Rachel Caldwell graduated from the University of North Texas with a BFA in Dance and from Mills College with a MFA in Dance Performance and Choreography. She is from Houston, Texas, where she grew up studying ballet, tap, jazz, modern, hip hop and Scottish highland dance. Rachel is a Contributing Editor for Dance Teacher and writes the History and K-12 columns.
Deanna Paolantonio leads a workshop. Photo courtesy of Paolantonio
Deanna Paolantonio had been interested in body positivity long before diabetes ever crossed her mind. As a Zumba and Pilates instructor who had just earned her master's degree in dance studies, she focused her research on the relationship between fitness and body image for women and young girls. Then, at age 25, just as she was accepted into the PhD program at York University in Toronto, she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D).
Robin Nasatir (center) with Peter Brown and Vicki Gunter. Photo by Christian Peacock
On a sunny Thursday morning in Berkeley, California, Robin Nasatir leads her modern class through a classic seated floor warm-up full of luscious curves and tilts to the soothing grooves of Bobby McFerrin. Though her modern style is rooted in traditional José Limón and Erick Hawkins techniques, the makeup of her class is far from conventional. Her students range in age from 30 all the way to early 80s.
While taking class in 2006, Marisa Hamamoto felt a tingling sensation in her elbows, then suddenly collapsed to the floor. She was hospitalized and diagnosed with spinal cord infarction, a rare spinal stroke that left her paralyzed from the neck down. Despite being told by her doctor that she may never walk again, let alone dance, Hamamoto miraculously walked out of the hospital two months later.
Since her stroke, Hamamoto has found a new lease on life. She has channeled her indomitable will to overcome adversity into a dance company that marries her love of ballroom dance with her passion for social activism. Los Angeles–based Infinite Flow is the first professional wheelchair ballroom dance company in the U.S. Over the past four years it has become a torchbearer for social change, performing worldwide and offering workshops and school assemblies to educate audiences about accessibility and inclusion.
Photo by Erika Record, courtesy of Texas Woman's University
Looking back on his early dance education, Matthew Henley, an assistant professor at Texas Woman's University in Denton, remembers the grading process as being rather "opaque." "Any assessments seemed to be verbal, informal and casual. Most everyone got A's," he says.
Henley spent eight years teaching in elementary schools as a guest artist in New York and New Jersey before earning his MFA in dance and a PhD in educational psychology from the University of Washington. He's developed a concept-based approach to grading dance technique, which he uses in his modern dance class at TWU. His grading system could prove especially useful in K–12 school dance classes where teachers must submit grades.
This weekend, Roxey Ballet presented a sensory-friendly production of Cinderella at the Kendell Main Stage Theater in Ewing, New Jersey, with sound adjustments, a relaxed house environment and volunteers present to assist audience members with special needs. The production came on the heels of three educational residencies held at New Jersey–based elementary schools in honor of Autism Awareness Month in April.
Ilana Morgan teaching class with seniors. Photo courtesy of Morgan
When Ilana Morgan earned her PhD from Texas Woman's University in 2015, she was eager to serve her community of Denton, Texas. She crossed paths with the Denton County Juvenile Detention Center high school principal Anthony Sims and proposed to bring dance to the school's detained youth. After a year and half of planning, that interest became reality.
Fast-forward almost four years and Morgan has become a vital participant in the Denton County Courage to Change Program (CTC), changing the lives of detained youth, ages 13 to 18, by giving them an opportunity to be creative, collaborative and autonomous in a restrictive setting. By meeting students where they are, offering them the chance to take risks and make choices, and fostering an accepting learning environment, Morgan helps her students build a sense of self-worth through dance.
Amber Johnson at Deland Middle School. Courtesy of DMS
For a young student in the process of developing bodily awareness, a hands-on adjustment by a teacher can mean the difference between safe and incorrect alignment. But in many K–12 schools today, a hands-on approach is frowned upon or sometimes even forbidden. With dance being a kinesthetic art, this limitation presents a predicament for K–12 dance teachers. Here, two teachers share their views on whether to use touch in class and, if so, how they go about it.
Jessy Kronenberg knew she wanted to teach high school dance when she moved back to California from North Carolina, where she'd been certified in math and science. She needed certification to teach in California public schools, but there was no dance credential offered in the state, only physical education. "That was devastating, because I had never even taken a P.E. class," she says. "I always had a waiver because of dance."
Kronenberg took the P.E. certification test and was hired to teach both P.E. and dance. Now the dance program director at El Cerrito High School since 2012, she has helped lead the charge to reinstate the dance-teaching credential—a battle that California public-school dance teachers have been fighting for more than four decades and recently won.