When it comes to teaching dance, teachers often find themselves wishing they had 10 more minutes to fit in that final grand jeté sequence across the floor or the last 16 counts of the hip-hop combination they prepared. In a K–12 environment, a time crunch is even more likely. Between increasingly limited slots for arts electives and the challenges of navigating a block schedule, time is a precious commodity. Here, three seasoned K–12 educators share their strategies for making every minute count.
Kim Stroud Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts, Hartford, Connecticut
Kim Stroud in class. Photo courtesy of Stroud
Class: Beginning Graham technique for 9th- to 12th-grade students
Duration: 80 minutes twice a week
Pro Tip #3: Define your priorities. To make the most of her class time, Stroud asked herself, "What are the true fundamental elements that they need to have in order to move on?" The answer came to her when she looked at what her students were getting in their other classes. "I had to figure out how Graham technique informs the body in ways that other techniques don't address," she says. "My students get regular ballet class, which informs their arms and legs very well. I work on informing their torsos." Stroud puts a strong emphasis on contract, release and spiral, so that her students become adept at using their spines.
Pro Tip #4: Be flexible with your curriculum. Rearranging her pedagogical sequence was a game changer for Stroud. "I remember being very frustrated and disappointed that I didn't give them this or they didn't know about that, because I had been following a very systematic, linear line through the curriculum," she says. Now she has a baseline curriculum that she rearranges according to her students' needs. For example, rather than going through all four variations of Graham's Deep Stretches series on the floor ending with spiral, Stroud teaches a basic version of Deep Stretches, skips the variations (if necessary) and then presents spiral separately.
If she had more time? "Since Graham is a technique that developed out of repertory, I would be able to touch more upon the artistic side," says Stroud.