I have long been enthralled by teachers who are capable of transforming their pupils’ experience of space. The best teachers achieve this not so much through altering the physical setting of instruction, but by enhancing dancers’ awareness and engagement with their own bodies and each other. After more than 15 years as a dance teacher, I finally felt confident that I had the knack for making that magic happen. In packed classes dancers would breathe deeply and with intention, allowing themselves to become fully present and thereby transforming our shared space as a community of creative movers. When class would end with révérence and a big round of applause, I would watch with satisfaction as classmates exchanged sweaty hugs and cheerful face-to-face conversation.
Obviously, COVID has so transformed our sense of space that the scene I’ve described now sounds less like a magical pedagogical moment than an invitation for infection. Our traditional teaching spaces and ways of being together remain unsafe for the foreseeable future. Nevertheless, I continue connecting with students in the ways that really count.
Perhaps it helps that I’ve come to think of COVID-era classes less as “distance learning” and more as “overcoming distance learning”. Sure, part of that includes equipping my studio with the technology that enables me to be as scrupulous as ever with my students. Far more significant, however, is the deceptively simple (you, too, can find your space) yet decisive act of setting aside a space dedicated to our practicing together. I look forward to sharing this space with you.
Former woodshop, now a place for teaching.
Four-week session between semesters.
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Drawing on my background in dance kinesiology and classical ballet pedagogy I design classes specifically for adult learners. Each day I bring a contemporary approach to richly musical classical exercises, illuminating the muscular engagement and alignment that bring about ballet movement in the body. Working from the inside out in this way, students do not merely recite the shapes and steps of ballet, but practice how to move with intention informed by principles of anatomy and classical style.
Class typically begins on the floor (often barefoot), with exercises designed to locate and strengthen the muscles of the inner thighs, abdomen, and pelvic floor, as well as the intrinsic muscles of the feet. This activity is called Floor Barre, a term coined to describe the various methods ballet masters have developed to help professional classical dancers improve their technique, line, and career longevity. Then, in exercises standing at the barre and center (wearing ballet slippers), students work to apply these principles to their movement in the ballet vocabulary.
The time we spend in each section will vary, but with the following goals for an 75-minute class: floor, approximately 20-25 minutes, barre, approximately 30 minutes, center approximately 20-25 minutes. Class concludes with révérence, which may take the form of a classical bow or a standing ritual in which we massage the soles of the feet, focus attention on grounding, and create internal connections and spaces.
Daily instruction and feedback from me will include imagery to appeal to the senses, anatomical references to clarify mechanics, and gentle humor to remind that there must be joy in the process. As a student, your responsibility is to strive to maintain focus, let go of unnecessary tension, and make the most out of each exercise.
These classes are intended for students who are beginning to intermediate level dancers, or who have experience with floor barre technique or with ballet-related somatics or imagery. Anyone can benefit from the practice though, from absolute novice to seasoned professional.
This one-hour class will introduce novice adult learners to the principles of modern dance and provide veteran dancers a place to tune-in and hone their movements. Classroom activities through Zoom follow a general progression from floor work to standing phrases and typically finish with a gentle stretch. From week to week we will expand and embellish phrases and concepts from the classes before, all while focusing on efficient alignment, clarity of initiation, and accurate musicality.
The modernists cast off their dancing shoes so they could feel the ground directly with their flesh. That sensory interaction with the space is a central element of the artistry. For this reason, students are welcome to bring socks for warmth, but bare feet are recommended whenever possible.
The ballet class before modern ends at 7:40 (or soon thereafter). Please feel free to join the modern dance class Zoom meeting before the instructor to prepare yourself physically and mentally by doing self-directed warm-up or centering activities. Depending on your needs, this may include light calisthenics, floor barre, a brief yoga flow, etc. You may also wish to use the time to recall or practice material from the previous week.