Rachel Caldwell graduated from the University of North Texas with a BFA in Dance and from Mills College with a MFA in Dance Performance and Choreography. She is from Houston, Texas, where she grew up studying ballet, tap, jazz, modern, hip hop and Scottish highland dance. Rachel is a Contributing Editor for Dance Teacher and writes the History and K-12 columns.
When it comes to teaching Pre-K to fifth-graders, behavior issues are inevitable. Whether it's a child who wants to run around the room or a student who just flat-out refuses to follow instructions, knowing how to respond can be challenging. Compound that with the added obstacles of a K–12 school environment—where you may have an unusual dance space to teach in, limited class time or students who are just not interested in dance—and taking care of behavioral problems quickly and compassionately becomes even more essential.
Here, two Pre-K–5 teachers and one mental health professional offer their best strategies for dealing with four common behavior issues.
The tripod (demonstrated by LizAnne Roman Roberts) is one of the more standard Countertechnique tools, designed to challenge the body to maintain dynamic balance while multitasking through multiple trajectories. Aptly named, the tripod works in three different directions: as the lower body moves down, the upper body moves up and back, eventually spiraling into an elegant twist.
As you assemble your gratitude list for this Thanksgiving, stop and consider some of the works that paved the way for the diverse dance world we enjoy today. Whether they introduced a radical new style of movement, controversial subject matter or a particularly poignant message, these five works broke choreographic barriers and have withstood the test of time.
Halprin in her work The Prophetess (1947),about Deborah, the only female judge in the Bible. Halprin's Jewish heritage guided her morality and, early on, her choreography. Photo by Ernest Braun, courtesy of Dance Magazine archives
In both Anna Halprin's workshops and choreographic ventures, the postmodern choreographer used improv-based exercises that brought dancers' own individual movement impulses to their attention. Halprin made use of the environment surrounding her home, having dancers hike and tumble in nature. Now 98, she still teaches from her home in Marin County.
Though Asadata Dafora isn't widely known today, he blazed a trail for countless African-based dance companies who enjoy a firm foothold on the concert dance stage today. He reworked the spatial orientation of various cultural dances to fit a proscenium stage and made them more presentational to appeal to Western audiences.
Dafora influenced many dance artists directly, most notably Katherine Dunham, Pearl Primus and Charles Moore, and heads a rich African-dance lineage that includes such luminaries as Jawole Willa Jo Zollar and the late Chuck Davis. In 1977, Davis founded DanceAfrica, an annual festival that celebrates African culture through dance, music, art and film.
Alonzo King Lines' LeeWei Chao with dancer Hayley Bowman. Photo by Chris Hardy
The piqué arabesque is a ballet staple that looks deceptively simple. At Alonzo King LINES Dance Center, LeeWei Chao uses the image of standing on the edge of a cliff to inspire correct alignment, emphasizing a strong supporting side so that dancers avoid tilting and dipping forward. "Your body energy goes up," he says. "Stay on that edge of the cliff. You sense the danger there, but that's the most beautiful moment."
Peter Martins and Farrell in Chaconne (1976), performed for PBS' "Great Performances." Photo courtesy of Dance Magazine archives
With her superb musicality, dramatic skills and go-for-broke speed and risk taking, Suzanne Farrell inspired Balanchine to push the limits of a dancer's physical capabilities. Together, the pair helped shift ballet into more creative, athletic and abstract territory.
On June 12, 2016, after a day of teaching for Music 'n Motion dance camp in Orlando, high school dance teacher Stephanie Kersten went out to the Pulse nightclub with her co-workers. "I was only there for an hour before the shooting took place," she says. "We were stuck inside for a good 30 minutes before, thank God, I was pulled out. I was actually on my hands and knees praying in a closet: 'Please just get us out. I just want to get home to my kids.'"