At a certain level of expertise, I have found that advanced students and even repertory dancers begin to yearn for a deeper kinetic experience and expansion of their knowledge. In my time working with the dancers of Iceland Dance Company as well as students in universities in the U.S. and Iceland, I have observed that despite their outstanding technical capability many performers struggle to transcend a routine completion of certain movement materials. I notice a lack of ability to authentically assimilate new physicality into their existing and established movement languages, especially when the new information requires a basal, instinctual execution of very set material. I seek to discover and develop systems to teach a performer to analyze and integrate new movement idioms rather than overlay or pantomime them–thoughtful integration rather than superficial replication.
To this end, an important and consistent underpinning of my research and physical practice is providing knowledge surrounding Anatomy and Kinesiology and Movement Analysis. In order to understand and engage in clear and deliberate choice making, a student must understand how the body functions. This awareness should include an understanding of the skeletal, muscular, nervous systems, and human developmental movement progression. In my work, each unit throughout a semester is designed to include primary and secondary themes that introduce and reinforce the fundamentals of Anatomy and Kinesiology, Barteneiff Fundamentals, Improvisation, and Laban Movement Analysis. This pairing is especially exciting because students are introduced to the interplay between the apparent polar opposites of Function and Expression, Inner and Outer experience, and Part and Whole-body approaches. Noticing and challenging assumptions surrounding one or the other encourages students to witness and experience how these ideas collaborate and how a dynamic interplay between the two can provide greater efficiency and availability in the body and mind.
My goal is to assist students in cultivating an elaborate and multilingual body, full of possibilities, capable of complexity, simple clarity, and great range, so I encourage students to consider theory courses, technique class, and stage performance as one holistic practice. My pedagogical approach proposes that the customary goals and attributes associated with a movement practice, meant to increase physical strength, flexibility, alignment, and proprioception, should be equally applied to the whole-self–including the mind, imagination, and emotional being. This is an important way in which the development of astute, eloquent, intuitive, expressive, intentional, available whole-personhood can be stimulated.
I am interested in teaching with compassion as well as sensitivity to the diverse experiences and backgrounds of my students, in order to develop safe space that encourages risk-taking, inquisition, and the free expression of ideas. I hope to personify a teaching methodology that supplies students with tools that allow them to build, reflect upon, and retool their own constructions of understanding. I seek to teach in a way that suggests avenues for gaining insight but does not discount or devalue alternative approaches or learning styles.
I believe good teachers are eternally curious. They travel, read, write, create, and remain students themselves. By doing so, educators are not only introduced to new subject matter, but by stepping into the role of a student, they are offered an immense amount of empathetic knowledge–the sort of knowledge that is not accessible through objectively theorizing about pedagogic strategy or the student experience. While both practices bring precious knowledge, in my experience, it is in tandem that they function best.
I believe in the importance of developing an environment of safety through validation. Therefore, I believe in saying “yes/and/do” more often than “not/but/don’t”. I seek to assist students in shaping their bodies, movements, and minds from a place of excess and range rather than a place of limitation. Therefore, an essential part of building trust is the conscious avoidance of betrayal at all costs, even in jest. Good teachers are specific and careful with their language.
I acknowledge and hope to illustrate in my own body and facilitation of class the fact that a scientific process revolves around failure, evaluation, adjustment, and the repetition of experimentation. I believe the creation of a safe and respectful space encourages a practice in bravery, courage, and risk, improving learning outcomes. Additionally, good teachers set clear and specific boundaries and avoid enmeshing their own goals, triumphs, failures, and worth with those of their students. Through all these means, teachers are able to generate a space in which strict accountability, challenging requests, and guidelines for protocol can be established and observed without personal injury in order to undertake a rigorous and profound inquiry.
I hope embodying the wholeness of this teaching philosophy will allow me to encourage and assist students in developing an interest and means of reflecting on their unique bodies/minds and the knowledge and preconceptions they possess. I want to inspect the ways in which we view and learn, expanding our skills by challenging our primary modes of operation and embracing new ways of seeing and realizing. This is a transformational learning model, which prioritizes putting students in unfamiliar situations often enough that they might begin to question and eventually shift their existing paradigm. I want to dispel notions of universal “right” and “wrong”, embracing clear choice making in their place. I hope to help students choose when to access and ignore convention, embrace failure, and to always remain brave and curious.