“The most valiant thing you can do as an artist is inspire someone else to be creative”
Teaching, to me, is a humanitarian act, as well as an artistic one, and the way I feel most able to contribute to the world. Whether teaching aspiring and experienced artists, or individuals brand new to the form, the three pillars of my teaching are: community, context, and content.
As a lifelong learner myself, my first priority in every classroom is to create an inclusive and supportive community, one that cultivates learning, connection, positive challenge, and growth. Normalizing imperfection and “failure” as a part of learning and progress, I create space for my students to take risks, and to build personal systems of reflection and feedback. I make an effort to make every student feel seen, taking the time to check-in with them on a human level before every class, which sometimes (when appropriate) actually leads me to edit or adjust my plans for the day. 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. I also invite students into peer feedback relationships during class, so that they have the opportunity to learn from and support each other. By balancing encouragement with supportive and constructive feedback, I create an environment in which students are pushed to work hard, but feel safe to stretch their individual boundaries and grow. The energy and enthusiasm I bring to my work as a teacher is often reflected by my students, allowing them to engage in the work with passion and vigor.
Grounding my teaching in a knowledge of history, I also prioritize context. Through outside reading and viewing assignments, in-class discussions, and the language I use in delivering content, I make sure my students understand where the form originates, while also offering insight and clarity as to the positionality of my own approach in reference to this history. For example, every student who studies jazz with me walks out of my class understanding its roots in the African Diaspora, and every student who studies modern learns about its history of revolution, and the importance of individual voices. This prioritization of context is part of my own antiracist and inclusion practices, ideally sending my students back out into the world with a better understanding of the contributions of historically marginalized voices to the forms they are embodying and practicing.
In terms of content, I have experience teaching modern, jazz, musical theater, improvisation, composition, and yoga. Regardless of genre, I prioritize the physics of motion, juxtaposition of dynamics, clear points of initiation, and logical, fluid transitions. 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 possible. Positioning myself in the role of facilitator, I help students find their own sense of artistry, individuality and performance quality. Through the integration of opportunities for improvisation, choreographic tasks, and performance within the arc of my classes, I challenge them to reach new levels of technical and performative execution. Methodologically, across all forms, I teach through hands-on demonstrations (with consent), sound effects (to help establish dynamics), the occasional anatomical drawing, and a wide range of relatable imagery. By integrating such kinesthetic, auditory, visual and intellectual connections to physical action, I am able to coach my students to engage dynamic alignment and a variety of movement qualities. I enjoy the challenge of finding and implementing the methods that students learn from best, recognizing that this is different for each one. Additionally, I model for my students skills of self-reflection and evaluation for lifelong learning, encouraging them to take ownership over their development and growth – skills that last far beyond the time they spend in my class.
Through community, context, and content, I aim to challenge and empower every student I have the opportunity to engage with, and consider it both a privilege and an essential aspect of my purpose as an artist to invest in the next generations of artists.