The Growing Season: Continuing Classes for Educators

By Patricia Reedy


Summertime–and the living is not always easy for dance teaching artists and educators. While their school teaching partners can anticipate some downtime from their full-time jobs, dance teaching artists often work as contractors or per-class employees without vacation pay. As the end of school term looms, the hunt is on for meaningful employment–some will teach in camps, some work on cruise ships, still others work in areas outside of their chosen field. Many take advantage of the lull to engage in professional development. I continue to be humbled, inspired, and awestruck by how many dance teaching artists will pay out of pocket to continue their own professional education with no promise of financial or career reward. They simply seek to become the best teachers they can in a field in which there is little quality control, less accountability to standards, and few state teaching credentials–and thus few career-track jobs. For those of you out there seeking to improve your own teaching practice, I offer a sampling of professional development opportunities for dance educators in the United States during summer 2011. In selecting the workshops, I used criteria for quality outlined by Harlan Brownlee for Teaching Artist Journal in 2004 and self-reported data from the organizations themselves.

In 2004, Teaching Artist Journal published a series of articles on professional development for teaching artists nationwide. They sought to establish core training components and examined key programs in all four arts disciplines. Harlan Brownlee covered dance education. A national dialogue and codification of competency standards for dance teachers was being led by the National Dance Education Organization (NDEO) and continues today. Brownlee found that “a worthwhile professional development program for [dance teaching artists] should include: a framework of competency standards that communicate what a teaching artist should know and be able to do; a strong and clear philosophical point of view about the value of dance; a number of affiliations; a flexible time frame; emphasis on the art first; basic understanding of the national dance standards.” At the time of his writing, Brownlee found three national programs that shared similar goals and high quality. These programs were going beyond the “old school” model of lecture/demonstrations, workshops, and residencies to provide models of mentoring relationships, peer collaboration, and building leadership and sustainability. These programs–Creative Dance Center, Washington; Luna Dance Institute, SF/Bay Area; and Dance Education Lab (DEL)-92nd Street Y Harkness Dance Center, NY–are included in the sampling that follows, along with other, long-time contributors to the field of dance education (TAJ, Vol. 2, #2, 2004, pp. 76-80).

Today, those seeking professional development are well advised to seek programs that develop competency in accordance with NDEO’s Professional Teaching Standards for Dance in Arts Education. NDEO sets forth eight professional teaching standards that address four domains of knowledge: the mastery of dance content, the skills and knowledge of dance, the mastery of teaching and learning in relationship to education and community resources, and the mastery of reflective practice (including research and assessment).

The sampling that follows is of stand-alone summer professional development opportunities for dance teaching artists. Purposely omitted, but nonetheless valuable, are teacher training courses offered as part of dance festivals such as those at Jacob’s Pillow or American Dance Festival; style-based training offered in the summer, such as Simonsen, Graham, and multiple ballet workshops; and college and university courses.

Each program in the sampling meets Brownlee’s criteria, just described, and presents the material through experience, movement, and discussion in full-day week-length segments. All offer continuing education units.

Bill Evans Teacher’s Intensive – Brockport, New York
This 11-year workshop intensive evolved from Bill Evans’ Brockport summer institutes, offered since 1976. Evans’ curriculum is based on his understanding and embodiment of Laban/Bartenieff movement analysis and on theories of human development. It includes somatic work and provides peer coaching and support, building networks of collaboration from year to year. Participants include established teachers seeking cooperation/regeneration and graduate students interested in whole-person dance education. There are two workshop options: one week (June 26-July 2, $500) or two weeks (June 26-July 9, $850).

Creative Dance Center – Seattle, Washington
Developed and taught by Anne Green Gilbert, this 17-year-old summer dance institute for teachers (SDIT) shares the philosophy of brain-compatible teaching and the power of the BrainDance(TM) with dance teachers, arts specialists, educators, and therapists. There’s a basic two-week course (July 18-29, $800) and a one-week refresher course (July 11-15, $500).

Luna Dance Institute – Emeryville, California
Now in its 12th year, Luna’s Summer Institute (SI) and Advanced Summer Institute (ASI) continue to provide in-depth study of dance content, human development, and pedagogical principles compatible with dance and liberation, such as critical pedagogy, constructivism, and inclusive dance. While Luna’s goal is to help each student find the choreographer within, workshop participants learn to articulate their own goals for dance learning and to create curriculum and pedagogy aligned with their values. These workshops are offered at no charge to individuals selected through a competitive application process. Each year, twelve participants are accepted to the SI and receive follow-up coaching year round. SI alumnae may attend the ASI on a first-come, first-served basis. SI 2011: July 11-16; ASI 2011, July 19-22. or

For those not accepted to Luna’s Summer Institute but seeking professional development from the same theoretical perspective, Luna also offers a three-day foundations course, Developing & Implementing Creative Dance Curricula-A (July 6-8, $400).

Mettler Studios’ Dance Improvisation and Teacher Training – Tucson, Arizona
These workshops are based on the work of Barbara Mettler, who emphasized building skills for group dance improvisation. The focus is on participants’ discovering their own movements and cultivating the skill of relaxation. Included is follow-up support from the group and mentoring from teachers via email and telephone. Offered to dancers, dance educators, and professionals in the fields of education, recreation, and therapy. No previous dance experience required. There are two workshop options: one week (July 11-15, $350) or two weeks (July 11-22, $500).

Tanner Professional Development for Educators – Salt Lake City, Utah
Offered concurrently with the Tanner Dance Program at the University of Utah, this week-long workshop for K-12 teachers, teaching artists, and curriculum developers explores dance integration using the conceptual framework of creative dance pioneer Virginia Tanner (June 20-24, $250 plus $75 materials fee).

92nd St. Y-Dance Education Laboratory (DEL) – New York, NY
With its mission statement, “art is at the heart of teaching,” DEL professional workshops offer professional development in a variety of topics, such as dance in early childhood, dance in middle and high school, and dance technique, as well as a certification program (New York has a state teaching certificate in dance). Their summer intensives are offered in half-day blocks. Artists, teachers, parents, and higher education students can take one or all during the month of July. Costs are $550 for two (mix and match); $1,000 for all.

I love dancers because we take risks, we make ourselves vulnerable, and we are willing to work very hard without promise of reward. I love dance teachers because we want to share the joy of dance with others, we feel accountable to dance’s future, and we want to inspire others to evolve the field. At the same time, I see the toll on our psyches–individually and collectively–resulting from our willingness to work for so little and to use our flexible natures to present curriculum that is so “acceptable” that it is barely dance any more; and the constant need to “sell” something that is such a basic right to adults who are not comfortable in their bodies themselves, yet make decisions that impact the lives of children–who naturally learn through movement. My work is dedicated to professionalizing the field of dance. I dream of a day when a dance teacher can make a living without requiring a spouse with a “real job.” To get there requires us to go beyond our flexible, generous natures to taking the work seriously–so seriously that we want to become as skilled, as competent, as intelligent as we can. We want to join forces with other dedicated allies and change the way dance education is practiced and chart a course for a more imaginative, engaging future. This summer can be a first step!

More Resources and Opportunities
Dance teaching artists not able to commit to a full professional development intensive might consider these other ways of both continuing their learning and building collegial relationships.

* Take a class on child/human development at a local college.
* Observe a colleague teaching.
* Interview a veteran teacher.
* Join National Dance Education Organization–if you work in California, your NDEO membership automatically grants you membership in California Dance Education Association (CDEA).
* Save your money to attend NDEO’s rich and enriching annual conference–this year held in October in Minnesota.

Read books on dance education. Here are some “must reads”:
* Benjamin, A. 2002. Making an Entrance: Theory and Practice for Disabled and Non-disabled Dancers. New York: Routledge.
* Erkert, J. 2003. Harnessing the Wind: The Art of Teaching Modern Dance. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
* Fuller, R., & Lyons, N. 2006. The Moving Book. CA: Footprint Press.
* Gilbert, A. 2006. Brain Compatible Dance Education. Washington, DC: National Dance Association.
* Greene, M. 2000. Releasing the Imagination: Essays on Education, the Arts, and Social Change. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
* Hackney, P. 1998. Making Connections: Total Body Integration through Bartenieff Fundamentals. Australia: Gordon & Breach.
* McCutcheon, B. 2006. Teaching Dance as Art in Education. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
* Reedy, P. 2003. Body, Mind, & Spirit in ACTION: A Teacher’s Guide to Creative Dance. Berkeley, CA: Luna Kids Dance.
* Warburton, E. 2008. “Beyond Steps: The Need for Pedagogical Knowledge in Dance.” Journal of Dance Education, Vol. 8, No. 1, 7-12.

This is just a small sample of the many articles and books that inform strong teaching in dance. Because all of life can be found in dance, one can find applicable knowledge by reading books in a variety of fields, such as critical pedagogy (bell hooks’s latest book), child development (anything by Erickson), dance history or biographies (Karen Bradley’s latest on Laban), somatics (read Irmgard Bartenieff’s classic), or creativity (in many fields–including Blink and The Tipping Point). Luna Dance Institute’s extensive library is closed during the summer, but many of these books can be found on the NDEO website (

This article appeared in the May 2011 issue of In Dance.

Patricia Reedy is the Executive Director of Creativity & Pedagogy at Luna Dance Institute. A lifelong learner, she enjoys sharing her inquiry process with others.