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Nyama McCarthy-Brown leads class. Courtesy of McCarthy-Brown

For the past 20 years, Ohio State University professor Nyama McCarthy-Brown has been advocating for dance pedagogy that embraces students' cultural backgrounds. "When you look at a textbook and all you see is Western-based dances or people moving in ways that point back to a Eurocentric culture, how do you value other cultures?" she asks. "How do we value other cultures when we're not seeing them in every place that we're told is important?"

In her 2017 book Dance Pedagogy for a Diverse World: Culturally Relevant Teaching in Theory, Research and Practice, McCarthy-Brown details her approach, which hinges on researching the cultural backgrounds of the students in the room and teaching with these in mind. Integrating students' cultural practices into dance curriculum, especially in K–12 schools, enables students to be seen and valued, and to have a more positive learning experience.

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Adult ballet students come from all kinds of different places—and they attend your class for all kinds of different reasons. Understanding who your student is and what they want is key in making sure you give the kind of feedback that will resonate with them and help them get what they need out of your class. Achieving this type of connection makes for a happy student and for a more fulfilling student/teacher relationship overall.

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Going upside down can be scary. It's spatially bewildering, and young students who have spent their lives upright often lack the strength required to feel confident putting their weight on their hands. But, don't fret! There are safe and pleasant ways to build the muscle and the might for dynamite inversions.

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While the days of slapping students' legs with a cane have become part of (recent) history in dance training, a "leave it at the door" mentality persists in many studio settings. But when a student enters the studio, they come as an entire person, with all the shades of complexity that entails—especially in their years developing into an adult.

In a 2017 survey of 1,000 dancers by Dance Magazine, only 10 percent of students said they would definitely feel comfortable talking to a teacher if they had a mental health issue. And while it is not the role of dance teachers to play therapist, you may be one of few adults who interacts with a student on a regular basis, and ultimately their success and well-being are tied to your investment.

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Q: I've taught in the private sector for years and want to move into K–12. How can I do it?

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Gerard Charles, courtesy of RAD

This is a charged question that I have heard debated my entire career as a dancer, teacher and director. So why would I pose such a contentious question? Because good dance teaching is at the heart of the RAD and a core value we need to be able to define. I hope this will also promote healthy discussion between all of you who teach every day.

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To have a set syllabus, or to not have a set syllabus, that is the question. Each year you have the chance to decide which is best for your dancers and their future. Both sides of the argument have compelling reasoning to back them up. Dancers simultaneously need structure and freedom in order to become their best selves. So, what WILL be best for them??

Unfortunately, that's a decision we can't make for you. But, we CAN lay out the pros and cons for you to consider in the context of your particular students. Check them out and then let us know on our Facebook page your thoughts on set syllabi.

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