The 2009 Dance Teacher Awards: Ann Shea

ANN SHEA
Tennessee Arts Commission and Allied Arts of Greater Chattanooga
Chattanooga, TN
arts.state.tn.us and
alliedartschattanooga.org

For Ann Shea, who has been a dance educator for 30 years, there was never any question about her life’s work. “From the first minute of my first summer dance course, when I was 7, I knew that I wanted to be a dance teacher—it was that immediate,” she says.

Since then, Shea has spent her life learning as much as possible about dance and sharing it with others, from professional dancers to K–12 students and especially those with special needs. Her professional accolades include the Tennessee Association of Dance’s 2006 Dance Educator of the Year Award and its Professional Development Award. Based in Chattanooga, Tennessee, she has choreographed more than 50 pieces for organizations including the Orange Grove Center, the Chattanooga Ballet and Dance Theater Workshop. She’s also made works for several high school dance programs in the community.

Formally trained in classical ballet and modern, Shea studied dance at Florida State University, where she earned her bachelor’s degree before transferring to the dance program at Texas Woman’s University in Denton. There she received both a master of arts and a doctor of philosophy in dance and related arts.

Shea has long been an avid and tireless advocate for dance and arts education in K–12 schools. For years, she has worked to bring dance to young students via grant-funded workshops and dance literacy outreach efforts. Shea has made special efforts to assist children at inner-city schools, where resources are  limited. “We have to get [dance education] to those students who are in financial need,” she says.

Shea also fell in love with special needs students and their desire to learn. “I just observed the signals they sent me in terms of whether they were getting the ideas I was working to transfer,” she says. “I was delighted by how focused they can be.” The staff of the Orange Grove Center for adults and children with developmental disabilities, where Shea has taught dance as an artist-in-resident for several years, says that Shea’s classes help instill confidence and enhance quality of life.

After championing dance education for the disabled for years, Shea was recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. But that has not stopped her from teaching. She continues to serve the dance community.
“I like teaching little ones; I like teaching grown-ups; I like sharing with anyone who wants to learn about dance,” says Shea. “I want dance education to be accessible, viable and visible.”

—Lisa L. Rollins

Photo courtesy of Ann Shea

Technique
Nan Melville, courtesy Genn

Not so long ago, it seemed that ballet dancers were always encouraged to pull up away from the floor. Ideas evolved, and more recently it has become common to hear teachers saying "Push down to go up," and variations on that concept.

Charla Genn, a New York City–based coach and dance rehabilitation specialist who teaches company class for Dance Theatre of Harlem, American Ballet Theatre and Ballet Hispánico, says that this causes its own problems.

"Often when we tell dancers to go down, they physically push down, or think they have to plié more," she says. These are misconceptions that keep dancers from, among other things, jumping to their full potential.

To help dancers learn to efficiently use what she calls "Mother Marley," Genn has developed these clever techniques and teaching tools.

Keep reading... Show less
Teachers Trending
Alwin Courcy, courtesy Ballet des Amériques

Carole Alexis has been enduring the life-altering after-effects of COVID-19 since April 2020. For months on end, the Ballet des Amériques director struggled with fevers, tingling, dizziness and fatigue. Strange bruising showed up on her skin, along with the return of her (long dormant) asthma, plus word loss and stuttering.

"For three days I would experience relief from the fever—then, boom—it would come back worse than before," Alexis says. "I would go into a room and not know why I was there." Despite the remission of some symptoms, the fatigue and other debilitating side effects have endured to this day. Alexis is part of a tens-of-thousands-member club nobody wants to be part of—she is a COVID-19 long-hauler.

Keep reading... Show less
Teachers Trending

Annika Abel Photography, courtesy Griffith

When the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May catalyzed nationwide protests against systemic racism, the tap community resumed longstanding conversations about teaching a Black art form in the era of Black Lives Matter. As these dialogues unfolded on social media, veteran Dorrance Dance member Karida Griffith commented infrequently, finding it difficult to participate in a meaningful way.

"I had a hard time watching people have these conversations without historical context and knowledge," says Griffith, who now resides in her hometown of Portland, Oregon, after many years in New York City. "It was clear that there was so much information missing."

For example, she observed people discussing tap while demonstrating ignorance about Black culture. Or, posts that tried to impose upon tap the history or aesthetics of European dance forms.

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.