It's All About the Music

Day One at the AAHPERD National Convention (National Dance Association):
It's easy to go into overwhelm at a conference like this--thinking, how can I absorb all this to bring back to my students (or in my case, to you as readers). A good strategy is to focus on one great thing each day. For my money, today that would be Leslie Walden of Illinois State University. She has created a jazz dance syllabus based on 20th Century American music to give her students a deeper understand of the form. "You can't assume a 19-year-old knows that hip hop derived from jazz," she said.
During the semester she covers:
Lindy Hop/Swing
Musical Theatre
Soul and R&B
Rock & Roll
Hip Hop
The way it works is that she focuses on each style for a week or two. When the focus is ragtime, for instance, she'll show the Charleston in the movie, "The Great Gatsby." For the latin focus, she shows "West Side Story." But the primary influence is the music. For ragtime for instance she'll play Scott Joplin, Jelly Roll Morton, and James Scott all through the class, from warm-up to combinations to cool down. She showed us a clip of "Jelly's Last Jam," and taught us two short combinations using latin and blues music to demonstate.
Later, NDA presented its 2009-10 National Educator of the Year awards to:
Mary Ann Laverty (K-12)
Woodside High School in Newport News, Virginia
Billie Lepczyk (College and University)
Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia
Congratulations Mary Ann and Billie!
Higher Ed
Charles Anderson (center) in his (Re)current Unrest. Photo by Kegan Marling, courtesy of UT Austin

Given the long history of American choreographers who have threaded activism into their work—Katherine Dunham, Pearl Primus, Donald McKayle, Joanna Haigood, Bill T. Jones, Jo Kreiter, to name a few—it's perhaps surprising that collegiate dance has offered so little in the way of training future generations to do the same.

Until now, that is. Within the last three years, two master's programs have cropped up, each the first of its kind: Ohio University's MA in community dance (new this fall), and the University of Texas at Austin's dance and social justice MFA, which emerged from its existing MFA program in 2018. These two programs join the University of San Francisco's undergraduate performing arts and social justice major, with a concentration in dance, which has been around since 2000.

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Teacher Voices
Getty Images

As many dance teachers begin another semester of virtual teaching, it is time to acknowledge the fact that virtual classes aren't actually accessible to all students.

When schools and studios launched their virtual dance programs at the beginning of the pandemic, many operated under the assumption that all their students would be able to take class online. But in reality, lack of access to technology and Wi-Fi is a major issue for many low-income students across the country, in many cases cutting them off from the classes and resources their peers can enjoy from home.

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Dance Teacher Awards

Who knew that a virtual awards ceremony could bring our community together in such a powerful way?

Last night, we celebrated the annual Dance Teacher Awards, held virtually for the first time. Though it was different from what we're used to, this new setting inspired us to get creative in celebrating our six extraordinary honorees. In fact, one of the most enlivening parts of the event was one that could only happen in a Zoom room: Watching as countless tributes, stories and congratulations poured in on the chat throughout the event. Seeing firsthand the impact our awardees have had on so many lives reminded us why we chose to honor them.

If you missed the Awards (or just want to relive them), you're in luck—they are now available to watch on-demand. We rounded up some of the highlights:

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