Dance is kinetic. Motion, moving, going, doing. Even in stillness, there is building energy with expectant release.
I believe that we all inherently understand movement. It is something we do, witness, and decode every day. However, the ways that we engage individually with movement shift drastically based on our subjectivity and our history. Invoking this history as an active present alongside the material of dance is critical to my approach to pedagogy and to incorporating diversity, which I see as inextricable. When I teach contemporary-releasing techniques, tap dance, improvisation, choreographic process, video dance, and critical context classes, I take root in political pedagogical methodologies to construct situations in which a student’s inherent knowledge is called to light, expanded, and challenged.
In technique class, I ask how we, as humans consistently experiencing gravity, can understand the lowest-effort way to move out through space. I employ my training as an applied mathematician to aid students in experiencing the physics of potential and kinetic energy. We imagine how the unique vector forces that we each generate can be activated anew to shift—efficiently and continuously—while in motion. We move through a familiar class structure, from exploratory warm-up exercises uncovering the sensation of gravity to more complex material, and through exercises from contemporary-modern and somatic approaches to moving. By shifting our attention to the mechanics and attention of dancing, we uncover minute, simple details that expand our affinities toward dancing. This approach is culled in conversation with equitable dance pedagogies, prioritizing the students’ varying engagements with class—as a result of varied trainings, varying ability–as ground for expanded learning. While I acknowledge (in class) that this style of dance is not a universal standard, I ask students to envision and actuate how the logic behind the movement allows them to access their individual body’s motion and a cerebral understanding of how this work can be accessed across styles.
This horizontal, applied thinking appears in context courses as constant connections, blurring the binary between the everyday and studio praxis. Students analyze their own Instagram feed as a collection of aesthetic choices and values; they discourse about the movement of set pieces, lights, or costumes in a live performances as another means of understanding the way that movement can be read into meanings; in improvisation, students cultivate an awareness of their environment and their choices to notice their relationship to impulse and decision. By mining and discoursing on choreographic thinking in a variety of arenas, the students and I uncover assumptions about our research practices, challenging one another to approach these processes in new ways. Students invested in dance research and other arenas alike, consider their individual, often disparate research interests as vast systems in the service of understanding dance as a mode of critical and embodied thinking, one that is applicable throughout our lives.
Students therefore synthesize their own artistic, scholarly, and lived practices, while I continually refine my approach to availing a course to this purpose. Students develop the burning, intrinsic desire to inquire, to create sustainably, and to innovate for themselves. This reflects my own experience of education, not as an arrival, but as a continuous practice imbued with cyclical potential and release, research and creation.