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.
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.
In Antoine Hunter's jazz class, students inevitably pick up sign language just by virtue of being his student. Though he doesn't typically incorporate ASL into his class combos, this dynamic phrase, which is one of his favorites, includes four signs: "heart," " re," "gone" and "deaf."
When it comes to teaching Pre-K to fifth-graders, behavior issues are inevitable. Whether it's a child who wants to run around the room or a student who just flat-out refuses to follow instructions, knowing how to respond can be challenging. Compound that with the added obstacles of a K–12 school environment—where you may have an unusual dance space to teach in, limited class time or students who are just not interested in dance—and taking care of behavioral problems quickly and compassionately becomes even more essential.
Here, two Pre-K–5 teachers and one mental health professional offer their best strategies for dealing with four common behavior issues.
The tripod (demonstrated by LizAnne Roman Roberts) is one of the more standard Countertechnique tools, designed to challenge the body to maintain dynamic balance while multitasking through multiple trajectories. Aptly named, the tripod works in three different directions: as the lower body moves down, the upper body moves up and back, eventually spiraling into an elegant twist.
As you assemble your gratitude list for this Thanksgiving, stop and consider some of the works that paved the way for the diverse dance world we enjoy today. Whether they introduced a radical new style of movement, controversial subject matter or a particularly poignant message, these five works broke choreographic barriers and have withstood the test of time.
Halprin in her work The Prophetess (1947),about Deborah, the only female judge in the Bible. Halprin's Jewish heritage guided her morality and, early on, her choreography. Photo by Ernest Braun, courtesy of Dance Magazine archives
In both Anna Halprin's workshops and choreographic ventures, the postmodern choreographer used improv-based exercises that brought dancers' own individual movement impulses to their attention. Halprin made use of the environment surrounding her home, having dancers hike and tumble in nature. Now 98, she still teaches from her home in Marin County.
Though Asadata Dafora isn't widely known today, he blazed a trail for countless African-based dance companies who enjoy a firm foothold on the concert dance stage today. He reworked the spatial orientation of various cultural dances to fit a proscenium stage and made them more presentational to appeal to Western audiences.
Dafora influenced many dance artists directly, most notably Katherine Dunham, Pearl Primus and Charles Moore, and heads a rich African-dance lineage that includes such luminaries as Jawole Willa Jo Zollar and the late Chuck Davis. In 1977, Davis founded DanceAfrica, an annual festival that celebrates African culture through dance, music, art and film.