Gottfried Arnold in action at DEL

"I’m looking for the big idea,” says Jody Gottfried Arnhold on a recent Friday afternoon at the 92nd Street Y. Trim and petite in a zip-up track jacket, black athletic pants and sneakers, Arnhold looks ready to chase this big idea down Lexington Avenue if that’s what it takes. “There are 1,500 schools in New York City and more every day. There are close to a million and a half kids in the school system, and less than 200 certified dance educators. It’s just not enough.”

Arnhold is the founding director of the Y’s Dance Education Laboratory (DEL), which has been training and supporting teachers since 1995. DEL’s approach is modeled on Arnhold’s own pedagogical practices, honed over nearly 25 years spent teaching dance in the New York City public school system and mentoring others who wanted to do the same.

Today, thanks in large part to Arnhold’s tireless work through DEL and the New York City Department of Education (DOE), more and more certified teachers are flowing into the school system fortified with the knowledge and practical skills to build stellar dance programs.
But, as Arnhold says, it’s not enough. Her goal is to offer high-quality, sequential dance education to every child in the public school system—but to reach it, she needs that big idea. Her friends and colleagues have no doubt she’ll make it happen.

“The great inspiration about working with Jody is that she will never give up the dream,” says Joan Finkelstein, who has worked closely with Arnhold for many years, first as director of the Y’s Harkness Dance Center and currently as director of dance programs in the DOE’s Office of Arts and Special Projects. “It gives people energy to be around that kind of idealistic persistence—and it’s more than idealism, because she’s also very practical. She truly believes that if we all band together this can happen. She’s brilliant, she’s dedicated and she’s unstoppable.”
A Grassroots Effort

Name a dance-related initiative and chances are Arnhold is involved in it, from co-chairing the committee to draft the New York City Department of Education Curriculum Blueprint for Teaching & Learning in Dance to chairing the board of Ballet Hispanico. She advocates on behalf of dance education to “everybody who will listen.”      

“I think that every child deserves an arts education, and I’d like to see that dance is first,” Arnhold says. “Imagine what the culture would be if we raise generations of dance-literate children. We would encourage young people’s artistry and also their creativity and humanity. We would bring life and energy into their schools.”

Arnhold wants to put a certified dance teacher in every public school, and she emphasizes that dance education must start when children are young in order for it to properly take root. It’s an ambitious goal, to be sure. But for Arnhold, the value is multidimensional—she sees it as fundamental not only to children’s development and learning but to the survival of the dance field as a whole.

“It’s a grassroots effort for our art,” says Arnhold, who was honored with the National Dance Education Organization’s Visionary Award in 2009. “I’m involved in many dance companies, and I think that their interest has to be dance education, otherwise there’s not going to be anybody coming to see them. If we could raise dance-literate children, we would have an audience for dance. We’d also have more performers because the talent is going to be uncovered.”
   

Early Influences

A few powerful experiences and key people helped shape Arnhold’s vision, the first being her own dance training, as a child, with Erika Thimey in Washington, DC.

“Her influence on me was huge,” Arnhold says of Thimey, who trained with Mary Wigman in her native Germany. “Dancemaking was part of every class, where we talked about the dances we created, performed for each other and made dances based on stories and ideas. It was this very rich, deep experience that I loved.”

Still, when Arnhold headed to New York City after graduating from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, she had no plans to teach—it was a performing career she wanted. But she quickly realized it wasn’t to be. “I needed real structure in my life, and I recognized that,” she says. “I was a teacher at heart.”

Fortuitously, the city happened to be in need of teachers at the time and was recruiting young talent through the Intensive Teacher Training Program. Arnhold enrolled at New York University in the summer of 1967, and 12 credits later she was plunged into her first teaching experience, in a first-grade classroom. “I loved it,” she says.

But she missed dance. Arnhold earned a master’s degree in dance education from Columbia University’s Teachers College and soon after landed a job as a dance teacher at P.S. 75 on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. “That was in the ’70s when the arts had been decimated,” she says. “But I found a principal who was excited about the idea of having the arts in his school, and he really wanted dance.”

Perhaps more importantly, Arnhold found Joan Sax, a fellow teacher at P.S. 75 who had just returned from a year of study at the Laban school in England. “It was through Joan Sax that I came to appreciate the application of Laban Movement Analysis to teaching dance to children,” she says. “The Laban material has guiding principles that apply to teaching process rather than product, the idea that everybody’s movement is valued and everyone can express themselves through movement.”

As Arnhold’s program came together, dance became central to life at P.S. 75. If there was an event, Arnhold and her students created a dance for it—whether it was a dedication ceremony for a new playground, a change of season, a math unit in symmetry and asymmetry or the death of a teacher. She knew she had something special on her hands, and she wanted to find a way to replicate it in other schools.

“Dance became the heart and soul of that school,” she says. “I was always thinking, ‘How can this happen someplace else?’”

Arnhold mentored the student teachers who flocked to her classroom each year, and eventually she began sharing her practices with other schools through a grant from Teachers Network. By 1991, she had left P.S. 75 and was focusing her efforts on teacher education. A few years later, DEL was born.


Bringing It All Together

With DEL, all of Arnhold’s experiences, feelings and ideas about dance education have coalesced into a fully formed whole. “Jody is the heart and soul of the program,” says John-Mario Sevilla, who joined DEL as administrator in 2007. “It’s very much an embodiment of her vision.” 


Arnhold continues to teach DEL’s Foundations of Dance Education course, and many of her protégés have taught alongside her, among them early childhood dance educator Ann Biddle and Barbara Bashaw, coordinator of dance education and teacher certification at Rutgers University. “We are all bringing something special to it,” says Tina Curran, director of the Language of Dance Center. “Her vision for providing quality dance education is so big that there’s room for it to come about in many different ways. And I think that’s what attracts people with a diversity of expertise to work together.”

In addition to her work at DEL, Arnhold partners with Finkelstein at the DOE on a variety of projects aimed at recruiting and supporting certified dance teachers. “She recently initiated a grant to the Fund for Public Schools supporting programs for new dance teachers,” Finkelstein says, adding that the grant includes mentoring, a stipend for each first year dance teacher’s school, a toolkit of instructional resources and a discount on DEL courses.

Another recent initiative is the Arnhold Dance Fellows program, which identifies current teaching fellows with an undergraduate dance degree and helps them add a dance license to whatever teaching certification they are pursuing. Arnhold is also chair of the Hunter College Dance Education Advisory Committee, working with college President Jennifer Raab on plans to launch three new graduate dance education programs.

“All of these good things are happening, but there is still much work to do,” Arnhold says. “We still need the big idea. Training for more prepared, certified, inspired dance

teachers is critical. More dance and cultural organizations must make education of our children a top priority. Most important, we need more principals and schools to provide fertile ground for all the arts—dance especially—so that all children have access. We all have to join together to make this happen.” DT
   

Michelle Vellucci holds a master’s in dance and education from the University at Buffalo. She writes about dance and the arts in NYC.

Click here to watch exerpts of the Foundations of Dance Education course, part of the DEL Program.

 

About 92nd St. Y's Dance Education Laboratory

Jody Arnhold was a classroom teacher in the early 1970s when she was asked to start school-based dance programs. There was little to guide her. Fast-forward 25 years. In 1993 Joan Finkelstein, director of Dance Programs for the New York City Department of Education, was the newly appointed director of the Harkness Dance Center. To help re-establish the innovative role the Dance Center had played under founder William Kolodney, director from 1936 to 1969, Finkelstein asked Arnhold what contribution the Center could make to dance education. Arnhold suggested teacher training.

From that seed has grown the Harkness Dance Center’s Dance Education Laboratory, which offers intensives, weekend workshops and ongoing coursework. Since 1994 when Arnhold and Ann Biddle taught the first one-day workshop, more than 2,800 dancers have participated in DEL courses. 

“We are committed to the premise that every child should have an in-school dance experience,” says Director John-Mario Sevilla. “We think of dance as connected to other subjects; as a way of thinking and communicating fundamental to articulating who you are in body, mind and spirit; to understanding space and time; to knowing who you are as part of a community. It’s holistic.”

The DEL approach is built on Laban Movement Analysis, a language and system of notation developed by Rudolf Laban. In addition to
guiding unit and lesson planning, the vocabulary provides a mode of clear communication with classroom teachers.

DEL now provides professional development for the New York City Department of Education and college credit is available through SUNY Empire State College. In addition to approaches to technique, improvisation and composition, participants study classroom management, conflict resolution, dance history, dance anatomy, biomechanics and health.

“We’re giving people tools for creating lesson plans, a process that can be as fulfilling as creating a piece of choreography,” says Arnhold. “The lesson plan is a beautiful arc starting with warm-up, development, elaboration, culmination and cool-down. I want each person to understand this methodology and take it to where they will come out with a personal voice.” —Carrie Stern

Photo by Rachel Papo

Dance Teacher Tips
Photo by Jayme Thornton for Dance Magazine

When choosing music for tap, Jason Samuels Smith encourages teachers to start with classic jazz music. Improvisation, call and response, and syncopated rhythms embedded in the genre and its history, in general, help students to understand the structure of tap, which is different than other styles of dance. "Tap dancers have the responsibility to be more than just a visual artist," he says. "They're an instrument and a sound."

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Success with Just for Kix
Bill Johnson, Courtesy Just for Kix

Running a dance studio is a feat in itself. But adding a competition team into the mix brings a whole new set of challenges. Not only are you focusing on giving your dancers the best training possible, but you're navigating the fast-paced competition and convention circuit. Winning is one goal, but you also want to create an environment that's fun, educational and inspiring for young artists. We asked Cindy Clough, executive director of Just For Kix and a studio owner with over 40 years of experience, for her advice on building a healthy dance team culture:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Photo Courtesy of Ballet Next

In 2011, when former American Ballet Theatre principal Michele Wiles departed the company and formed BalletNext, she found an artistic freedom she'd been longing for. Along with new collaborations with choreographers and musicians, she began working with trumpeter Tom Harrell, who introduced her to the multilayered sounds of jazz. "The dancers are another instrument to a jazz musician," says Wiles. Pairing this music genre with her classical foundation has been pivotal in defining her style. "I have this classical facility, but my mind is more contemporary. Jazz is a good intersection for my work," she says.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by The Studio Director

As a studio owner, you're probably pretty used to juggling. Running a business is demanding, with new questions and challenges pulling your attention in a million different directions each day.

But there's a solution that could be saving you time and money (and sanity!). Studio management systems are easy-to-use software programs designed for the particular needs of studio owners, offering tools like billing, enrollment, inventory and emails, all in one place. The right studio management system can help you handle the day-to-day tasks that bog you down as a business owner, leaving you more time for the most important work—like connecting with students and planning creative curriculums for them. Plus, these systems can keep you from spending extra money on hiring multiple specialists or using multiple platforms to meet your administrative needs.

So how do you make sure you're choosing a studio management system that offers the same quality that your studio does? We talked to The Studio Director—whose studio management system provides a whole host of streamlined features—about the must-haves for any system, and the bonuses that make an excellent product stand out:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Summit
Photo by Rachel Papo

Martin Harvey brought a little movie star charm into morning ballet class at our New York Dance Teacher Summit. (His acting credits include Gossip Girls, All My Children, Dirty Dancing, A Chorus Line, Carousel, plus Metropolitan Opera productions of Carmen and Manon Lescaut.) Educated at the Royal Ballet School in London, he danced many principal roles for The Royal Ballet during his 12-year career.

Mark Your Calendar

Join us in Long Beach, CA, July 26–28, or in NYC, August 1–3, for our 2019 Dance Teacher Summit.

Dance Teacher Tips
Thinkstock

Q: What suggestions do you have for dancers to get their shoulder blades to lie flat on their backs?

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Turn It Up Dance Challenge
Courtesy Turn It Up

With back-to-back classes, early-morning stage calls and remembering to pack countless costume accessories, competition and convention weekends can feel like a whirlwind for even the most seasoned of studios. Take the advice of Turn It Up Dance Challenge master teachers Alex Wong and Maud Arnold and president Melissa Burns on how to make the experience feel meaningful and successful for your dancers:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Summit
Photo by Sarah Ash, courtesy of Larkin Dance

Ask Michele Larkin-Wagner and Molly Larkin-Symanietz what sets them and Maplewood, Minnesota–based Larkin Dance Studio apart, and they immediately give the credit to their mom. Shirley Larkin founded the school in 1950 and continued to oversee the growing business until she passed away in 2011. "She put Minnesota on the map for dance training and made other local studios step up to the plate to become as strong as we are," Michele says. "A lot of people's lives are better because of Shirley Larkin."

For Michele and Molly, following in their mom's footsteps was a no-brainer. "I knew I was going to be a choreographer and take over the studio," Michele says. To Molly, seven years Michele's junior and the baby out of six siblings, the studio was always a second home. The two sisters trained across genres but had distinct specialties: Michele found her niche in jazz, musical theater and lyrical, while Molly excelled in tap. In the summers, they'd travel for workshops in Chicago, New York City and Los Angeles. While Michele was in class with jazz legends like Gus Giordano, JoJo Smith, Luigi and Frank Hatchett, Molly was taking tap classes with the likes of Brenda Bufalino and Phil Black.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Summit
Photo courtesy of Gandarillas

In Macarena Gandarillas' jazz class at California State University, Fullerton, a sign in the studio reads, "Never underestimate the power of determination." This simple mantra embodies what has made this self-described "danceaholic" such an impactful teacher.

When Gandarillas came to Los Angeles at age 6 with her family from Santiago, Chile, the language barrier was beyond overwhelming—until her mom enrolled her in ballet classes. Gandarillas found an instant love. "There were no Spanish-speaking kids at my school," she says. "But with dance I could communicate with my body. I'd finally found my voice."

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Getty Images

Q: Is teaching for an after-school program a good way to find a job in K–12?

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Summit
Photo courtesy of Inspire School of Arts and Sciences

It was the morning of November 8, 2018, and Jarrah Myles' first-period choreography students were in last-minute rehearsals for their fall dance concert that evening. "All of a sudden my students' phones started ringing like crazy," says Myles, a teacher at Inspire School of Arts and Sciences, a Chico, California, high school whose dance and theater programs Myles helped establish in 2010. "And once they answered, I saw these tragic faces staring back at me."

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox