I am drawn to teach dance for many different reasons. I share dance to help someone look another person in the eye or feel comfortable taking another person’s hand. I lead a class to help someone create more physical space for their heart to be open or to have the possibility to breathe more deeply. My teaching can be motivated by a student’s need to work as a part of a group or, inversely, to have the confidence to be an individual. I respond to the simple need of getting the blood moving and offering an alternative to a limiting mental pattern. I have enjoyed teaching many types of people: children to adult, beginning to professional, people who were immersed in dance and those who were not.
I am grateful to have been engaged in the Humphrey/Limón tradition for more than fifteen years, first as a dancer and now as the Associate Program Director of the Limón Dance Foundation’s Professional Training Program. The philosophical ideas of this tradition, born from a deep examination and observation of the human experience and the natural world heavily influence my teaching. My familiarity with the works of Limón and my experience as a reconstructor of his choreographies shape my teaching as well. For me creativity, expressivity, and physical eloquence must merge in the training of a dancer.
For the students that I encounter who want to make a life in dance, my first priority is to facilitate their development as artists. For me this means helping them connect their chosen medium of dance to the things they hold to be most important in their lives. A deep focus needs to be grounded in relevance and continually look not only within but also out and beyond. I believe that as citizens of the world, the engagement of our intelligence and responsiveness, our daily experiences, and our artistic craft are in constant relation. In the studio working we uncover the truthfulness of physicality, alert consciousness, compassion, and risk, which help us to clarify and embody our beliefs beyond our lives as dancers. When we are out of the studio it becomes natural to share our sense of self worked on, purified and refined in the studio. An atmosphere of learning that encourages self-reflection on one’s ethical caliber and inspires openness, courageousness, and empathy is essential.
To advance technically the student must assume personal responsibility and awareness. Part of this responsibility is transcending just being told what to do and obeying. I want my students to always consider what they are working on and why. We do this by articulating what choices are available to us in each moment and what each choice offers us. The same material becomes new again and again by simply shifting which aspects of the movement and intention are focused on. By experimenting within their own processes and identifying what they see and feel from the choices of others, the students expand their consciousness and physical ability to access greater possibilities. They carry concepts from one experience to the next. I create movement explorations with specific rhythmic and spatial demands that push the students to oscillate between contrasting energies and dynamics. It is my aim to facilitate an atmosphere where “right” or “wrong” are less important than understanding what is happening and knowing how to use physical principles to arrive at a desired result.
Physical principles related to breath, weight, opposition, suspension, and isolation are the tools I use to help develop sculptors of space, time, and energy. We cultivate articulation in the body, which is essential for depth and quality of expression. I train students to access and use multiple energies within the body at one time, unleashing the expressivity of the entire orchestra of the body. Whether we dance in silence or with music, we are musical. Our dance emanates its own song. When we meet music, we are in conversation, creating something greater through collaboration and dialogue.
I believe in the importance of imagination as a support for the expression of our hopes, fears, and humors. Dance can and should be a holistic act of body, mind, and spirit. I want to see who my students are when they dance, and I want to understand something about what they find pleasurable and detestable. I guide my students to find the ways that they can be open and vulnerable while also being powerful and direct. I hope that they are whole people as they dance and fortified in this wholeness as people in the world.