Teachers' Tools: Brigitte Steinken

Steinken emphasizes clarity in the head and arms in her contemporary ballet class.

Brigitte Steinken often sets an intention for her advanced contemporary ballet class at Canyon Dance Academy in Flagstaff, Arizona. “I usually start with a somatic exercise so the students can tune into their bodies," she says. “For example, we'll lie on the floor, focus on the shoulder joint and feel how, when we move our arms, they connect to our sternum and back." She reinforces the day's main concept throughout class so it really sinks in. “I remind them what they noticed in the beginning and then check in with them after class," she says. “I ask them, 'Did anything change for you? What happened in this class? What was frustrating?'"

Steinken uses classical ballet technique as the foundation for building a contemporary vocabulary with her students. She finds that composition is a great way to cover terminology while getting students to think outside the box. “I wrote a list of the body positions and had them create an adagio combination in groups," she explains. “They could create whatever they wanted, but it needed to hit each of the body positions."

As a dance movement therapy and counseling master's candidate, she firmly believes in her students' freedom to make choices. “If a student is injured and asks me to sit out, I'm going to help them discern if they need to, but ultimately it's their call," says Steinken. “If they have layers on at the beginning of class, it's their choice, but I'm going to let them know, 'I can't see what's going on with those pants on.' I encourage students, but I'm not an enforcer." DT

TEACHING ATTIRE: “I keep it simple." Black leggings (shown is Motionwear) and Sansha Pro ballet shoes.

AFTERNOON ENERGY BOOST: “I love a cup of tea in the afternoon. I especially enjoy Yogi herbal teas, which come with tiny quotes of wisdom."

IDEAL DAY OFF: A hike in the morning, yoga in the afternoon and a homemade dinner.

RECOMMENDED READING: The Dancing Dialogue: Using the Communicative Power of Movement with Young Children by Suzi Tortora. “This book discusses the value of the body and the knowledge it holds—something that is so important for young dancers."

NEVER LEAVES HOME WITHOUT: Reusable water bottle (shown is from Discount Dance Supply).

Photos: by Angie Danca, courtesy of Steinken; leggings and water bottle: by Nathan Sayers; Thinkstock

Don't miss a single issue of Dance Teacher.

News
Getty Images

Despite worldwide theater closures, the Universal Ballet Competition is keeping The Nutcracker tradition alive in 2020 with an online international competition. The event culminates in a streamed, full-length video of The Virtual Nutcracker consisting of winning entries on December 19. The competition is calling on studios, as well as dancers of all ages and levels, to submit videos by November 29 to be considered.

"Nutcracker is a tradition that is ingrained in our hearts," says UBC co-founder Lissette Salgado-Lucas, a former dancer with Royal Winnipeg Ballet and Joffrey Ballet. "We danced it for so long as professionals, we can't wait to pass it along to dancers through this competition."

Keep reading... Show less
Robbie Sweeny, courtesy Funsch

Christy Funsch's teaching career has taken her from New York City to the Bay Area to Portugal, with a stint in a punk band in between. But this fall—fresh off a Fulbright in Portugal at the Instituto Politécnico de Lisboa, School of Dance (ESD), teaching and researching empathetic embodiment through somatic dance training—Funsch's teaching has taken her to an entirely new location: Zoom. A visiting professor at Slippery Rock University for the 2020–21 academic year, Funsch is adapting her eclectic, boundary-pushing approach to her virtual classes.

Originally from central New York State, Funsch spent 20 years performing in the Bay Area, where she also started her own company, Funsch Dance Experience. "My choreographic work from that time is in the dance-theater experiential, fantasy realm of performance," she says. "I also started blending genres and a lot of urban styles found their way into my choreography."

Keep reading... Show less
News
Courtesy Meg Brooker

As the presidential election approaches, it's a particularly meaningful time to remember that we are celebrating the centennial of the 19th Amendment, when women earned the right to vote after a decades-long battle.

Movement was more than a metaphor for the fight for women's suffrage—dancers played a real role, most notably Florence Fleming Noyes, who performed her riveting solo Dance of Freedom in 1914 to embody the struggle for women's rights.

This fall, Middle Tennessee State University director of dance Meg Brooker is reconstructing Dance of Freedom on 11 of her students. A Noyes Rhythm teacher and an Isadora Duncan scholar, Brooker is passionate about bringing historic dance practices into a contemporary context.

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.