The Dance Educator¹s Coalition (DEC) is a network formed in 1986 to provide emotional and professional support to Dance Educators. DEC’s mission is to serve the needs of its members and to give impetus to more and better quality dance programs throughout the state.
President: Colleen Callahan-Russell
Vice President: Sherry Saterstrom
Another Autumn arrives and I find myself negotiating all kinds of relationships. Me and my body, me and my students, my skills, my colleagues, my discipline, my age, and wondering what I want to do to sustain and improve myself as a teacher of dance in my 47th year of life. (I remember being 22 and student teaching with someone 47 and thinking how she must surely be thinking about retirement soon!) One of my student’s came up to me the other day wondering when she would see me dance by myself.
It’s funny, but I feel better than I have felt in a long time. My back surgery, now two years behind me, propelled me into re-thinking my health and I am on a slow, but sure journey back to my college weight. I feel invigorated around my high school students as I keep re-looking at dance from the eyes of each new generation.
It used to be that my students were influenced by the Solid Gold Dancers and then Fame and then the Fly Girls from In Living Color. For a long time now, of course, it¹s been MTV. ( I was inspired by the Carol Burnett Show Dancers!) Times change, and students come with different images behind their eyes as to what dance is and is not.
It continues to be a wonderful ride. I look forward to a full year of moving, teaching and making new work. Happy Dancing Trails to all of us lucky enough to be negotiating this profession over and over with each new generation.
Danny Buraczeski, Brian Sostek and Heidi Jasmin took on the topic of Musicality and brought their own unique perspective to the Dance Educator¹s Workshop this summer. Danny’s technique classes were delightful as he proudly proclaimed his close relationship with music as a stimulus for his work. Brian got participants experiencing sound and rhythm in their own bodies and in counterpoint with each other. In Flying Foot Forum style, he layered percussive sound and movement together to create a rhythmic extravaganza and added music later.
Heidi Jasmin brought mixed meters, breath rhythms, use of pulse and swings, and live musical accompaniment, to remind us what that great german modern dance tradition has contributed to the dance and music world.
Our discussions revolved around the question what does a sophisticated use of music look like as a dancer/choreographer? Participants brought lots of food for thought from the masters:
“Music should fit like a cape not like a glove." Martha Clarke.
“The choreographer’s function is that of collaborator with the music, and not of servant..endeavor to place before the spectator something in harmony with the music which makes a comment upon it or addition to it.” Agnes DeMille
“The dance must have something to say of its own, and a mere visualization of the music is not sufficient justification for bringing it to birth.” Doris Humphrey
We talked about not using the music note for note, employing harmonies, echoes, counterpoint, and trying to capture the “essence” or energy of the musical piece. We watched participants choreography (live and on tape)and choreography of Mark Morris and George Balanchine to seed our discussion and broaden and authenticate our conversation.
Thanks to all nineteen participants for their contributions. Many thanks to Marge Maddux and Nora Jenkins at the University of Minnesota Barbara Barker Center for Dance, who so generously accommodated us with the use of the dance building free of charge.
Kathy Mohn teaches dance at Linwood A+ Elementary in St. Paul. I insisted her article should be entitled “Kathy Mohn-responsible for Modern Dance in China! Read on. Decide for yourself:
Willy Tsao was a wonderful dancer! I met him in what seems like another life, when he came to Pacific Lutheran University from Hong Kong in the mid-70's to study business...and discovered Modern Dance. I was a tenured Assistant Professor, teaching Dance at a small Lutheran college in Tacoma, Washington. I had just founded the PLU Dance Ensemble, and Willy joined us as we danced all over the Pacific Northwest. We had some terrific opportunities. The local Public Television station featured our work, we hosted the Martha Graham Company ( she actually rode in my car !) and our own "Evening of Dance" featured student and faculty work, including Willy's innovative, beautiful dances. Willy graduated, I moved away, and I wondered what had happened to him. I assumed he had returned to Hong Kong, and gone in to some form of business, following in his father's footsteps. In 1987 a manila envelope arrived in the mail, and inside, a glossy brochure with stunning pictures of the City Contemporary Dance Company of Hong Kong, and a letter from Willy:
Probably you'll be surprised to receive this letter from me, and I hope you remember your student in PLU ( wow! ) almost ten-twelve years ago...I must thank you for introducing me into the world of modern dance. I founded a dance company back in H. K. since I moved home and now the company is quite successful and is likely to be the first modern dance company in China ( the Red China !!)
Best wishes....Willy Tsao.
Fast forward to 2002. My daughter Eva is a freshman in the BFA Dance program at the University of Minnesota, is dancing in Shouza Ma's piece “View from Tibet.” I asked her to see if Shouza knew Willy, thinking that there would be communication between modern dance companies in Asia. Shouza's response: "How do you know that name?...He's my boss!...Small world." Willy not only founded the CCDC in Hong Kong, he also is a founding member of the Beijing Modern Dance Company. Small world indeed. I have this profound blessing, that has come through a quarter of a century and half a world away, from me to Willy to Shouza to Eva, and back to me.
“Tricks of the Trade"
Saturday October 26th
Members are invited to bring success stories and sample lesson plans to share with the group. April Sellers will be the facilitator. Plan on a “moving experience”! This will be an opportunity to benefit from other colleague's working in the dance field. Bring your questions, gifts, and interest! Cost: $5.00
Oh Yes... Even in the light of major budget cuts, K-12 schools with dance programs keeps expanding. Here are some of the new schools, and or the old ones, with changes of instructors.
Ramsey International Fine Arts School: Wendy Ansley .5
Apple Valley High School: Catherine Campbell and Risa Cohen 1.5
Bloomington Jefferson High School: Risa Cohen .5
Eastview High School: Jenny Raiche 1.0
Rosemount High School: Christina Norris 1.0
Lucy Laney Elementary: Pam Plagge 1.0
Powderhorn Elementary: April Sellers and Bonnie Platt 1.0
Jefferson Elementary: TBA .4
Jordan Park Elementary: David Wiley 1.0
City View Elementary: Rell Dean .5
My yearly search to update dance positions in local K-12 Schools brought some wonderful news and some disturbing news. The disturbing news prompted this article that I sent to Richard Wassan in the State Licensure department.
The development of dance programs in High Schools and Elementary schools in Minnesota since the 1980¹s is a delight to behold. Alongside other arts disciplines(music, visual art and theatre)dance is fast being recognized for the gem that it is. As dance pioneer Margaret H'Doubler, who started the first dance major program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1925 said, “Dance serves all the ends of education. It helps to develop the body, to cultivate the love and appreciation of beauty, to stimulate the imagination and challenge the intellect, to deepen and refine the emotional life, and to broaden the social capacities of the individual that he or she may at once profit from and serve the greater world without.”
H'Doubler was very clear about the benefits of dance in education and made a distinction between it and the professional dance arenas that dance was being nurtured in at the time. She did not believe it was the purpose of education to solely prepare students for performance. She studied with John Dewey at Columbia Teacher¹s College in New York and her ideas were clearly shaped by his philosophies. In “Dewey fashion,” she was interested in creating leaders in American Education, not followers. “The docile, mindless obedience” that the European movement traditions encouraged was something she thought incompatible with what should be implemented in a country interested in democratic education. Dance educator Anna Halprin said, “Margaret brought dance to it’s rightful place among the great philosophical, aesthetic and scientific inquiries.” “By the mid 1940s all the heads of dance divisions in the nation’s universities and colleges were H’Doubler¹s former students.” Since then, all dance departments can trace their lineage if not directly, at least indirectly, to this great democratic dance educator.
Since 1982, Minnesota has seen (both in urban and suburban schools), dance specialists hired to help forward educational goals. This is a good thing. The interest grew in the late 1980s with Howard Gardner¹s “Multiple Intelligences” and the acknowledgment of kinesthetic learning as a necessary mode of expression in public education. The 1990s and “Arts for Academic Achievement” helped re-surface the idea that dance, along with the other arts, could increase the academic success of students. There are now 23 metro Elementary and High Schools that employ dance educators.
It is however, with a great sense of frustration and anger that I address this next section to administrators and others that are involved in the hiring process. Though you may not be aware of the long tradition and body of knowledge in the dance education field that many of us continue to carry on, it is nevertheless a fact. A dance major, as any academic or arts student in college, has a deep and rigorous journey before receiving their degree. They prepare with a study of the body, anatomy, kinesiology, physiology, dance history, world dance,interdisciplinary studies, pedagogy, dance composition, dance lighting and costume design, dance genre exploration, technique classes in multiple genres, rhythmic analysis, improvisation, etc. If they are lucky enough to be in a state that offers dance education they will go on to study discipline and management, teaching methods, educational seminars, do a practicum and eventually student teach.
In Minnesota, we have gotten on the band wagon late for public school licensure in dance. Fourteen states in the U. S. have dance education majors and every state has multiple universities that offer dance as a major. Dance licensure insures that those teaching a subject have a knowledge of the content, have developed skills to transmit that knowledge to students in appropriate, accurate and creative ways, and understand the nature of public education. Dance is a physical and intellectual pursuit that needs to be led by someone trained in that field. This is not a new or profound concept. Some public school districts were recently fined by the State because they continued to allow people to teach out of their license expertise. As President of the Minnesota Dance Educator’s Coalition and representative for trained dance educators across the country, I would ask for the same respect given to dance as other disciplines. If the candidate does not have a dance education license from the 14 states that offer training and licensure , or from institutions that offer the newly developed Dance-Theatre license in Minnesota, please require, at the very least, that the variance be given to a person that has a MAJOR in dance! There are many, many of these talented, prepared dance educator¹s living in our area at this moment. The variance¹s are going to those that have a degree in something other than dance! Enthusiasm is not enough! Without the depth of training a deep study in dance education requires, we will perpetuate the “follow the leader” dance line approach or dance solely as entertainment. These may be noble pursuits outside the classroom, but not in American education. Invariably the turnover is frequent in these programs and the quality of the program suffers.
The training is there. The teachers are available. The certification exists. Other arts and academic subjects would never tolerate this blatant abuse of licensure. We will not either. The Minnesota Dance Educator’s Coalition stands ready to assist administrators in finding qualified candidates to deliver dance education . Please contact us for the pool of Minnesota dancers that have licensure or a BA or MFA in Dance.
Becky Heist will be spending this semester on sabbatical in Ireland.
Debra Leigh will be spending this semester on sabbatical in South Africa.
Judith Howard just began her Dance MFA in Milwaukee this summer and will be directing the dance program at Macalester this semester while Becky is in Ireland.
Michele Rusinko will be on sabbatical this year from Gustavus.
Congratulations Roberta Carvalho-Puzon! Roberta & Elbert Puzon are the proud parents of Adriana Belinda Carvalho Puzon. She was born on August 18, at 7 lb 12 oz and 21 inches long. Big Sister Gabriela has been a big helper.
Elena White says; “Retirement is just fine so far. I get to dance a bit more than I used to. I feel especially honored to be involved in Maureen Koelsch's Portrait Project. And I've enjoyed some extended trips to the mountains where I belong--skiing, hiking and biking.”
Maureen Koelsch is half time Fine Arts Coordinator at Ramsey International Fine Arts School for 2002-03 school year. She is also choreographing and performing and directing children and adults in a "Crane Dance" for a Crane Festival in September.
Ferolyn Angell continues to teach at the University of Minnesota, Morris and will be opening her own dance school “Angell Dance Arts, Etc.” this Fall.
April Sellers continues to be an ACE Instructor in Dance for the Perpich Center and will also be teaching dance half time at Powderhorn Elementary in Mpls.
Improvisation open mic/jam at Patrick's Cabaret is hosted by Janet Skidmore on 9/19, 10/22, and 11/21 from 7-9 pm. Contact Janet for more info or to sign up to perform.
Stephanie Johnson, Dance teacher at the FAIR School in Crystal/Robbinsdale, is looking for a Dance Substitute to work for her a number of times this year. She says, “Please encourage anyone interested in subbing at the coolest school ever, to apply with Robbinsdale. If the office says they are no longer taking subs, tell them FAIR has specifically requested you for Dance/theater”
DO YOU HAVE AN EMAIL ADDRESS? PLEASE SEND IT TO ME AT: DEC@pconline.com
You can join the DEC “listserve” and receive information pronto, online! Otherwise, I am glad to send newsletters through the mail!