Teacher Training: The Martha Graham School

“As Martha Graham said, ‘Technique has a three-fold purpose: strength of body, freedom of body and spirit and spontaneity of action,’” says Virginie Mécène, director of the New York City–based Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance. “Our approach is to give participants the fundamental basis of the technique, so that wherever it is taught, its essentials remain intact.” Both teachers-in-training and seasoned educators will benefit from the MGSCD yearlong Teacher-Training Program, which started in the ’90s, and its new Teacher-Training Summer Intensive.

For one year, teacher-training students carefully analyze and break down every aspect of Graham technique, taking five to eight technique classes per week, plus dance history and elective courses. Participants teach each other, observe classes, notate assessments and, eventually, write a lesson plan and teach the class. Those who excel in the course may have the opportunity to teach as apprentices for MGSCD beginner and teen classes, and all who pass the course will receive a Certificate of Completion.

Mécène is confident that students acquire invaluable teaching skills. “The course explores demonstration skills, the ability to recognize weaknesses and apply appropriate verbal and/or physical corrections, classroom management, use of the voice and imagery, construction and development of a lesson and musicality,” she says. Students also work with rotating pairs of veteran Graham dancers and instructors throughout the year. “You’re directed by some of the most important and successful people in the contemporary dance world,” says Einat Iosefzon, who completed the program last June.

The training program is in such high demand that a full-time course of study for working teachers has now been established. The new Teacher-Training Intensive is set to run in NYC, June 22–July 17, 2009. It will include technique classes in conjunction with a repertory workshop, and a focus on individual needs, such as differences in teaching in public versus professional schools. Mécène hopes the intensive will facilitate relationships between teachers and the MGSCD—collaborations and student exchange programs are just a few of the possibilities.

Perhaps Iosefzon put it best when describing what makes the Graham programs so unique: “With Graham, the magic onstage comes from the class and the studio, and that is one of the most difficult things to learn as a teacher—how to create the magic.” DT

Program Prerequisites:
Advanced level Graham Technique, completion of Composition 1 and completion of two Advanced Repertory courses. Applicants not currently attending the Martha Graham School, but who have previously attended, must participate in at least two weeks of technique class through the Summer Intensive Course prior to the start of the program. Applicants who have never studied at the MGSCD must participate in the full six-week Summer Intensive Course the summer prior to the start of the program. All applicants must submit a personal statement of intent. More information about the Teacher-Training Summer Intensive is available online.

Interested applicants should contact: Virginia Mécène, Director, Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance; 316 E 63rd St, New York, NY 10065; 212-838-5886 x203; vmecene@marthagraham.org; www.marthagraham.org

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