I believe dance and learning are transformative activities that allow students to explore their understanding of “self-to-self, self-to-other and self-to-world”.
Self-to-self: exploring and identifying body knowledge and individual artistry.
In my contemporary movement practice I foreground an in-depth inquiry into the functional body. Through the inclusion of anatomical theory and concepts drawn from Bartenieff Fundamentals, Muller release principles and Humphrey/Limon technique—my teaching aids students developing a kinesthetic understanding of the logic behind the body’s structure and its relationship to gravity and space. My objective is to assist each individual student in developing an economic physicality that facilitates a full examination of his or her own body’s expressiveness.
My class is structured dynamically through movement investigations performed both on the floor and standing. I emphasize clarity—clean rendering of lines; refinement—the examination of small elements to improve the whole; resiliency—the giving in to and rebound from gravity; precision—emphasis on intricate timing; rhythmicity—the quality and character that manifests physically when changes in weight, space, time and flow, are consciously acted upon.
To heighten the awareness that the whole body is a composite of many parts and surfaces, I make use of an improvisational practice that I refer to as the multifaceted body investigation. This method focuses on improvisation explored through task-solving. The objective is for students to learn that an infinite number of outcomes are possible when movements are initiated from different parts of the body; they become aware that dancing is always an exhibition of the body’s bony structure and surfaces moving in relation to space.
Implementing new body knowledge takes time, and for that reason, I work with the same class material over the course of two weeks incorporating modifications of the material when needed. This method enables the students to fully immerse themselves within the material presented, and it allows me to hold students accountable for practicing outside class. I call this approach the evolvable repetition method; the more a student practices the same principle, the simpler it presents itself—and while the movement principle simplifies through repetition, the dancer grows more complex as new information and kinesthetic reconfigurations are add to his or her physical expression.
Self-to-other: making connections through class environment, observations and language.
My focus on self-to-other involves creating an environment that fosters an open-minded and industrious attitude towards learning, which inspires a sense of agency and respect for others through positive working relationships among students. By emphasizing learning of movement through its relationship to physical laws rather than according to aesthetic rulings, my goal is for the individual student to develop a healthy understanding of their own body, and embrace the fact that all bodies are individual.
I advise my students to be curious, ask questions, have fun, work deeply, make mistakes and try again. In class, I model the practice of personal inquiry to encourage students to experiment and identify kinesthetic sensitivity, and I use peer observation as a method to help students wrap words around their physical and perceptional experiences. The feedback process is done through physicalized feedback, which asks the student observing to both verbalize and physicalize their findings with their partner. I ask students to share findings with the whole group as a way to assess a student’s conceptual understanding of a word or movement principle, like “resiliency” and “fall.” If not addressed through in-class conversation, the disconnection between what a word or principle means in terms of physical embodiment could potentially inhibit a student’s progress.
Self-to-world: cultivating passion through curiosity, dedication and practice.
I personally have never understood the concept of “following one’s passion.” If I have followed anything it is my curiosity towards the moving body, which over time has brought me in contact with people whose work has opened my eyes to the relevance dance and art have in our daily lives. It is my belief that passion is something that is cultivated, and my passion for dance grew from a desire to excel, explore, confront and communicate my physical experiences.
Because of these beliefs, I teach my students that they are poets of the physical language—individuals possessing special powers of imagination and expression. Their bodies are the instruments from which they produce and represent a broad range of voices, cultural traditions, and individual approaches to dance.
In my life as an artist and teacher, I have had opportunities to reach my own potential, to verbally articulate in-class experiences, and to evaluate physical discoveries in relation to cultures I have experienced outside the studio. Each of these has instilled insight and tools that serve my career today, and I aim to share them with my students. I strongly believe that students who learn the importance of curiosity, dedication and practice, become future advocates for dance and art as avenues for creative and critical learning.
“The further our class goes on, the more I start to love this art form in which we are all engaging. These journals cause me to sit back and actually think about the things we do in class; the impact of those lessons is an ever increasing expansion of my ability to articulate what it is that draws me so to dance.”
Kylee Smith, first year BFA student
Journal entry, October 2013
 Hackney, Peggy. Making Connections: Total body integration through Barttenieff Fundamentals. 2002, page 1.