Teaching Tips
Gesel Mason with David Roussève. Photo by Michael Taylor, courtesy of Mason

With the fall semester rapidly approaching and university plans coming into focus, higher ed faculty members are likely drafting (and re-drafting) their syllabi—and wondering what a full semester's worth of online or hybrid online/in-person dance courses will even look like.

Take comfort in the fact that dance professors across the country are in the same boat, and that the higher ed dance community is an unfailingly generous one. We spoke to five educators about what worked well for the second half of the spring semester—and what they're planning to do differently this fall.

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Betsy Brandt teaches at Webster University in St. Louis. Photo by Gerry Love, courtesy of Brandt
Betsy Brandt gets more than a few questions about what, exactly, she offers the choreographers she works with—the likes of Jennifer Monson and Sara Hook, to name a couple. "I help people make dances," she says simply about her role as dance dramaturg. "Sometimes, it's like being their composition teacher—except they know more than me, and I don't have the power."
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Since she was hired in 2006 to create a dance program at Washington & Lee University in Virginia, Jenefer Davies has operated as, essentially, a one-woman show. She's the only full-time faculty member (with regular adjunct support). Over the last 13 years, she has created a thriving program along with a performance company—at a school with fewer than 2,500 students—by drawing on her admittedly rare strength: aerial dance.

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Health & Body
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It's the middle of the semester and two dancers are sitting out of class, you're worried about one student's mental health and another has developed an eating disorder. Sound familiar? College can be a tumultuous time. To help address the additional demands of being a dance major, some schools have found strategies for enhancing wellness and integrating health services into their departments.

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When I went back to school last fall to earn my MFA, I was surprised by how much dance in higher education had changed since my undergraduate experience 10 years before—and how much it hadn't. Diasporic dance forms, such as African and hip hop, for example, are now much more integral to curriculums, but ballet and modern still take precedence. Students are now more interested in somatic practices, yet teachers have moved away from cuing or correcting students by touch.

Traditional curriculum that emphasizes Western European dance and separates the path of teaching from that of performance may be deeply ingrained in academia, yet there are many signs of progress to note throughout the field. Here, faculty members of three colleges explain how they are evolving their offerings to better meet the needs of today's dancers.

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To Share With Students

It's National Higher Education Day, and we are here to celebrate! From dance programs so famous that even your dog knows about them, to the hidden gems in the middle of the country that prepare students to go on to larger-than-life careers, we are grateful for schools that support the arts.

To celebrate the day, we created a list of dance programs you should know about, with their Instagram handles, so you can stay up-to-date on their day-to-day classes/performances. You're welcome!

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To Share With Students
Photo by Stephanie English, courtesy of Copeland

Paying for college, no matter what degree you graduate with, is a challenge for many students and their families. But majoring in dance has its own set of complications, because many are reluctant to go into serious debt without the security of knowing they'll be able to pay that debt off quickly post-college. That doesn't mean a dance degree is out of the question, of course—as the three dancers featured here demonstrate.

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Courtesy of Morgan

To say Lisa Morgan wears more than one hat would be a gross understatement. For starters, she teaches a pedagogy course for dance majors at Colorado State University and heads the dance component of an arts-integration program (BRAINY) for local elementary students. She also runs a professional-development seminar for K–12 teachers who want to incorporate movement into their classrooms. And she teaches movement to music therapy students at CSU. Oh, and she was part of a weeklong summer institute last year to expose high-needs high schoolers to college via integrative dance activities.

It's tempting to say that Morgan, who has been an adjunct professor throughout her 20-year tenure at CSU, is just someone who goes above and beyond her job description. But she avows that it's more about feeling compelled to make her mark in dance education. If that sounds idealistic, it is. "When you're in arts education, you always see the bigger picture—a bigger list of things you want to do and get to," she says. Her bigger picture of late? Working on broadening CSU's dance-degree offerings (currently a BA) to include a BFA, eventually with a concentration in dance education—and teacher licensure. "It's what I'm most passionate about," she says. "It's what I can make the biggest difference in."

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