled to me by my teachers. They were gifts.
Now I find myself at a place interested in going beyond my models. I see a new horizon for teaching dance and making meaning in dance that I have not been modeled to me previously, and I have learned that while it is exciting to be on the edge, it is also scary. When we push ourselves to try new things we are abandoning our safety net. We are willingly cutting the ropes from former experience out of a desire to try something new. We don’t know what will happen we don’t know what it will look like.
To be fair, I should mention that I have always been curious. I have always questioned the status quo and have always had a passion for innovation. But, I am now much more aware of what it means not only to change a way of teaching, but to also change one’s thinking behind how and why one teaches. Dance literacy and the questions surrounding the practices of reading and writing dance notation has launched me out of the nest. I see now how my previous innovations were explorations yes, but they were merely explorations within the same paradigm. In shifting to a new paradigm, I no longer have the same models. In some cases I have no models, and I find myself creating (or even becoming) the model. How do I want to do things? How do I want my students to experience learning and dancing, learning about dance, learning through dance, learning because of dance?
Our brains can be likened to sledding. The first time we go down the hill, we have to forge a path; it is rough, and it can be challenging. We get stuck. We fall over. We end sweaty and out of breath and perhaps even wondering if we should just go home and have some hot chocolate. But, we try again, and the second time we go down the path, it is a little smoother and each time after that it is easier and easier until we are flying down the hill without even thinking. It is such a joy to sail down this familiar pathway! We know every curve around every tree. We know the bumps, and we know the flow. But, at some point we become aware of another side of the mountain, a different slope with different trees and different rises and falls. Now we have a harder choice. Do we do all of the work needed to forge a new path? We already did it once, and we have such a nice time with our current path. It feels good. It feels familiar. It feels like home. This moment of decided to change is the most crucial in any learning and re-‐patterning process in our brains. We first need to decide we want to make chance, and the decision is not just an intellectual one. We must feel deeply in our bones that it is worth the effort to make change.
As I develop my learning materials, I find myself giddy with excitement over a new score or literacy lesson. The journey down the hill can be fun as we discover new spaces and places. And, half way down the hill we stop to catch our breath and look back at the path behind us, our messy first run. We wonder who will see the path and decided to try it out.
We are all role models. Each decision, each question, and each answer matters. We have a chance to try something new and experience change with our students. What experience do we want to offer them? And how are we training them to forge their own paths.
Dance and Dialogue – Ricka Kelsch talks workshops in middle school.
Dance Advocacy Day – Kristin Kusanovich takes San Fran by storm to wake up advocates everywhere.
Repeatability – Cabrillo College lead a repeatability session at CFT Convention.
The Strides from March
I am very pleased to share a number of tremendous events that occurred in March. Our NorCal President Jessy Kronenberg has been working diligently with the four state arts organizations and a state senator Lori Hancock to sponsor a new bill (SB 725) that will update our state visual and performing arts (VAPA) standards to align with the new National Core Arts Standards. This could set the wheels in motion for greater change and state support of dance programs at all levels, while reinforcing the importance of dance in education in our legislation. Everyone needs to send a letter of support for this bill to get traction at the state level. In addition, we have news from Kristin Kusanovich (NorCal President Elect) on the Dance Advocacy Day in San Francisco, and I report on an intersegmental meeting held at CSU Long Beach during ACDA. Change is in the air, and we are a part of it! Congratulations!
On Behalf of CDEA, Beth Megill (SoCal President)
Dance and Dialogue
by Ricka Kelsch
Dance and Dialogue, a day long dance workshop for middle school dance students, was held this year on Saturday, February 28th at the Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts. The day was an amazing and inspirational experience full of gifts for160 kids, all of whom attended free of charge. The workshop is the creation of Ricka Kelsch, choreographer and middle school dance teacher for more than 20 years, who wanted to find a way to bring together kids from all the diverse communities that make up the city they live in with the goal she expressed in the motto for the event: “breakin’ barriers – makin’ connections.” Under Ricka’s joyful guidance, the day began with a sign-in welcome which put the kids into their first gift of the day and brought the day’s first smiles – a t-shirt with a color theme that put them on different “color teams,” mixing kids from different schools together.
With their team, the kids’ next wonderful experience was attending the Council meetings. Much in the tradition of Native Americans, and under the watchful eye of a trained councilor, they passed the talking stick and shared their experiences and learned from each other what they had in common and where they were different. The kids came together as strangers, but they left these meetings with what Ricka hoped for as the day’s next gift – with their hearts more open to understanding of themselves and of those who had been strangers.
For the rest of the day, those opened hearts brought the kids a new experience in dance, yet another gift. In the dance classes, communication, as much as technique, was the goal of the very special teachers whom Ricka brought to the workshop: the kids learned about Afro-Brazilian capoeira “challenge dance,” where making mental connection with your partner is key; from a deaf instructor they learned the sign movements to John Lennon’s “Imagine,” dancing so movingly that it brought all the adults observing to tears; in the Salsa class they learned the richness of a dance tradition made up of many cultural threads.
Along with all those gifts, there was also a break for a great pizza and salad lunch shared with new friends and old, and breaks for snacks and drinks throughout the day.
At the end of the day, in a community assembly, Ricka movingly made the point which brought the whole experience into focus: having learned to dance with an open heart and find a new understanding of the art they loved, the kids could look to their art as a way of reaching out to their communities and make a difference in the lives of others. In giving her a rousing cheer, they clearly saw that was exactly what Ricka had done.
Walking the Walk
Dance Advocacy Day 2015 in San Francisco
by Kristin Kusanovich
As movement instructors we have all at some point begun a locomotion sequences or an across the floor portion of a class with walking. Walking exercises and variations are fundamental to dance because they represent the core experience that ties all dance together: weight shift. Recently, eight dancers engaged in a different kind of walking exercise that led us through architecture and urban spaces of San Francisco on the way to oval tables in board rooms of elected officials. The Dance Advocacy Walk, we can call it.
I was pleased to represent California Dance Education Association as Nor. Cal President-Elect for the Dancers’ Group advocacy efforts on March 24, 2015 in tandem with National Arts Advocacy Day happening in Washington D.C. Michelle Lynn Reynolds, Program Director of Dancers’ Group of San Francisco, and her wonderful interns organized the afternoon walking and bus tour to government offices. Eight of us met to create an ensemble that would plan while we were piling into elevators, strategize while stepping off curbs, and get to know each other and get caught up on each other’s lives as we traversed several sunny blocks in San Francisco over the course of an afternoon.
Dancers’ Group has done this for a few years now – creating a local parallel to the national highprofile arts advocacy events on D.C. Their office compiled briefs for us and for the staffers we would visit by culling through the national arts advocacy day materials, creating summaries of arts advocacy talking points, tactics and issues. In essence, this organization that is a leader in all things dance in the Bay Area, set us up for success in our mission to communicate the importance of dance in our communities, cultures, schools and society. We met for a planning session prior to walking to get briefed on each office we would visit and choose the most relevant points to highlight given the different roles the leaders play. We visited the offices of CA Assembly Member, David Chiu; Minority Leader, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi; and, Senator Dianne Feinstein.
Of course one does not meet with the actual Senator Feinstein to talk arts just because it is a National Advocacy Day; Senator Feinstein is rarely in San Francisco this time of year because of the extended work schedules of Senators in Washington D.C. Nor is Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi just waiting at her desk to talk to dance professionals and other any other hard-working folks with agendas. Professional and welleducated staffers met with us in each case to listen, ask questions, take notes with the understanding that salient points and issues that seem relevant or connected to their office’s concerns would be brought back to their respective Assembly Member, Congressperson or Senator.
Though I have participated for years in on-line advocacy efforts, letter writing and calls to representatives, and, although I teach modules on advocacy in the arts as a university professor, I had never literally walked from one government building to another with a group of artists with issue briefs tucked in our dancers’ bags and jazz shoes dangling from our shoulders, going through metal detectors to make it to appointments with our city’s and state’s leaders. That in itself was eye opening and made the world of advocacy much more tangible.
I am always telling my students that ‘networking,’ which seems like an elusive and mysterious concept to many undergraduates, is just building relationships. I now know, because I experienced it kinesthetically, that ‘advocating’ in person happens by walking or riding the bus to a place, having an appointment, of course, and starting to talk. That was a revelation and made me ever more grateful that our democratic society allows for the sharing of opinions by regular people with staffers representing our elected officials.
The staffers in each case willingly took the advocacy briefs handed to them, thankful for the information on an arena of life that they were not necessarily aware of or educated about. In fact, I did not anticipate that such personal connections might be made with staffers over the way dance infuses value, meaning and purpose into so many of society’s endeavors and how it works in harmony with their other major concerns for the public good, education, thriving and positively focused children and youth and strong arts and culture economies in their cities. You could feel the weight of the ideas we put forward as a group spark their imaginations and intellectual curiosity. Perhaps there was an internal weight shift happening on the part of these intelligent and capable young professionals as their understanding of dance’s role in society came into the limelight, taking the focus of that government office staffer for the 30 minute period of our planned visits.
The receptivity of these young professionals in each of these offices was remarkable. I was left with a lasting impression of an inspired and energetic exchange that happens when eight dancers from all walks of life, each representing diverse genres, programs, and scopes of activity, come together to gather our thoughts and just share the floor of public discourse.
What was said? We talked at length about the importance of the NEA funding as leverage for contributions that outnumber NEA dollars 9:1. We talked about the Arts in Education Program at the U.S. Department of Education. Members of our group talked about their own organizations, missions and angles through which they enliven dance for different populations. One young intern said he was there to learn about how advocacy works but was eloquent every time he spoke about dance. Every word was not captured. However, I wrote a reflection in the form of a poetic dialogue on the essence of my experience. The italicized parts represent not so much what the staffers said, but what anyone in their shoes whose office is invaded by eight smiling people with good posture and lots of polite enthusiasm might think.
Yes, dance. There are 800 dance organizations not counting individuals and presenters in the Bay Area alone.
By the way, the more we support dance the better the good and the more funding the more good.
Name a problem. Consider how dance partners in the solving of that problem. Health. Yes, dance to improve health and diminish health care costs.
Schools not reaching at-risk youth.
Yes, dance to empower and give outlets for expression.
Yes, dance to help survivors reclaim selves as whole beings.
Yes, dance to be visible, public, in people’s faces and spaces and make us think.
Psychological disorders/ trauma
Yes, dance to delve into our stories and reckon with our diminished ability to trust and build relationships.
Learning or physical disabilities
Yes, dance to help create welcoming, creative, inclusive environments for differently-abled people
Absorption of immigrants into community fabric.
Yes, dance to honor traditions, reclaim heritage and learn about others’ heritages.
That much dance sounds good.
Yes more dance can do more of all that.
The feeling of advocacy is like the feeling one gets after a good walk. You feel productive, connected, contributing and hopeful. It is a great activity to engage in as much as it can seem hard to carve out the time. As a member of California Dance Educators’ Association you are kept informed of the latest key advocacy issues, and letter writing campaigns and legislative actions affecting the fabric of your dance communities. I hope this brief reflection inspires you to consider in what ways advocacy can fit into your life and how some of it all begins with a simple walking exercise. What a positive experience it was to meet with people who exhibited a gracious openness to learning more about what you all do in your brilliant dance education and performance.
CDEA Co-sponsors a Senate Bill for New VAPA Standards
Letter Campaign In Action Now!
by Jessy Kronenberg
The time has come for new Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA) standards in California. Current state VAPA standards were set in 2001 and in these past 14 years we all know that things have changed in education at the state and federal levels. There have been significant changes in policy priorities, instructional practices, educational resources, and technology. An update for the VAPA standards is clearly overdue.
In response, CMEA (California Music Education Association) has sponsored a state senate bill that calls for modernization of these standards. CDEA, and our state-level counterparts in Visual Arts and Theater (CAEA, CETA, ETA, and DTASC), are co-sponsors of this bill. On February 27, Senator Loni Hancock introduced this legislation. Senator Hancock represents Senate District 9 covering cities in Contra Costa and Alameda counties. We are fortunate to have Senator Hancock carrying this bill; she has been a champion for education in California for decades and currently chairs the Select Committee on Workforce Development, School Environment, and Student Wellness.
CDEA is ecstatic to be a part of this important legislative process! One of the most significant elements of the bill for Dance Education is that it calls for the National Core Arts Standards to be a basis for deliberations on new VAPA standards for the state. NCAS, launched in June 2014, are designed to help arts educators provide the high-quality curriculum, instruction, and assessment that students need to succeed in today’s schools and tomorrow’s careers. It can be argued that the NCAS framework for Dance is the most comprehensive guide for Dance Education to date.
The bill, known as SB 725 (Hancock), requires the Superintendent of Public Instruction to convene a panel of experts, including credentialed teachers, to recommend new VAPA standards to the State Board. The standards are to be adopted no later than June 30, 2017.
Starting immediately CDEA needs all members to reach out to their networks to contact the Senate Education Committee with letters of support for this bill. We need letters from organizations, individual members, parents, students, etc. Passage of SB 725 represents one step closer to high-quality dance education for all of California’s school children. Faxing or mailing the committee is best—please avoid email if possible.
Fax: (916) 445-7799
Honorable Carol Liu
Chair, Senate Education Committee
State Capitol, Room 2083
Sacramento, CA 95814
CDEA will be sending out a form letter that can be modified for various groups. Keep your eye on your inbox! Thanks for your efforts to help get this important legislation passed! See below for resources related to this article.
Intersegmental Meeting at CSU Long Beach
by Beth Megill
ACDA Festival is a great opportunity for dance faculty to connect and revive as artists and teachers, sharing our stories and our challenges while celebrating our students in classes and performances. But, as tough times have descended on dance in California, these festivals have also become opportunities for dance faculty to meet and share vital information on the more political aspects of keeping our programs strong. Kathryn Milostan Egus and I hosted the meeting for community college and four year dance faculty to meet and talk essential issues of transfer, repeatability, accountability, representation, and opportunity.
The emergent theme of the day was visibility and accountability. Specifically we discussed the importance of accurate data for our field so we can more precisely represent our activities and our constituents. Coding systems for the state and national levels vary from sector to sector, in other words, k-12 coding does not match community college coding, which does not match the four year coding systems. This lack of continuity is one aspect that is troublesome when we are trying to account for our presence, but the bigger issue at hand is the extreme inaccuracy of many of the coding systems. For example, the community college system codes dance into two sections. The first code is for Dance (1008.00) and includes technique, composition and choreography of dance. The second coding option is Commercial Dance (1008.10) and is intended for use in Career and Technology Education programs (CTE programs) and covers courses that apply specifically to occupational applications. There is currently no coding option for dance history, dance studies, anthropology, dance medicine or dance and media. The result of this oversimplified coding system is that the scope of dance is not fully represented at the state level, which then results in smaller numbers and weaker representation.
Another interesting discussion surfaced in regard to the elusive Transfer Model Curriculum and the AA degree for transfer. I shared information on the state Course Identification system (C-ID) and how it is intended to streamline transfer as schools choose to align their individual courses (including course content and unit value) with the approved CIDs. Other disciplines (including the other performing arts disciplines) have all established their C-ID systems. The creation of C-IDs allows for transfer degrees to be formed that guarantee student transfer from a CC to a CSU. The benefits of dance not yet being asked to create C-IDs include a continued freedom in individual programs to select unit values and content for their course work. However, this freedom comes at the cost of dance students not having a streamlined transfer guarantee. Students are under considerable pressure to choose the fastest way through their college careers. A guarantee in the form of a transfer degree is enticing and may be pulling students away from selecting dance as their major when they would be guaranteed transfer in most anything else. The transfer process from a state perspective seemed like new information to many of the attendees and was greatly appreciated as it empowered the group with much needed information. The meeting closed with people joining advocacy groups of interest for further action.
Now more than ever is the time to promote stronger Intersegmental relationships between two-year and four-year institutions. State legislation has affected both types of institutions and is pushing for stronger and more streamlined connections to facilitate student transfers. Come to get updates on relevant issues and be apart of meaningful discussions to develop new action plans.
- Overview and Plan for the Meeting
- Overview of Topics and Issues/ Solution Planning
- Investigation and Advisory Teams
- Set Meeting Date for Late May/ June
- Current Status: How are curriculum issues impacting you?
- Accountability Legislation (fitting dance into accountability systems) Visibility is power!
- Single Subject Dance Credential – CDEA update
- How the numbers of majors are counted – inaccurate data
- Dance Majors (counted)
- Double majors (not counted if dance is listed 2nd)
- Dance- related majors – Dance as an interdisciplinary Art (not counted) Counselor recommendations – educational plan effects (importance in declaring a major upon registration)
- Dance Classifications
- Need for accurate accounting of dance courses, programs, offerings (as they are coded by the state). Inaccurate data compilation leads to an inability to justify our work – We need new ways to accumulate accurate data about those we serve.
- New TOP/CIP codes for dance need to be developed to more accurately reflect diversity in areas of dance study
- CTE (Career and Technical Education) development –Commercial dance programs, pilates/somatics, other?
- Types of degrees – Developing non-performance degrees at four year institutions– acceptance by means of scholarship for certain degrees (rather than audition) – Dance science/movement therapy arts – Dance history or critical issues in dance
- AA Degrees – AA degrees must now align 51% with program requirements of a single CSU
- Degree categories – Assist.org
- Articulation – processes
- TMC – AA-T – development
- The resultant effect of inaccurate counting has been delays in being considered for TMC development
- Possible Action/ Process – Task force – Organize team of 6 (3 CC and 3 CSU) to design a Transfer Model Curriculum. So we can gain a sleeker pathway for dance students to get to CSUs as a dance major.
- Aligning ourselves with supportive organizations to enhance our credibility with the state.
- CDEA/ NDEO- state and national dance organization have members on various state and national committees to represent dance in all discussions
- California Arts Project – Tends to work with k-12 but is key for us to understand intersegmental curricular design
- CREATE California- a group of people who have been working toward the credential.
- DACCC- not formalized, but a seedling idea for CC dance programs that could work with the Music counterpart MACCC which deals with similar issues
- Lobbyist Needs
- Impact of legislation on the field
- Modification of processes for accountability reports
- Obtaining more reliable data
- Repeatability – some limited exceptions/fitting into the mold of other fields
Current Thinking and Talking Points
We need to expand our thoughts and language to include the many viable fields of dance and dance relate-fields: dance therapy, dance and technology, dance critics, scholars, researchers. It is also essential to include dance/movement science practitioners as part of the field of dance as well as other the interdisciplinary field like multimedia and arts administration. (Put some of these areas in the “other” field of the survey.)
California Federation of Teachers Voices Issue of Repeatability at Conference
by Bonnie Lavin
When given a forum to talk about broader access to education, pertaining to cultural equity, marginalized students and community members sound like this…
Not being able to take my dance class more than once has limited me as a student who is trying to expand my interests, become more involved in my new community, and acquire knowledge and skills for development.
I need better skills to improve my own education. For me having the opportunity to repeat a course is a chance to strengthen my knowledge, to improve my social skills and for sure to have a huge probability to learn what the teacher of a subject new to me is teaching.
As a second language learner, having this chance – to repeat a course in which my grade was lower than the required grade needed for my transfer- is essential to my own progress to continue studies in a higher level education.
I understand that the system leaders are trying to save money, when passing this mandate, but why cut opportunity from students who come to emerge to a new community? I am talking about students who come from different countries (second language learners) and who try to fit in this new world of education and learning. I join myself in this group, foreign students, because it has been very useful repeating a subject, doing this I realized I needed to take different classes before continuing my studies, I also learned that it is essential to have a good communication with classmates and teachers as well, and then you can achieve greater success.
For my own opinion and because of my experience, I have repeated a subject that has served as a guide more effective than going to the counselors. Taking performing arts, music and dance courses has made a very hard impact in my entire life because I have been having the opportunity to know people here in the US and because I had the opportunity to develop myself as a human being who can deal better with the new community in which I am involved. Also much of my fears to speak in public has dissolved. These are some of the reasons why I wish and hope that the senate committee on higher education would revisit repeatability.
Clearly words such as these, from the source, resonate more authentically on a theme (The issue of Repeatability in Community Colleges) than any attempt made by a teacher, trying to explain the importance of such an issue.
That said, CDEA is asking you who are engaged in arts education to answer the call to advocate for change. Please join us, as we are experiencing a rejuvenation in our advocacy efforts, making an impact across the state with our initiatives from K-12 and Higher Ed. Download our form letters to update the arts standards, write to your legislators, voice your support for these important issues. Draft letters of your own, utilizing your imagination and your student’s testimonials to affect change in dance education. The time for cultural equity and arts integration in education is here. I am sure that every one of my colleagues, teaching within a community college, in areas such as performing arts, language, or CTE has experienced a dialogue/scenario with their students similar to the one shared above. This dialogue is what compelled me to attend the CFT conference in Manhattan Beach on March 20.
I went to the conference specifically to sit in on a presentation by the CCFT (Cabrillo College Federation of Teachers) on the issue of Repeatability in Community Colleges. This group, the CCFT, has been, hands down, the inspirational leader in the fight to re-visit this issue in the upcoming Senate Committee on Education meeting this April. The repeatability initiative (passed in the Fall of 2013) was perhaps a necessary mandate at the time when our State was immersed in the reality of scarcity. The recession forced legislators to manage enrollments and access to affordable education at the glutted community colleges in California. But now, with an emerging economy and voter approved funding through Prop 30, repeatability in community colleges seems desperately unfair, targeting marginalized communities. It deserves another look!! It would be redundant of me to try and frame this issue more appropriately or eloquently than the CCFT does in their article. I urge CDEA educator/members to visit the CDEA website for the framework and for updates on this issue.
Much has occurred and is continuing to occur within this political area for higher education. It is important that as dance educators, we exercise our intelligence and power to assure that cultural values, policies, and practices required to achieve and sustain cultural equity are foundational to our institutions of higher learning.
CDEA Reports – Update on our recent day conference with essential member news.
Spring Into Action
After a fantastic February day conference, March is a great month for reflecting on new beginnings as spring comes to life. As an organization we are springing into action with advocacy efforts at the state level and organizational planning on the home front. March is also particularly special for college dance programs in California that will be attending ACDA’s Baja Regional Conference at CSU Long Beach. Formerly ACDFA, the American College Dance Association, will be hosting a meeting on the repeatability issues at community college program. It is serving as an important time for intersegmental conversation to aid students in their transfer process. I hope to see you there!
On Behalf of CDEA, Beth Megill (SoCal President)
CDEA Day Conference
by Beth Megill
Last month’s incredible day conference at Loyola Marymount University was a solid affirmation of the recent rejuvenation of CDEA as an organization. Buoyed by a troupe of 17 passionate LMU dance students, LMU faculty members Teresa Heiland and Paige Porter lead the day with great finesse and professionalism. Offering a variety of classes and sessions, the schedule was both rich and varied, and featured an informative keynote address by Jack Mitchell from California’s Department of Education. Creative minds were stimulated, passionate spirits were ignited, and determined advocacy efforts were renewed. CDEA is on a roll and the future is bound to hold great things for dance education across the state.
One of the most exciting aspects of the conference was the activity and energy brought by our student volunteers. Teresa Heiland recently established an honors chapter for her dance students through NDEO, and used this event to demonstrate how student involvement is a key to the success of a powerful arts organization. The students ran everything from the registration desk, to the video and photo capture, tech set up, to the introductions of each guest teacher. This of course required a good deal of modeling and support on behalf of Heiland and Porter, but the success of the event is a testament to the power of an organized and invested group of like minded individuals who know that together, they can make a difference.
The member meeting closed the day with some essential information about current issues and next steps for CDEA. After I gave a brief welcome, I discussed our increased activity and involvement as an organization. The goal of increasing our membership so we can better represent all dance educators at the state level remains our biggest mission. The idea behind this goal is to come to state arts education discussions with a stronger voice and more political power. Our recent elections have resulted in our most robust greater board to date. These board members have been charged with growing our membership through various membership drives, improved e-communications, and a useful bank of resources for our members.
Unfortunately, the president elect for Southern California could not accept her position, and, therefore, we are still in need of a president elect for the SoCal region. This is an essential next step for our organization, and you might very well be the one to take on the charge.
Our advocacy efforts are in full swing, with NorCal President Jessy Kronenberg sitting in on CREATE California meetings and essential discussion with the other state arts organizations in regards to credential efforts. I have been busy working with the California Arts Project on new resources for arts educators regarding recent and upcoming LCAP (Local Control Accountability Plan) discussions for k-12 programs across the state. I will also be working with Kathryn Milostan Egus to facilitate discussions and planning on community college repeatability. A meeting will be held at the ACDA festival this month at CSU Long Beach. Please stay tuned for exact date and time.
Lastly, we want to invite all of our members to become more involved with CDEA in some capacity, for we believe that only together will we be able to make the change we want to see in our dance education programs. As an example, please consider hosting a local CDEA breakfast. This is an informal gathering ideally held once monthly for members to connect as friends and colleagues while talking shop over a good meal. These are not formal meetings, but have proven an effective tool in sharing information and bolstering our spirits.
You may also consider becoming more active on social media. If you already have a twitter account, hop on and see what is going on with CDEA and the California arts education scene. Share a great article or just listen in for news.
Joining a team to help with membership growth is another way to both become more informed and empowered. Or, perhaps you love to write and would like to contribute to this CDEA News monthly. We would love to have your voice represented! There are also teams for writing white papers (position papers about dance education), organizing upcoming events, and planning for the national conference this fall.
There are so many ways to become involved! Together we can do it. Join a team today and we shall see the changes tomorrow!
CDEA Elections – CDEA announces and welcomes its new board members.
Teaching Artists – Nancy Ng discuses teaching Art to Artists.
Togetherness Through Dance – Katherine McGinity (1 of 3 Scholarship recipients) reminisces on her experience at the NDEO conference.
CDEA Day Conference – February 14th is the big day! Register now online at www.cdeadance.org.
The Love of Dance
What better way to spend your Valentine’s Day than to spend it with your first true love—Dance! February 14th is CDEA’s Day Conference at Loyola Marymount University. Open to members, non members and students, this day of dance and collegiality is your chance to connect with the California dance community, rejuvenate your spirit with great classes like Embodied jazz Dance and Language of Dance—In Practice, and rest your body with yoga and Cortical Field Reeducation. Register today and take this muchneeded time to be with your dance family!
On Behalf of CDEA, Beth Megill (SoCal President)
Introducing CDEA’s Newly Elected 2015 Board Members
President Elect So‐Cal: Christy Lane
Technology Director: Jennifer La Curan
E-Communications Director: Elissa Lee
Liaison Secondary Ed: Kristy Greenway‐August
Nor Cal: Avilee Goodwin
So Cal: Margaret (Meg) Glaser Teran
Member Relations Directors
Nor Cal: Melissa Bramham
So Cal: Nicole Robinson
Liason Dance/Arts Organization
Nor Cal: Deborah Karp
So Cal: Molly Terbovich‐Ridenhour
Higher Ed. Student Representative: Zackary Forcum
Applying the Breadth of their Skills
by Nancy Ng
Segregating artistic, administrative and development departments are the typical structure of 99% of US non-profit arts organizations. My colleagues who work in such institutions experience chasms between departments and waste time bickering and competing for an even share of resources. Aside from the intention of human resource efficiency, I have never understood the acceptance of this structure.
Upon leaving graduate school I was fortunate to co-lead a small organization, Asian American Dance Performances, where there was no division between the artistic and administrative staff. I happily danced and choreographed while writing my first grants and figuring out excel spreadsheets. I always loved math and spatial relationships, which were the modalities I used to learn dance. After completing a graduate program where my portfolio included a written thesis, performance thesis, and written and oral comprehensive examinations, I was able to talk and write about dance with ease. I could make a case for my artistic work and the work of my fellow artists.
In my dual role as Director of Community Engagement and Teaching Artist at Luna Dance Institute in Berkeley, California I use the skills I honed on a daily basis – talking, writing and teaching dance. Since 1998 I have worked as a salaried employee at Luna where inherent in our mission and values there is no division between our artistic and administrative staff. This has always been a core value at Luna. We place the art of dance at the center of our work, we believe administrators should not be paid more than artists, and we believe artists bring integrity, flexibility and risk-taking to all phases of program design and implementation. Working with this model of organizational development has its challenges and successes, but after 16 years it is clear that the benefits outweigh the problems we have encountered, and solving these problems has made Luna a stronger more viable organization. As a nimble and tight team we are accountable to each other in all areas – artistic, administrative and financial; this accountability has kept our mission and vision intact and made our programs stronger.
At the National Dance Education Organization conference last week in Chicago I presented with the Luna artistic-administrative team on the theme, “Walking Our Talk: how layered collaborations lead to quality, integrity and possibility”. The panel of Luna teaching artists described our partnerships with each other and with our community collaborators eloquently and succinctly. They answered questions from the session participants with complete ownership of our organization’s mission and core values. I was able to attend another presentation by Hubbard Street Dance in Chicago and it was refreshing to see that just this past year they are also providing full-time employment for teaching artists by offering them administrative roles within the organization. Despite operating on a tight budget, our staff organized themselves as a team to apply for professional development funds to attend this conference. These teaching artist/administrators wrote grants, articulating their professional learning goals. I was also able to approach our board of directors for airplane fare because they see the value and importance of leadership development within our teaching artist staff.
The field of teaching artistry is growing by leaps and bounds. Eric Booth in the recent Guild Notes says, “ … this arts education asset (teaching artistry) is maturing into an identifiable field. An expertise that is relied upon broadly in public schools, in arts integration and in many community settings (e.g. healthcare, senior services, businesses, etc.) and that contributes to many innovations in arts learning, deserves recognition commensurate with its contribution.”[i] As teaching artists we can invent and power our own engine. Teaching artist leaders are running arts organizations, developing new business models while teaching and creating art. Luna has recognized this since inception. My colleague Patricia Reedy, founded Luna 23 years ago as a teaching artist, and although it has sometimes been a struggle, I am proud that we offer our teaching artist-administrators full-time employment, health benefits, paid time-off, professional development opportunities and a retirement plan.
Treating dance teaching artists as professional educators results in organic collaborations, efficiency and accountability. We are able to give teaching artists a healthy and sane structure for employment. Luna’s teaching artists work .75 to 1.0 fte. A full-time employee at Luna teaches an equivalent of 10-12 classes per week with the remainder of her time assisting, coordinating or managing a program or resource area. Cherie Hill, our communications manager is also a lead teaching artist at a school site, and she also teaches in MPACT (Moving Parents and Children Together) and Studio Lab programs. Cherie performs and choreographs (her recent choreography was presented at the Black Choreographer’s Festival). She is a parent of two children, serves on the board of directors for the Sacred Dance Guild and is a research assistant for Rennie Harris. Cherie also mentors other teaching artists as a year-long coach through our Professional Learning program. When I asked her what her thoughts were on integrating her art, teaching practice, career and family she responded, “Performing both teaching and administrative work has opened my eyes to the reality of non-profits and strengthened my understanding of Luna’s mission. When I teach in the classroom I feel confident about the curriculum and when I attend meetings or speak to press I have first-hand knowledge about the organization. Having one full-time job in the field I love enables me to take care of my family and take time off to be involved in other artistic areas.”
I started my teaching artist career 22 years ago. The creativity, fortitude, visioning and relationship skills that I used running a dance company, presenting the work of fellow choreographers and mounting full productions with a composer and lighting designer are the same skills I use in my teaching practice and in my administrative role as Director of Community Engagement at Luna. I had to chuckle the other day when my 10 year old daughter was whining about the expository essay she needed to write. She was fretting about her thesis statement and how she would present the “reasoning” to support her statement. She knows that I write a lot of grants at work, and declared, “I never want a job like yours.” I wanted to explain the complexities of what I do – how choreographing a dance is like writing an expository essay, how my artistic practice supports program development and grant-writing, how managing 10 dancers for an evening length production supports my relationship building and teaching skills, how putting together different ideas in a dance helped me juggle budgeting. The teacher in me knew she was not developmentally ready to process all of this so I just gave myself the pleasure of a laugh inside.
I am excited that arts education organizations are beginning to explore what it means to employ teaching artists as professionals. I hope they are doing so for conscientious reasons – gainful employment, building capacity and leadership for the field of arts education and honoring the integrity of art.
CDEA Scholars Share
Togetherness Through Dance
by Katherine McGinity
I was very grateful to receive the CDEA scholarship that allowed me to attend NDEO’s conference for the first time. I shared the funds with my colleagues at Luna Dance Institute because we made a commitment to attend as a team and present a panel discussion entitled Walking Our Talk: How Layered Collaboration Leads to Quality, Integrity, and Possibility. Each of us was able to share how our model programs and professional learning division work together to create a holistic approach to high-‐quality, developmentally appropriate dance education for children and families. Collaboration and working closely on all aspects—both educational and administrative—is at the heart of our organization. Attending the conference and presenting as a cohort, attending talks and workshops together, and having time to explore all that Chicago had to offer galvanized our already close group, and introduced us to new colleagues from across the nation.
Each week I teach a class of 2nd graders through Luna’s School and Community Alliances program. Just before the NDEO conference, I didn’t have access to our normal classroom, and had to improvise a lesson on the school’s tiny stage. The students, who are already engaged movers and creative risk-‐takers, took their dances to a totally new level. Being asked to consider and negotiate their dances in a new space gave them a new perspective, heightened their focus, and encouraged them to work together in different ways. The NDEO conference provided much the same environment for me. The discussions and many of the faces were familiar, but coming together in a new space and a new way brought to life exciting discussions and new ideas for both my teaching practice and my administrative role at Luna. I was especially interested in learning about dance organizations with similar structures and approaches to my own, and meeting other teaching artists who also juggle roles as educators, arts administrators and performers in their communities.
At NDEO I learned more about old friends, formed new alliances, and was able to witness my colleagues as learners, leaders, and innovators in the field of dance education. I was honored to be able to represent my organization and the State of California at the national conference. Attending the CDEA meeting at the conference confirmed how engaged California’s dance educators are in their classrooms, their schools and communities, and at the State level. Teaching artists from all areas of the State, who teach populations from ECE to graduate students, came together for an afternoon of inspiration and planning. I was excited to be able to share the space with all those amazing people and their excellent ideas—I am already looking forward to attending another conference in the future.
CDEA Elections – CDEA wants your input on the 2015 Executive and Greater Board Members.
Keeping it “Real” – Wendy Jones explores authentic movement with her company members.
Giving Back – Andrea Hansen (1 of 3 Scholarship recipients) reminisces on her experience at the NDEO conference.
Happy New Year
As we welcome in the New Year and new semesters, CDEA is pleased to announce another window of opportunity for our members. January is the election month for CDEA and this year we have open positions on both the Executive and Greater Boards. Please see the announcement on the next page and consider submitting your nomination today. With all of the recent forward momentum of the organization, we have plans to expand the activity of our general board in 2015 with a central goal of building our membership overall! Exciting times and fresh starts are on their way.
On Behalf of CDEA, Beth Megill (SoCal President)
2015 CDEA Board Nominations
Nomination period for CDEA Executive Board and Greater Board members is officially open.
Nomination Period: January 1th – 14th
Voting begins January 20th and polls close January 31st at midnight Pacific Time.
Positions will be announced February 1st.
All positions begin Feb 7th
Greater Board Welcome Meeting will be held February 7th 3:00pm- 4:30pm.
ALL Greater Board Positions are OPEN
Greater Board Commitments
- Sat, Feb 7th 3-4:30 GB conference call
- 90 Min training with Exec Advisor – phone or in person (before March 1st)
- Check ins as needed (minimum monthly) with Exec Advisor
- Sat, Sept 12th 3‐4:30 pm GB conference call
- Attendance to regional meetings as scheduled (minimum 1 per year)
- Active recruitment for CDEA events
- 1-2 Contributions to blog or CDEA News
Term: Positions are held for 1 year and at the end of that year the candidate has the choice to keep the position for an additional year without holding an election.
Greater Board Open Positions
Open Position — (Exec Advisor)
Liaison Dance/Arts Organization — (B. Megill)
E-Communications/Technology Director — (B. Megill)
Liaison Secondary Ed (Nor and So) — (J. Kronenberg)
NHSDA Representatives (Nor and So) — (J. Kronenberg)
Member Relations Director — (K. Kusanovich)
Liaison Elementary/Middle Ed — (B. Megill)
Executive Board Open Positions
President‐Elect (SoCal) OPEN (SoCal Only)
Term 1 year (likely followed by 2 year presidential term)
Term 1 year (Option to renew without election for additional year)
Keeping It “Real”
Teaching intention and performance quality in high school.
by Wendy Jones
As an artist, I create what I feel, experience, and research. And sometimes what helps heal.
As a high school teacher, my job is to use original choreography as a means to educate, challenge, and inspire.
Combining these missions isn’t always straightforward. I’m sensitive to not being too personal or forcing my feelings into a format that wouldn’t serve my students’ educational goals. But what I’ve realized is that students thrive on the energy in the material without needing the specific personal context. They interpret the themes their own way.
During a recent dance company rehearsal, I asked my dancers for their interpretation of the dance’s themes. They answered with synonymous concepts: “leaves and seasons changing” and “the circle of life”, among others.
From my perspective, the piece I was creating was about the loss of my mother. Soon after she passed away I was back to school and had to face the year. It was hard to focus and felt disconnected to my thoughts and feelings. Dancing about it is the only thing I knew to help me understand what I was experiencing. I wanted to dance about how I felt during her last weeks of life.
But who wants to give that kind of dark feeling to someone else, especially my student dancers? I had to figure out how to create honest material without pulling them into my sad and confused world.
The movement phrases combined frantic and angular movements inspired by the thought of what brain activity might look like when frustrated or stressed. At the time I created the movement, I was frustrated by how helpless I felt with my mom’s condition.
I then asked the dancers to create duets without touch using the material I gave them. One dancer danced the phrase while the other dancer created movement “helping” their partner. They also generated motifs that stemmed from a reaction they had when learning about a friend or family member in distress. As I began to piece the dance together and tell my story the dancers showed the vulnerability and uncertainty I was feeling. The music and movement underscored the topsy turvy world I was living in.
When it was time to talk to the dancers about the intention and feeling, I found myself torn with the decision to whether or not to tell them the story behind the piece. That was when I decided to ask them what they thought it was about before sharing this personal experience.
Sitting in a circle, raising their hands one by one, they described the piece as “dreamlike” and about “the leaves and seasons changing,” “the circle of life,” “brain activity,” and “people struggling during different events in their life.”
The dancers in my company, who mostly Lowell sophomores and juniors who bring academic intensity to everything they do, gave me great insight to how they interpret movement and how they felt dancing their parts.
They may not have the original context, but they’ll frame it in their own way in a way that is just as authentic to the feeling. I plan to tell my students the original story by the end of the year, but the result of these discussions is a deeper piece that both they and I have more profound connections with. With this project, I realized that it is possible to use my personal experiences as a source for my artistic voice while protecting the emotions of my students. It also challenged me to rethink how I and my collaborators think of the true meaning of the piece. And, finally: Can there be one true, unified goal for our hybrid as choreographers, educators and dancers?
My mom was a dance teacher herself and when I felt down she’d tell me to “dance it out”. It’s true, choreography helps me heal but my dancers are also part of that process. Hearing the beautiful analogy of falling leaves and the changing of the seasons has comforted me in my time of grief.
CDEA Scholars Share
One of three recipients who attended the NDEO conference last fall!
by Andrea Hansen
Thank you CDEA for the opportunity to attend the NDEO Conference this year! The generous grant provided complimentary conference registration and aided in enhancing my motivation to bring a greater dance experience to my hometown of Bakersfield, Ca. The conference produced a wealth of new knowledge and also served as a firm foundation for networking.
For four days straight, dance educators inspired by unveiling their expertise and research in the form of presentations, workshops, breakout sessions, and technical dance training. I could not be more proud as I watched my friends moderate a panel for their most recent book, Jazz Dance: A History of the Roots and Branches. I enjoyed sipping on wine as I sat stimulated by my fellow California Dance Educators providing suggestions on how we can strengthen our great state. I gleamed from ear to ear sitting in the hotel bar mingling with past colleagues and new friends. The sight of Thom Cobb, NDEO President, hugging and shaking hands with everyone that passed his table was especially heartwarming! I felt immediate satisfaction chatting with my FIRST dance teacher, who now directs the United States Royal Academy of Dance, and I was moved watching a private rehearsal of The Joffrey Ballet working with Stanton Welch.
For the first time, I attended the NDEO Conference on behalf of myself, instead of representing an organization. It was difficult to explain to others that I was there as JUST “Andrea”, not Andrea from ‘said’ University or ‘said’ Non-Profit. Within this level of discomfort, I began to consider networking and how first impressions truly make an everlasting impact.
Recently, I have enjoyed blogging about dance. My blog links different topics of life by utilizing dance as the platform. Upon considering my NDEO networking experience, I chose to compare dance and networking. “Dancing Networks” discusses HOW networking transpires and HOW it sustains.
I envision networking just as I see dancing…organized chaos with satisfactory results. It takes time to sum up the nerves to dance, just as it does to walk up to someone and introduce yourself. Once it begins, it is all you can do to keep the flow and pace. Once it ends, you must muster up the strength to do it all over again. Nobody said dancing was easy; you have to work at it…just like networking! – Dancing Networks, www.danceandrea.com, November 2014
It was apparent during most of my NDEO networking experiences that the “dance” was less work, however; I can’t help but think how many of my other experiences definitely needed some fine-tuning! NDEO certainly provided a great foundation for networking and I was pleased that I was able to make so many new contacts in a few short days.
The NDEO Conference opens up the realm of dance by allowing dance educators to access new research, participate in work shops, and network with contacts that will serve as future references. As an artist and educator, it is important to be knowledgeable of the constant changing trends in the dance world. NDEO’s 2014 cCnference provided educational subject matter that I have been able to share with my fledgling Bakersfield dance community. I am beyond thankful for the support of CDEA to attend this year’s conference and look forward to future programming with newly established networks!
NDEO in Chicago – Robin Kish talks stability and mobility.
Featured Article – Beth Megill shares her thoughts on the Cruise Ship Dance Scene.
The CDEA Family
As the year comes to a close CDEA is hosting two regional gatherings for our California dance family to come together and make great plans for the year to come. So, please take the day to join us (December 6th or 13th)! As the semester concerts come to a close, and we find ourselves busied with Nutcracker tutus and holiday celebrations, CDEA reminds you to enjoy how the arts make this time a special time. The holidays offer us a chance to share what we do with the larger community. It is a celebration!
Wishing you merriment and joy this holiday season!
On Behalf of CDEA, Beth Megill (SoCal President)
Expanding Horizons at NDEO 2014
by Renee Cacchi
The time had finally come, the year that I was able to attend NDEO’s National Conference. It had been on my wish list for 5 years and I was finally making it happen. Even though I never attended a conference myself, I had heard stories of the wonderful experience gained from attending an NDEO conference. As I made my way to Chicago I expected to reconnect with colleagues, see my past professors and make new connections in addition to taking meaningful and interesting sessions. What I didn’t expect was the vibrant energy, love, and dedication that exuded from each and every dance educator that I encountered. It didn’t matter if they were from California, Florida, Ohio, or New York, each teacher had a story to tell and listened intently to mine. We shared common experiences while brainstorming together on strategies to clear common hurdles.
Additionally, no one told me that I would meet and share stories with celebrities of the dance world. The only way to describe the feeling was that of being surrounded by greatness. Meeting the veteran performers and educators and hearing their personal stories was a jaw-dropping and awe-inspiring experience. I felt like a star-struck fool asking the celebrities of our world to pose for pictures with me, to tell me about their personal experiences with Jose Limón and Twyla Tharp, and what it was like to be the son of Doris Humphrey. In addition to meeting artists who are so closely linked to The Greats of the Modern Dance world, I was fortunate enough to break bread with the pioneers of dance education, the men and women who paved the path that I am traveling down now.
Another thing I did not expect was to feel so rejuvenated in my practice after five long days of intense learning. The power of community and camaraderie had the ability to inspire a momentous wave of energy within me that will carry me forward as I return the continued work of shaping my program. Lastly, I especially did not expect to leave with the sense that not only do I want to do more for Dance Education in California, I need to do more. I’m returning to California with a Mission and a plan to increase dance in my district on the K-8 level and join the fight to advocate for the dance credential in our state.
If you are an educator that hasn’t attended a conference or many years have passed since your last experience I urge you to take the leap, register for the conference and carve out the time to connect and grow in the field that we all love. The experience will be like no other. I hope to see you in Phoenix, AZ in 2015.
Are you giving on Tuesday?
Where did #GivingTuesday come from? What is it about? And, what are we to do?
by Beth Megill
It seemed to me that #GivingTuesday came out of nowhere this year. All of a sudden it was everywhere and everyone was hashtagging #GivingTuesday and encouraging donations right and left. So, I made myself a cup of tea, went to my internet machine and googled it. It turns out that #GivingTuesday is a global movement with many active countries and companies across the globe. Interesting. I kept investigating …
The 92 St Y with the help of the United Nations Foundation is credited with the start of #GivingTuesday in 2012. It started as a response to the massive consumerism and spending that we see on Black Friday and Cyber Monday (now adding Small Business Sunday to the list as well). The idea was to jump start people’s giving spirit by reminding them that “stuff” is not always the most valued gift we can give. We can give so many ways and for so many causes!
This year #GivingTuesday falls on December 2, 2014. Many non-profits are jumping on the bandwagon including the National Dance Education Organization, and with good reason. The idea behind #Giving Tuesday is both philanthropic and financially practical. End of the year tax deductible donations pair nicely with this social media movement for greater awareness of the things we value. #GivingTuesday is just a way to make this process fun and playful using our twitter, instagram, and facebook platforms.
How do you get involved? You start by posting your #UNselfie which is an image that conveys the spirit of giving and/or your reason for giving. It could be a picture of yourself or someone else (or perhaps even the thing itself), and it must be hashtagged with #givingtuesday and #unselfie. Like the icebucket challenge we all saw go viral this summer, posting an #unselfie is a creative challenge and something we artists can embrace with joy. How can we create an #unselfie that is playful, meaningful, powerful, and motivating? How can we use our #unselfie to generate interest and awareness in dance and dance education?
NDEO decided to piggyback on #GivingTuesday by using it as a spring board for what they are calling #Thankadanceteacherday or #NDEOthanks. The goal is to get dance education to go viral on December 2nd. And, it could happen if we all participate and put out the word by posting our own #unselfie on December 2nd. The second goal is for NDEO to raise $2500 in the process. Their recommended donation is $10 in the name of your dance teacher. Check out their website www.ndeo.org/givingtuesday to learn more about how you can post a video or picture and donate to the NDEO mission.
Social Media Shout Outs
- I am ______ (teaching, dancing, etc.) because a great teacher (insert name) inspired me. Today is the day to give back. 12/2/14.
- I am giving in memory of my teacher and mentor, (insert name). Not a day goes by that I don’t hear your voice.
- If you danced, thank your teacher! If you are still dancing, thank your teachers! 12/2/14
- Because all young people should have a chance to dance. 12/2/14
- Because I wouldn’t be where I am today without them. Thank you (insert name(s) of dance teacher).
- The thing I cherish even more than the ability to dance is the (insert life skill) they instilled in me.
- Because a dance teacher is more than someone who teaches steps. Thank you (insert name) for teaching me (insert) and (insert).
- If it weren’t for my dance teacher, I wouldn’t be where I am today (insert occupation). Thank you (insert name) for discovering me and helping me…(insert).
IMPORTANT Remember to hashtag your post! #NDEOthanks #GivingTuesday #unselfie AND Link to NDEO’s donation page http://www.ndeo.org/givingtuesday
Injury Prevention Tips – Robin Kish talks stability and mobility.
Featured Article – Beth Megill shares her thoughts on the Cruise Ship Dance Scene.
IMPORTANT: NDEO Conference Time Change – CDEA to meet Thursday 2:30 pm at NDEO conf.
Winding up for the Windy City
The month of the National Conference is always exciting as many of us gear up to share, revive, and refresh ourselves at the conference from November 5 -9. However, not everyone is able to attend each year, which is why we at CDEA are hosting regional events in December to share the news from the windy city gathering. This year NorCal will meet for a breakfast at El Cerrito High School on Dec 6th from 9-11 am and SoCal members will meet up Dec 13th for lunch at Melody’s Bar and Grille from 11 am-1 pm. These regional meetings will allow us to share essential news as well as give us a dedicated time for connection as the year comes to a close. Please feel free to invite non-members to join in the fun and learn about CDEA. Mark your calendars and we will see you there!
On Behalf of CDEA, Beth Megill (SoCal President)
Mobility vs Stability: Goals for Dance Training
by Robin Kish
In any dance technique class an instructor will find dancers ranging in flexibility from “tight” to “hyper-mobile.” Traditionally hyper-mobile dancers have been seen as having the ideal body type for dance. Who wouldn’t want legs for days, hyper flexible spines, hyperextended knees, and loose joints allowing for the greatest range of motion possible. However dance science research has shown hyper-mobile dancers with laxity in the ligaments and joint structure lack stability and thus increasing the risk of developing injuries. In a technique class it is important teachers understand the need to achieve balance between developing mobility and stability in the dancing body.
A dancer with hyper-mobility achieves most of his or her range of movement from the laxity in the ligaments and joint structures creating a very unstable environment for joints. At the same time a dancer who is tightly strung together excels at stability due to tighter ligament and joint structures, however these dancers struggle constantly with increasing their range of motion. How then in one technique class can an instructor support the needs of both of these body types? In some styles of modern or jazz technique there tends to be an extended amount of time focusing on flexibility for the dancers. This is great for the tight dancers but not supporting the needs of the hyper-mobile dancers in the class. Other classes spend a significant amount of time on strengthening exercises such as sit-ups and pushups. These strengthening exercises usually focus only on a few specific muscle groups missing many others which need additional attention.
Try to experiment with your classes and see if you can find a happy medium between the needs of the hyper-mobile dancers who need more stability training and the tight dancers who need more flexibility training. Teachers may try an option A or B during these extended movement sequences usually taught toward the end of warm up.
- Option A (for hyper-mobile dancers)
- basic stretching exercises to loosen up the muscle tissue
- more time dedicated toward strengthening abdominals, upper body, ankles, gluteal muscles, and back extensors.
- Option B (for tight dancers)
- focus on longer stretch sequences encouraging an increase in range of motion
- minimize the strengthening exercises
Cruise Ship Dance Scene
Rethinking our educational framework for commercial dance
by Beth Megill
I’ve only been on two cruises, both on the Holland America Line. I am by no means a specialist! But, having just completed my second voyage on the high seas, I found myself reminded of a perhaps forgotten sector of the professional dance performance world: the cruise ship. Cruise ships (according to my cruising veteran parents) vary greatly in terms of food, entertainment, activities, etc. But, always, there are dancers aboard. In this case, a smaller ship, there were two female dancers, two female singerdancers, and four male singer-dancers. The stage was small and the house fit approximately 300 people audience members (out of about 1200 people on the ship).
For those who haven’t known firsthand the joys of cruising, there are typically performances every night after dinner, one at 8:00pm and one at 10:00pm. The dancers (and dancer-singers) perform 2-4 nights per week (two hour-long shows a night). The shows consist mainly of musical theater and commercial jazz (maybe we should call it “cruise ship jazz”) dance stylings.
Seeing these performances gave me new insight into the artistic challenges and demands of being a choreographer or dancer for cruise ships. This environment is one of the most challenging performance environments in its demand for variety, its physical challenge, its need for consistency, and its limitations on space.
I admit the limitations of space in a cruise ship performance are obvious, but I was surprised at how spacious the stage was. Sadly, I was often disappointed at the choreographic use of the stage space. However there was a strong emphasis on showmanship and the dancers were strong and consistent, demonstrating excellent unison and strong performance energy.
Over the course of the 10-day cruise, I noticed a trend in the choreography in which the dancers are choreographed to move on nearly every quarter note. I recognized this per-beat (sometimes per-word) choreographic phrasing as similar to the values of many contemporary jazz dance choreographers. Each word got its own pose and few actions were honored with duration lasting beyond a measure. This overall speed of the choreography created a strong sense of urgency, power and youthfulness in the performance. The speed demanded that the performers maintain high energy levels from start to finish. These dancers were putting on a show! But, this show predictably plateaued (choreographically speaking) due to its lack of variety in tempo and phrasing.
Because of the typically “mature” nature of the cruise ship audience, the material of the shows referenced the classics of bygone eras, with the most recent material dating to the 80’s. This brought to mind the great need for our dance education community to continue teaching historical dance forms for our students moving into the commercial dance realm. The dancers were asked to perform everything from a blues style to 80’s rock. The artistic challenge for the dancers is to perform each genre with convincing dynamic energy and appropriate technique for the era. In addition, the choreographers who create these shows have the challenge of generating accurate and yet innovative movement for each genre. This need for a strong background in many social dance forms in order to replicate the feel of each time period is a tall order for any choreographer.
So, how accurate should the style be? The choreography and the performance need to be accurate enough to convince the audience members who lived that era to reminisce about that time in their life- to remember the 50’s, 60’s 70’s, and perhaps how their parents taught them of the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s.
But, what do we as a field of dance artists want from our fellow cruise entertainers? And, how are we as a field preparing dancers and choreographers for these jobs? I have found it increasingly difficult to teach my students to shake off their contemporary styling enough to embody the sensibility of an historical era. My jazz classes are a great example of that challenge. In asking my students to embody a swing bounce that rebounds their energy off the earth, I am often asking them to break all of their current expectations for what it means to dance jazz (in their experience, contemporary or competition jazz is based on turns, kicks and leaps).
However, when we look historically, Jazz dance has continually drawn from the social dances of the era. In early jazz, choreographers stole movements from the blues, the Charleston and then swing dance. Then they graduated into Motown steps and onto the disco era influences. In recent decades, jazz dancers have sampled from break dance and hip hop. We have always imported club dance into what we called jazz dance, and it is important for us to recognize that these social dances have a technique (dynamics and coordination patterns) that are rich and varied and often must be explicitly learned by younger dancers not of that era. Many jazz dance classes have incorporated social movements into aspects of the choreography. But, this seems to be happening less and less in contemporary jazz practices.
Jazz dance has moved increasingly toward the balletic and modern technique influences, leaving the vernacular inclusion to the hip hop or “urban dance” coursework. However, with this shift, we risk losing a huge part of our dance heritage. The introduction of hip hop into dance curricula across the nation gives students access to the current urban dance trends, but they may be missing out on historical practices. In addition, social dance classes are also nearly obsolete in many dance programs and students are now left with little opportunity to gain experience in the historical vernacular dance forms. As a result, the next generation of choreographers is losing an extensive reservoir of knowledge.
This structural shift in dance education was evident in some of the choreographic choices in the shows I witnessed during my cruise. The dancers were clearly talented and the choreographer knew how to “hit the beats” to get the audience energy pumped up, but the styling for the various eras was often distilled down to a series of cliché movements that referenced the era without fully embodying it. In addition, contemporary movements (such as the all too typical contemporary jazz drag) were often inserted into phrases creating a movement anachronism and ultimately breaking the spell of the era. How does one’s performance differ between the 60’s Motown feel and the 70’s disco? When do we get to teach our students that?
When we discuss the application of our field into the job market, we often fight conflicting battles: the ideals of the starving dance artists striving to make a mark on the concert dance stage, and the paid dance opportunities available for the commercial dance artists.* Sometimes these worlds overlap, but I fear now more than ever that they are growing farther apart and that some styles are being lost as the gap widens. The combination of hip hop, ballet, modern and contemporary jazz dance technique seems to cover the basic needs of many current music concert tours (which often incorporate more current urban dance forms). But, when we discuss the integrity of our field, we must take into consideration the historical accuracy demanded of professional dancers on cruise ships and in musical theater and Las Vegas shows. If we do not, these styles might very well be diluted into a paltry hyperexaggeration of forgotten eras. Commercial dance succeeds by selling what they think the audience wants. There is precious little space left for an artistic gamble, hence, the gradual reduction into choreographic cliché.
It is our responsibility as dance educators to decide what knowledge we want to try to impart to keepers of our dance future. The way I figure it, each cruise ships features 3-4 opportunities for a captive audience of 300-600 people to learn about our craft each and every week! Our independent dance artists are lucky to have 1-2 performances of 100-300 people per year. We would serve our field to give more attention to promoting artistic and historical integrity in the commercial dance worlds.
The scope of our field challenges us as educators to train the generation of dance artists to both drive the field forward with innovation, and also honor our heritage when necessary.
Featured Article – Kristin Kusanovich discusses dance success.
Dance Editorial – Producer as Educator by Beth Megill.
Upcoming NDEO Conference – CDEA to meet Friday night of NDEO conf.
Making “Me Time”
October in California is the thick of the season. We have all found our routines and are plowing forward week by week, taking on what we can and hoping it won’t burn us out this time. There will always be more work, more challenge, more effort on the other side of tomorrow. So, how do we allow ourselves to do what we need and let go of the burdens that weigh us down? The key is making space. CDEA encourages you to do something for yourself this month— perhaps a casual meal with friends, or attending a dance class, or attending a concert. Avoid that temptation to book yourself solid. Resist it with all your might and discover the gift of recuperation this fall.
On Behalf of CDEA, Beth Megill (SoCal President)
Some Musings on The Concrete Versus The Ephemeral
by Kristin Kusanovich
I used to think that the convergence of modern and ballet over the last few decades, those two utterly rich forms so different in their beauty, was a big surprise. Who could reconcile the parallel and obtusely angled feet? They were literally not going in the same directions as each other. Now, the regular blurring of those distinctions and the ubiquitous crossover training ethic that is advocated by virtually all dance teachers and demanded by virtually all students is not such big news. Though throughout the 1970s I did tire of seeing pointe trained ballet dancers trying to do contractions in a cosmetic fashion, and modern trained dancers creating some insufferable petit allegro sections in their works, these were just byproducts of the early phases of the merger. After being weaned on stories of Isadora Duncan’s flinging off the proverbial corsets and rediscovering earthy, joyous, and yes, free movement, and seeing what generations of modern dancers did without a huge nod to ballet (though it was always present in their or their dancer’s training waiting to serve) I felt it was front page news, for the art world at least, when I came to understand that Alvin Ailey had choreographed for ABT in 1970.
That would probably be for me when the merger of these two differently intended styles began in the world of dance, though some would put it earlier or later for sure. I am glad the perceived distance between the two fields has narrowed; and there is still some space for difference. It used to seem that to go from one world to the other was to leap over some gaping chasm, maybe never to return; these days in training, choreography and even intent the crossover from ballet to modern or vice versa is done all the time because it is more like crossing a friendly brook than some precarious canyon.
So ballet and modern/ contemporary dance perhaps needed to be foes at first, but have become well-matched competitors, each making each other’s game stronger. At present, they are at last like friends who have reconciled most, but not all, of their attitudinal problems about each other. It is fascinating to me that during this same period another dichotomy has sprung up that presents a fundamentally new aesthetic boundary to be watched. There is a distinction in the field of dance that now seems more important than any other distinction formerly held by genres (which we now know can be blurred endlessly and reconfigured ad nauseam). This new boundary is widening, and is creating a tension that always existed in the arts but never had so much speed of light marketing behind it. That is the distinction between dance on a spectrum of success measured more concretely versus dance on a spectrum of success measured more ephemerally.
This is not the same as the perennial question of commercial dance versus non commercial dance, because that duality always implied a sellable versus unsellable classification and even some sense of the mindless ability to dance for the pleasure of a paying audience and the mindfulness of dance as an art. Yet, there are shades of the commercial/noncommercial tension in this even though either can be done with mindfulness, or mindlessly for that matter.
Concrete measurements of the success of dance can come in many forms. Undeniably virtuosic technique can be concretely experienced and agreed upon. Thousands and millions of hits to a youtube channel are concrete evidence of likability. Competitions involving winners and losers use concrete systems of evaluation and suggest that the ability to judge an artist’s worth is a concrete, indisputable ability. Commercial appeal, coolness, marketability, are all concrete factors that draw people out to the latest wine and cheese and dance choreography showings. Audiences are fairly sure from the way the website looks, the wittiness of the twitter feed and the promises of beverages, snacks and art, that their concrete needs will be met during this time spent with dance. A lot of great work is being done in this concrete realm. The hipness, and there is much of it, has a rational, almost quantifiable veneer.
So what are the ephemeral measures? Or as others before me who have wished to acknowledge the unknowable and mysterious foundations of the dance arts have asked, where is the doubt? In considering dance on a spectrum of success measured ephemerally we are already taking an unorthodox definition of success that is unhinged from monetary and other quantifiable measures and perhaps commercial viability, but one that enjoys totally dedicated, committed fans. Just writing this one knows that most readers will have already jumped back to the concrete paragraph and said “well that’s where it’s at.” The chasm created by the ephemeral approach involves an ethical stance and what might be called a spiritual intent. It is at once very old fashioned and extremely current. The ephemeral approach is teaching ballet, modern, contemporary or any blend of the three for some higher but unexplainable gain. Perhaps the nature of the success sought out by teachers and choreographers and hard-working dancers working on the ephemeral side is, simply put, irrational. Ephemerally minded dancers are perhaps looking at the internal landscape as much as or more than externals. They might tend to create something for the sake of the creative process, or the community it builds or transforms or artfulness of the experience, for gain, but not for the predicted concrete gains it brings. A lot of great work is being done in this ephemeral realm. The non-hipness of it has an irrational veneer.
It would be easy to say the two can just get along and everything goes so “hey, no worries.” But this space between the two, in which neither the ephemerally minded dancers nor the concretely minded dancers can see the value in each other’s work reminds me of the chasm between ballet and modern long ago. It will be important to proceed thoughtfully and check out the trends for both areas. It is hard to see a convergence of these two states of mind and differently placed artistic passion down the line, because the mutual dismissal is rather polarizing at present. This is a defining period in dance. It might be interesting to sift through our myriad of projects and experiences in dance at present to distill whether we understand the concrete and ephemeral aspects of our own engagement in the work. How do our dance communities thrive in a challenging age? It might be important to own and acknowledge, to honor and wonder about the impetus behind all the long hours and where we find that most dynamic intersection of self and community and world. Whether concrete or ephemeral in nature, I am confident that the endeavors we gravitate towards, do ultimately define us all, as dancers, quite beautifully and I imagine a place where that which is parallel seems to ultimately converge, meeting perhaps like the heels of two well-turned out feet.
Producing Audience Appeal
How to find the balance between experimentation and entertainment.
by Beth Megill
As educators we are also required to be incredible concert producers. But, how many of us actually list that on our resume? Producing a strong concert goes beyond the nuts and bolts scheduling, resource acquisition and “talent management.” The act of producing implies that we are designing concerts to serve complex needs and goals of our students, our audiences and our own artistic vision.
We often find ourselves in such a rush to make it to the finish line that we make decisions on the fly, decisions that make sense in the moment or are simply the easiest solution at hand. Producing can often feel like the last push in a marathon semester, something we just want to survive. But, are we producing the best show we can? What does a good show look like for dance educators at different levels? Is there a way we can redirect our focus toward a better balance between the demand for entertainment and the sometimes less glamorous student learning objectives? Let’s start by taking a look at the goals of educational dance concert production.
Serving Student Need
This is the big one, the ultimate reason behind it all. Our students perform in concerts for a variety of reasons. Performance can be a testament to their learning and achievements. It can pose a challenge for students to rise to the occasion. It can be a final assessment process. Sometimes we make dances to teach cultural heritage, choreographic constructs, technical challenges or social interaction. When I first came to my current position at Moorpark College, I was uncertain about the practice of holding a recitalstyle concert for all of the technique classes at the end of every semester. I thought, “Surely this would take away much needed time for practicing technique and improving skill!” To my amazement I discovered that a huge amount of learning occurred in preparation for these end of semester showings that may not have otherwise have happened. Students who were formerly unmotivated, started to push themselves to learn the material when faced with dancing in front of an audience. Others found such joy in performance that it was a primary reason they returned semester after semester to even as Nursing, Chemistry, or English majors. So, I started to shift my approach to these concerts. I asked how I could firmly interweave the learning objectives of the class into performance. I started choreographing to serve the needs of the class. If the students struggled with inversions, I made a dance full of cartwheels! My choreography was not just a reflection of the students learning, it drove the student learning. The cartwheels may not be perfect in performance but they will have improved!
As producers and choreographers, we have aesthetic vision that cannot be denied. Each piece of our choreography reflects who we are as artists at that time. In a culture in which we are asked to repeatedly create material to teach (as opposed to theater which draws on scripts or music that draws on a cannon of scores), we continually wear an additional hat as creative artist. The challenge with this as an educator is working with the resources we have—student age, level, time for rehearsal, costume budget, etc. We are often faced with compromising our vision due to surrounding circumstances. Let’s take a simple example of a dance in which a choreographer desires the entire cast to do the splits. But, two out of the 30 dancers cannot do the splits and no amount of practice over the next 4 weeks will change that. So, we compromise. We become as flexible as we need to be in order to make the circumstances work and the best learning to happen. We often do this gladly and without reservation. Flexibility is part of the job. This is what makes us great educators. But, there is one other aspect to our aesthetic vision that we continually confront and that is audience appeal.
Although dance is a beloved arts practice by many communities, the concert producer is often faced with strong expectations about what dance should be and what “good” dance looks like. People love to watch entertaining dance and often misconstrue good dance with entertaining dance. This is a reason why So You Think You Can Dance is still such a hugely popular show. But as dance educators we know that entertainment is not always at the heart of what we do and certainly not always at the heart of what we are trying to teach our students. We work all semester trying to broaden the minds of our students, exposing them to new ways of choreographing, of looking at dance, of appreciating the obscure, and, then, we put them in front of an audience that expects to be entertained. This seems like a recipe for disaster and yet we do it year after year. We are in many ways obligated to challenge our students to experiment with their choreographic voices. We want them to discover their own ways of making and performing dance.
Yet, the result is often choreographic work that even a willing audience member may not appreciate. Of course, there are exceptions. However, we all have experienced family members or administrators who comment “Why is it so dark and depressing?” or “I can’t understand modern dance” or my most commonly received feedback “Why wasn’t there tap in the show?”
As producers what is our obligation? Are we doing what we set out to do? What are our values? Are our choices helping us or hurting us? Are they getting more people to the shows? Are they providing a stronger foundation for our dancers to find their voices? I don’t have the answers, but I believe we must take these questions into consideration as dance educators. And, I propose the following possibility.
Each of our concerts is our chance to educate our audiences. We have them held captive for 2 hours! What do we want to do with it? I have seen and created concerts that use the performance opportunity to include the audience in the learning and appreciating processes. One concert used a slide show of historical images and facts about Hanya Holm in the lobby before and during the intermission as context for a solo based on Holm’s personality and style. Other shows I have seen include extensive program notes. There is not one right way to inform the audience. But, it seems that it is something we need to consider as producers semester in and semester out as the students keeps changing and the audiences who come to see them keep changing.
Educating the audience is not a onetime deal; it is a goal for a lifetime. It is our chance as dance educators to simultaneously teach hundreds of people how to better understand, interpret and appreciate what we do. We don’t have to cover the entirety of dance history; we just need to give them enough information to enjoy the performance they are seeing. It might be information about the process of how the dance was created and an acknowledgement that there is no narrative to be “gotten.” Just as we explain to our students, we can explain to our audiences that the goal of a piece is to reject the grip of entertainment standards and to challenge the status quo. By letting them know that they are witnessing a rebellion, they can feel good about being a part of the experiment. The unfortunate alternative is a family that grumbles about every concert and asks their students what they really plan to do with their careers!
Our culture is no longer the risk-taking rule-breaking world of the 1960’s and 70’s. Audiences are accustomed to being entertained. They are not necessarily interested in pushing the envelope as much as they want to see a pretty dance. For better or worse, this is how our audiences come to see our concerts, and we have a choice to make about how we want to respond. We can each do it in our own way. We can find balance with a piece, within a concert, within a year of concerts. But, the more keenly aware of what we are doing and the affect it has on those who support us, the more we have agency in directing the future of the field.
Dance Advocacy – Avilee Goodwin Reports on successful advocacy efforts.
Dance Editorial – Beth Megill reflects on dance for connection.
Upcoming NDEO Conference – CDEA to meet Friday night of NDEO conf.
Here to Connect
I recently chatted with a few fellow dance educators about the nature of CDEA and the questions came up: What does it mean to be a member? What does CDEA do? And ultimately, what does it do for me? I have discovered that CDEA can be whatever it is we want it to be. The organization is constituent driven. CDEA gives a voice to all dance educators in California in order to affect real change in dance education at all levels. We share our voice with NDEO, which then goes on to advocate at the national level. We are in charge of the culture of dance education. We set the standards, and we express the needs in the field for equal support and recognition by the state. But, we also need you to show your support. I give you one challenge: share this newsletter with five of your colleagues who are not yet members. Get the word out. Be the advocate for change.
On Behalf of CDEA, Beth Megill (SoCal President)
Making Things Right
by Avilee Goodwin
There has recently been a small victory for dance education in Richmond, California. DeAnza High School will be able to build a dance program — thanks in part to the efforts of a dance friendly member of the district Board of Education.
Years ago, DeAnza had had a thriving dance program, but it was lost after the long-time teacher retired. A year ago, the school moved from its 1950s-era buildings into a completely new campus, which included a dance studio. Unfortunately, that year there were not enough dance sign-ups or teacher FTEs to warrant hiring a dance specialist — so one of the PE teachers was assigned to teach two sections of Dance. She gamely took on the task, with as much curriculum assistance as I could lend, and a lot of help from some experienced students.
This year, the program was set to grow — over 100 students signed up for Dance classes, and the school was ready to hire a dance specialist. But the district office intervened: another teacher already in the district was placed at DeAnza. Those who are well-versed in our credential situation (and the difficulty HR departments have with distinguishing between Dance and PE as a result) can guess the next part: this teacher was not a dance specialist, but another general PE teacher. When he arrived on campus the first week of school, he insisted that he could not teach Dance — and the budding dance program was to be dissolved, with all of the students moved into regular PE or other electives!
This is where the dance-friendly school board member came into the picture. Madeline Kronenberg is not only a strong advocate for arts in schools, but also understands dance education and the obstacles we face (not least due to a daughter who graduated from an exemplary dance program in the same district, came back to direct it, and is now our CDEA co-president).
When it became clear that the dance program was about to be lost because of a mistake, Ms. Kronenberg contacted the district administrators, and educated them on dance education. She brought up Title 9, and spoke about how none of the common barriers to creating dance programs (space issues, generating student interest, finding qualified teachers) was a barrier in this case. She reminded them that the new campus included a dance studio because the district intended there to be a dance program, and of the claim that “the arts are on the rebound” in the district — and that allowing a growing program to go down the drain is not how we should support the arts!
In short order, the mistake was corrected: the position was reopened, and I am now teaching three dance classes of enthusiastic students while looking forward to building a strong dance program at DeAnza, to complement the other excellent programs in the district. And, in my continuing work advocating for dance education, I have certainly learned a bit more about the power of having a strong dance ally on the school board.
Dance Saves Lives
Making our contributions to keeping people connected and keeping people alive
by Beth Megill
I am not a dance therapist nor do I propose that I have the solutions to all tragedy in the world. But, what I do know is that I believe I can make a difference. With global strife and war being reported from around the world as well as from our own neighborhoods, I believe our contributions to the world as dance educators is of the utmost importance.
Through dance I want to remind people that they matter, that their presence matters … that their life matters.
The month of August included three suicide deaths for me. In addition to the celebrity death of Robin Williams, the world lost a fine jazz musician (my colleague) and a 14 year old boy, the younger brother of my ballet student.
These deaths shook the communities around them. They shook me. Each is a tragedy reflective of suffering that seems to have gone rampant in our world. Suffering that is unacceptable. I want to do everything in my power to alleviate this suffering. Sadly, these individuals are not mere exceptions. There is suffering all around us. There are people suffering quietly where you live, in your town, in your school, in your family.
As I said, I don’t have the solutions, but I know in my heart—in my gut—that dance can help.
Amidst our pliés and tendus, we have the opportunity to grapple along the path for personal growth. We encounter ourselves each day we come to the studio. We are reminded that we are human, that we live in gravity and that we are powerful. Each day we venture to the dance floor to better know who we are and where we fit in in this crazy world! But, we must do this with compassion. We must do all that we do with compassion for ourselves and for others. The dance room is a gym for the soul. When we dance with love and compassion, we can connect to who we are and the people around us in powerful ways. We know this as dancers and dance educators, but every once in a while we might need a reminder. I got mine this summer, within a span of 10 days. I got three of them.
What leads us to abandon hope for ourselves, our purpose and our power? We need more opportunities to connect in safe and productive ways. We need time to connect to self, other, and the world so we don’t forget that we have a place here. We have the power to make change in the world. Sometimes change comes in a friendly smile, a hug, a laugh. Sometimes it comes through a dance. The important thing is that we make space for connections to occur and for change to happen.
When we create lesson plans that celebrate and affirm life, we make the world a better place. I believe firmly in easing the suffering in the world and supporting the personal growth of all beings.
In Zen Buddhism there is a chant that begins “Beings are numberless, I vow to save them.” This is both an impossible task and the task to which I dedicated myself last year as a lay Buddhist. It is about our humanity.
We are here. We matter. Each of us is precious, and dance may be the medicine we all need to heal the wounds of our injured spirits. Dance, not because it is a path to perfection, or fun exercise or an activity that produces endorphins, but dance because it is a safe fabric in which we can fully embed ourselves in order to save our communities and ourselves.
When we study the art of dance, we challenge our cognitive understanding while grounding our knowledge with the physical experience of inner knowing. By being in our bodies, we can learn to accept them. By being in our bodies we learn how to connect with others in a way that is compassionate, kind, and supportive of their growth. By being in our bodies we feel our physical relationship to this earth, to gravity, to the experience of being alive. And thus, we are able to connect to our natural world, our environments and our resources.
Aesthetics philosopher Ellen Dissanayake explains that people engage in art to foster cooperation in our society. As we engage in the art making or appreciating process, we make the object or experience special, a process called artification. Art has been used for thousands of years in rituals that are critical for our social survival. It seems it is high time to return to our dance arts in hope of saving ourselves, our communities, and the world.
Activities to awaken your awareness of Any Direction
Activity 1: Directional Movement in the Kinesphere.
Explore the space around your body; your personal space, your Kinesphere. Guest and Curran examine the kinesphere from the perspective of your reach space, “the zone in which our arms and legs can move, flexing and extending, our extremities describing large sweeping circles.” (134)1. The torso also flexes, extends, tilts and twists and inscribes varied gestural pathways within this sphere of your kinesphere. Explore the near, mid and far reach space within this spherical bubble feeling your motion as you do in fog. Notice that all axial movement occurs in your kinesphere. When you travel (locomote), you take your kinesphere with you. Explore the movements of your torso, head and tail, shoulders and hips, elbows and knees, hands/fingers and feet/toes separately. You will discover that each of the different joints and areas of the body move in different ways, each has a specific range of motion and as such, each has different directional possibilities. For instance, the shoulders and hips have greatly restricted sideward movement while the mid limbs of the elbows and knees and distal limbs of the hands/fingers and feet/toes can easily open away from the body and close across the body.
Activity 2: Leading into cardinal directions.
To become more specific in exploration of the cardinal directions, move each limb specifically in front of and behind your body, to your right side and to your left side, above and below its point of origin, where the joint of the limb attaches to the body. Notice the range of directions in up and down, forward and backward, right and left and their limitations.
Activity 3: Pathways to achieve a direction.
Experiment with the pathways different limbs or body areas can take to reach or achieve a direction. Chose a direction in your kinesphere as a destination, a place in your space bubble at which you will arrive. Notice the types of pathways your gesture can take in your kinesphere to reach your destination. The axial movement can be straight, curved, circular or random.1 Notice the difference in the sensation, meaning, and expression of each choice. Choose a limb or body area and perform four different types and sizes of pathways to arrive at a specific direction in your kinesphere. Does a dance style or genre begin to emerge?
Activity 4: Create a movement study based on Any Direction.
Collect several statements about direction that you have heard or read. The poem above gives you some ideas of how we use the concepts of direction to express our thoughts or states of being. Use your collection of sayings, images and/or metaphors as a springboard to create your Any Direction study.