DT Awards

The 2012 Dance Teacher Awards: Kim Stroud

Helping K—12 students feel empowered through dance

“The most exciting thing is the moment when students realize that they’re the masters of this instrument,” says Kim Stroud, arts director of the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts in Hartford, Connecticut, a magnet school for grades 9–12. “Not that they necessarily have mastery of their bodies—but they can be the masters. I love it.” A former Martha Graham Dance Company member for 11 years, Stroud teaches a Graham-based modern class at the school, in addition to overseeing the faculty and curriculum planning.

Since joining the faculty in 1993, Stroud has helped the program grow from 200 to 700 students. (A middle-school program is also slated to open this fall.) She also leads community classes for at-risk youth in Hartford and directs the dance program at the Center for Creative Youth at Wesleyan University, a summer program for high-schoolers. In 2002, she pioneered a summer arts residency in Cape Verde, Africa, active for four summers.

“I took five teachers and 10 students the first year,” says Stroud. “But I told my teachers, ‘We’re not going to be the Americans who tell you how it’s done. We’re going to collaboratively teach each other,’” she says.

Stroud paired each American teacher with an African teacher, and together they taught their cultures’ different approaches to dance, music, art and theater. The dance program highlighted improvisation and composition. “We’d show what our aesthetic looks like when we create dances, then they showed us theirs,” she says. “Then we’d collaborate. The students had to take each other’s movement and make it work together.”

Stroud says that living in Africa was a shock to her students. “Electricity was iffy,” she says. “We sat without air-conditioning in August and washed our clothes in the sink. But it was the most amazing experience."

By the final summer in 2008, the program had grown to include 30 American and 50 African students. But little did Stroud know the program she built would help unite communities on Cape Verde’s 10 islands. “When we auditioned for the program, we took the most talented kids, from both the lower and upper classes,” she says. “Later we were told that it was the first time that these people worked together and families allowed it to happen.”

Regardless of the environment she’s teaching in, Stroud’s mission remains the same: Help students feel empowered through dance. “Some students make decisions because they don’t think that they have options, or power over anything,” she says. “But it’s as simple as learning that your right leg is totally in your control—that you have power over something. And that’s what dance did for me. I’m the first person in my family to go to college. I’m the first to travel outside the United States—because of dance.”


Photo by Rich Davis, courtesy of Kim Stroud

The Feldenkrais Method is a somatic technique created by Moshe Feldenkrais in the 1950s. The method has two parts: hands-on sessions with a Feldenkrais teacher (Functional Integration) or group classes comprised of verbal cues (Awareness Through Movement).

Mary Armentrout, a dance teacher, choreographer and Feldenkrais practitioner, shares three ways that this somatic practice can bolster your students' training.

Keep reading... Show less
Your Studio

Oversexualizing young kids has been a hot topic among dance teachers in recent years. It's arguably the most controversial topic teachers and studio owners are faced with. Deciding which choreography, music or costumes are appropriate—or not—isn't always black and white and can be easily overlooked. Is showing the midriff too much for minis? Is this choreography too provocative? Is this popular song too suggestive for a competition piece? The questions can seem endless with no clear objective answers. Until now.

Keep reading... Show less
To make dancers stronger and less injury-prone, Burns Wilson suggest adding floor barre or conditioning classes. Photo courtesy of Burns Wilson

With a career spanning 30-plus years in the dance field, Anneliese Burns Wilson has cultivated a unique perspective on health and injury prevention for dancers. From teaching ballet to teaching anatomy, she then founded ABC for Dance, which publishes dance-teaching materials. Now through research for her next book, which will focus on training the female adolescent dancer, she's delving even deeper into topics many dance teachers have overlooked.

Keep reading... Show less
Erdmann (left) on set for "Hairspray Live" (courtesy of Erdmann)

When Wicked ensemble member Kelli Erdman was training at Westlake Dance Center in Seattle, Washington, her teacher Kirsten Cooper taught her that focussed transitions would be pivotal to her success as a dancer. Now as a professional, she applies this advice to her daily performances, asserting that she will never let the details of her dancing get blurry.

Keep reading... Show less
Khobdeh dancing Taylor's Speaking In Tongues. Photo courtesy of PTDC

For Parisa Khobdeh, music does more than set the tone for a piece—it's enabled her to connect with movement. And once she joined Paul Taylor Dance Company in 2003, Taylor's body of work deepened this connection. "His choreography showed me the music, the architecture and the space," she says. "I now see the music."

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Buzz

We haven't been able to stop watching Lil' Mushroom since she popped and locked her way into Ellen's heart last week. We know you've got a long night of teaching ahead, and this is the dance inspiration you need to get you through. Check it out and tell us what you think about her killer moves over on our Facebook page! (She starts blowing minds at about 2:16.)

Keep reading... Show less

Because the chassé is often neglected during the execution of this traveling step, Judy Rice asks her students to do a minimum of a six-inch chassé before transitioning into the pas de bourrée. She encourages dancers to pay close attention to their shoulders and hips in effacé, too. "Kids tend to open it up. They look like they're fencing," she says. "You don't want that." Both shoulders and hip bones should be facing the corner.

Keep reading... Show less





Get DanceTeacher in your inbox

Win It!