Teaching Philosophy

 “The most valiant thing you can do as an artist is inspire someone else to be creative”

-Joseph Gordon-Levitt 

Teaching, to me, is a humanitarian act, as well as an artistic one. I teach to cultivate in people a passion for knowledge, learning, and personal growth. I teach to share what I know and what I have learned, to better help those who come after me, and to continue learning from them in the process. From my perspective, a teacher is successful when they have challenged and inspired students to grow within themselves and to reach for new levels of excellence and artistry within their craft – whatever that craft may end up being. To that end, as an educator I create a positive, encouraging, yet challenging environment in which students work hard but feel safe to take risks and grow. The energy and enthusiasm I bring to my work as a teacher often rubs off on my students, and they in turn engage in the work with passion and vigor. I build relationships of respect and rapport with my students, as a result of showing genuine care and interest in their lives, which in turn motivates them to put forth their best effort with confidence and commitment.

Grounding my teaching in a knowledge of history, I make sure that my students understand where the form we are studying comes from, while also offering insight and clarity as to my own approach, and its location within the larger scope of history. In the realm of technique, I have experience teaching modern, jazz, musical theatre, improvisation and composition. My approach to Modern dance is born out of years of eclectic training, with particular emphasis on Bartenieff-influenced, release-based techniques, and a clear and efficient relationship to gravity, momentum, and flow. Across all forms, I teach through hands-on demonstrations, sound effects (to help establish dynamics), the occasional anatomical drawing, and a wide range of relatable imagery to initiate intellectual connections to physical action, and to coach my students’ abilities to engage dynamic alignment and a variety of movement qualities. I enjoy the challenge of finding and implementing the methods that students learn from and understand best, recognizing that this is different for each one. I also teach students how to find their own sense of artistry, individuality and performance quality, integrating opportunities for improvisation, choreographic tasks, and performance within the arc of my classes.  I make a point of giving meaning to every movement, particularly in phrase work, whether it be in terms of energy, motivation, or both. I believe in teaching the whole person, not just the physical body, so critical thinking and connections to the world outside the studio are integrated into my classes whenever relevant and possible. My goal in teaching is to create not just a class but a community, and an experience that people walk away from feeling a greater sense of purpose, passion, and internal growth. I aim to model and help my students develop poise, confidence, compassion and a strong work ethic that will support and drive them in all aspects of their lives, whether they pursue dance as a career or not.

Translating my teaching philosophy to the collegiate level, I bring an analytical and imaginative intelligence and energy that helps students to grow both as dancers and as people. My experience working for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, implementing their Laban-based creative movement curriculum, has given me both the experience and vocabulary to analyze movement with specificity and clarity. This enables me to articulate energetic and dynamic qualities, points of initiation, intention, and goals of embodiment when instructing students, helping them to reach new levels of technical and performative execution. Additionally, I model for my students skills of self-reflection and self-evaluation for lifelong learning, encouraging them to take ownership over their development and growth – skills that will last far beyond the time they spend in my class.

Given that my creative research is centered on empathy, this is translated into my classes through the way I leave space for my students to feel seen and heard as people. I start each class with a brief check-in, so the students can share and listen to how each is doing as they enter the space to work, which sometimes (when appropriate) actually leads me to edit or adjust my plans for the day. Beyond this, I encourage and coach my students to cultivate the ability to be present in the moment, and to focus on their own movement and educational journeys without falling into unhealthy or nonconstructive “comparison traps.” No matter what background my students are coming from, I have learned how to be sensitive and aware, while also making sure that dance is what unites us all as we strive towards a common goal. I am confident that no matter the population, I can find a way to connect, communicate, and empower the students I have the opportunity to engage with. I consider it both a privilege and an essential aspect of my purpose as an artist to invest in and empower the next generations of artists.