Summer with DEL
by Patricia Reedy
Nancy and I were invited by Dance Education Lab, our East Coast sister organization, to facilitate a weeklong workshop as part of their summer institute at the 92nd Street Y. Over multiple conversations with Director, John-Mario Sevilla, we settled on a focal point that would allow Luna’s perspective to complement the information shared by the other presenters this summer. We arrived at The Rigors of Creativity as our workshop title and set off to try out a new spin on our approach to teacher education in dance.
The generous welcome of Sevilla, founder Jody Arnhold, DEL facilitators, and students was palpable and made each day a joy. Twenty-nine teachers ranging from yet-to-be, to nearly retired, showed up at 8:30 am each morning eager and curious. During the week we asked the participants to engage in a great deal of reflection—on their own, with peers, with those at other ends of the career spectrum, and with the whole group. They rose to the challenge and we were humbled by their honesty, integrity, and willingness to have their perspectives stretched.
The focus was creativity so we examined play and exploration, the art of problematizing through improvisation, and the purpose and place of well-crafted composition assignments. “The artist in me (teacher) sees the artist in you (student)” became an oft-repeated phrase, along with finding the ‘ness in concepts to encourage exploration. We were particularly taken by the courage and curiosity of one student, a college professor from Beijing, China. Her job there is to teach traditional folk dance to such a high degree that her students could be drafted into the national company. She struggled with the fast-paced speaking of us as facilitators, as well as our use of slang; yet, despite her reliance on her phone for translation, she was 100% present and engaged in every moment of every conversation or activity. Watching her grapple with the idea of enhancing creativity in her teaching and providing opportunities for her students to access their creativity in what we Californians might think was a very restricted teaching setting was awe-inspiring. Oh, that we should all be so open!
Others in the group experienced some frustration. They struggled trying to fit the experiences and material we were sharing into a framework that included the curriculum of the prior workshops they’d taken earlier in July. Despite our pleas for participants to funnel all information through their own values and beliefs, they wanted clarity of what made DEL different or the same to LUNA. It was an ongoing theme in daily check-ins and on the reflective blog. In true form, Nancy and I resisted trying to describe, name, articulate, or distinguish the two curricula except where it was important to define what we meant by a particular word or concept. This is because we believe that both DEL and LUNA share two important core values: bringing dance to all children and nurturing dance teachers to expand, evolve, and improve the field. As Nancy said, “Someday, I want there to be dance education concepts and projects that I cannot even imagine today.” Thus, an important goal of the week was for these dance educators to question their own assumptions and recognize their roles as change agents—of the field and of the world.
I imagine that DEL and LUNA will have many opportunities for collaboration in the future—we both are passionate about the power of dance to change children’s lives and give voice to those who have not yet been heard. The founders and leaders of these two organizations share certain core values, and we also still enjoy the joy of inquiring into what else is possible.