Conference Reflections on Practice, Community, and Change

Posted on 12/01/17

by Nancy Ng

 

photo with Nathan F.

 

17 activities marked the conclusion of Luna’s participation in back-to-back national conferences in November—the National Dance Education Organization (NDEO) in San Antonio, Texas; and the National Guild for Community Arts Education here in the San Francisco Bay Area. Luna has been members of both professional organizations for over 10 years. This year our flurry of presentations, speeches, and meetings deepened my understanding of our organization’s role in the national arts education dialogue, and the role each of us has to play in the arts education ecosystem. I was moved by the honesty and truth revealed by our colleague dance educators who attended Cherie Hill and Patricia Reedy’s workshop, “Embedding Dance, Race & Equity into Practice”, and NDEO’s first Dance & Equity special interest group discussion that I facilitated. I was awed by Patricia as she held a room of 75 arts administrators captive at the National Guild conference with her session on evaluation, “Purposeful Evaluation: How Do We Know We’re Walking Our Talk.” One of the participants shared with Patricia, “It was inspiring, relevant and on point as to what we should be doing at our organizations! It was an important message and lesson for all of us in the arts . . . . I think your session was one of the most relevant at this great meeting.” This participant was the CEO and President of a music organization in Ohio. I share this, not to gloat on Luna’s success, but to emphasize that as practitioners who go about doing our work every day—whether that be teaching, or administering our arts programs it is imperative that we remain true to our core artistic values, and share what we have learned with our arts education community. This truly is the only way we can move forward, instead of backwards, as a field.

At the beginning of the whirlwind of conference activities, I worked with the NDEO staff to curate an early childhood conference track which allowed early childhood educators to take multiple workshops. All of them were well-attended, and a completely different experience than 10 years ago when my first early childhood presentation at NDEO had four people in the room. As a field we are moving forward and more young children are experiencing dance education as a human “right”.  The highlight of the early childhood sessions was meeting Nathan Febuary at the creative dance workshop I taught, which was the first ECE workshop of the conference. Nathan and his wife were attending the conference for the first time. They both teach at “Just Dance”, a studio in Louisiana. He asked to take a “selfie” with me, and when I saw him a day later, after he had taken a few of the early childhood workshops he said, “This conference has changed my life.” Both Nathan and his wife are inspired to bring new curricula, and new creative ideas into their studio classes. All of the ECE colleagues who have attended NDEO conference for many years came together to share our practice at NDEO, and create a community for early dance educators.

For nine days straight through mid-November, I was immersed in both conferences as a host, meeting facilitator, presenter, and a newly elected National Guild board trustee; and I observed my Luna colleagues Cherie and Patricia as they also participated on conference panels and led workshops and discussions. As the Luna team, we shared our insights on inclusion, early childhood education, equity, community partnerships, evaluation, advocacy and policy. These have all been areas of inquiry for us at Luna. It was thrilling to share our practice, learn from others, and witness the impact all of us can have as teaching artists to move our country forward at a time when the national picture seems bleak. I truly believe we actually have a huge opportunity now to create community and collectively manifest change.

Both the NDEO and National Guild conferences were well-attended, with approximately 700 participants at each one. If you are reading this blog I encourage you to step-up in your profession—join us at Luna for a dialogue or workshop, find out more about the national professional organizations that serve our field (http://www.ndeo.org/   http://www.nationalguild.org/Home.aspx), attend a 2018 conference (NDEO in California, National Guild in Maryland), submit a proposal for one of the conferences next year. All step-ups are encouraged—having tea, coffee, a critical conversation with a colleague is also a step toward community and change.

*photo of Nathan Febuary & Nancy Ng at NDEO Conference 2017

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