Philosophy of Teaching

My primary objective as a dance educator is to nurture emerging artists – whether I am teaching technique, composition, theory, history, or in a rehearsal. As student dancers begin to develop their own artistic ideals and values, I create a warm environment in which to explore new ideas, validating their contributions to the art form.

Katie Coppelia

Katie Kalamaras as Swanilda

It is not enough to only teach correct technique, but to also educate the spirit of the individual by fueling them with historical context and inspiration, as well as current trends in the field of dance. By enabling the dancer to fully realize their individual voice – through choreography, research, pedagogy, production, and performance – the student is that much more ready for the world of dance. I believe my job as a dance educator is to prepare each student for every opportunity they may choose to pursue in the dance industry.

I strive to provide mentor-ships that guide young artists to make those discoveries they didn’t know they wanted to make. I try to open their eyes to new possibilities by asking questions, and requiring them to do the research and introspection for the answers. By providing students with the right information and resources they can learn to create and thrive through the experience of becoming life-long learners.

Each student enters the classroom with different experiences and learning styles. In order to fully include everyone in the learning outcomes of class, I am inventive and flexible in the ways in which I IMG_2439approach each class period. Though I have long-term goals set for my classes, my teaching strategies flex and evolve from day to day, in order to better accommodate the needs of the moment.

Within the technique class, I provide anatomically correct movement mechanics allowing students to easily transition from one genre of dance to another. Dancers with a strong understanding of healthy body practices have a strategy in place for continuing to dance longer. I aim to keep the students in my class safe from injury by incorporating anatomy and human bio-mechanics into the classroom. This provides students with sound movement practices as well as the understanding of why our bodies must move in certain ways.

One teaching tool I employ is to guide students through a discovery of the shoulder girdle – the possibilities of movement there and the problems that can be encountered – in order to teach them how the arms are connected to the back. We discuss the scapula, look at images of the skeleton to help visualize the shape and placement of the scapula. The students pair off and locate the edges and surface area of their partner’s scapula, then lay their hands flat on the scapula to experience how that bone moves under the flesh when performing a port de bras. IMG_2442By giving the students this hands-on experience, visual images, and verbal cues, the range of learning is increased and a more concrete understanding is gained.

I am passionate about teaching dance and providing my students with the most information possible. I believe the art of dance is best served in an interdisciplinary way and work to combine theory and practice into all the classes I teach. I invest a great deal of myself into my students and enjoy watching them make discoveries and succeed. Within every student I teach there is the possibility of a future dance performer, teacher, dance maker, or life-long dance supporter. It is my job to see that potential and feed them all the understanding necessary to support them in those roles. In this way I will be educating versatile dance professionals.

Teaching Clips

The following video was filmed at Central Washington University in the summer of 2014. The students are beginning and intermediate level movers, but have had very little formal modern training.

The following video was recorded at Northwest Dance Center in the winter of 2010.  The students range in age from 12 through early 20s and include intermediate and advanced levels.  In this semester I was really trying to push the level these students had attained and was continuously giving them combinations that were just beyond their skills, to try to encourage them to push themselves.  The class was 1.5 hours in length, followed by 1 hour of pointe, or 1 hour of pas de deux, which rotated on a weekly basis.  Only the barre work is shown in this video.

The following two clips were filmed at University of New Mexico in December 2012 with students volunteering to participate.  This was not a regularly scheduled class and I had not before worked with these students.  My goals were to give individual feedback, as much as possible, and to give each student something to think about over winter break. There was a one hour barre warm-up and center work was about 45 minutes in length.

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