The arts play an extremely important and necessary role in today’s society. Acting as a universal language, the performing arts express feelings in a way that can be understood by all. Theatre gives students a sense of belonging, a way to cope with the drama of daily life. Friendships are built between unlikely characters, and opposing views can produce astonishing outcomes. Theatre nurtures creativity, confidence, and fosters community as artists work together toward a common goal. These are just a few reasons why I have become a performing arts educator.
My studies focus in the realm of musical theatre, specifically musical theatre dance. My teaching philosophy revolves around helping students to develop a sense of self, while maintaining structure that allows students to become artistic communicators. I believe the keys to producing successful and passionate artists include: providing a strong technical base, encouraging independent thinking, and providing a safe space to fail. In my own personal journey as an artist I have found that my technical training has offered a form of freedom when looking at creating a character through movement. I urge my students to look at technique in the same way, as a tool for cultivating individual artistry. Just as we activate our foot into plantar flection before stretching the toes to point, we must start with a sturdy and powerful base to build a character on. As a dance educator I believe it is important to produce strong dancers who dance with their entire body. I find great value in spending time working through technique, and helping students understand what is happening on a muscular and skeletal level in order to make movements happen.
Teaching students to be free thinking artists with individual thoughts and ideas is an integral part of my teaching philosophy. I believe by empowering student to express themselves clearly and powerfully, we as educators are contributing to their sense of self worth. Not only is this an important life skill all students should take with them as they enter the world, but it is a valuable asset for an actor walking into an audition situation. I encourage students to create strong character choices and motivate movement in a way that speaks to them as we turn our attention to combinations in center during class. Through the practice of dynamic movement I aim to instill a sense of presence in the performers’ movement. Just as in acting class when we ask students to create a back story and motivate their decisions, I ask my dancers to think carefully as to why they are dancing. Giving students opportunities to create characters through movement and empowering them to make strong decisions manifests itself in performance, and gives the student a basis for future performance decisions.
Equally as important as teaching free thinking or cultivating strong technique, a student should be given a quality learning environment in which to explore their craft. A quality learning environment is a place where the student feels safe - a climate of respect, trust, and leadership. Students should feel free to form their own opinions and ideas without the fear of being judged. As artists it is important to have a place to fail, and learn from our mistakes. In my classroom failure is never the end, but rather the beginning. I feel strongly that students learn more from, and will listen to, an educator who values their ideas rather than tossing them aside. An educational environment should be someplace warm and inviting, and most importantly a place where an artist can feel free to be their whole selves. As an educator I strive to provide an open educational environment. I encourage students to give their feedback, and I listen to what that they have to say. Cultivating a learning environment of mutual respect will teach students to be respectful and responsible theatre artists.
My philosophy in teaching is not entirely my own; it is influenced by those who taught and inspired me. As I continue to explore being an artist in the world, I am more adept at responding to the questions and needs of my students. While I continue to grow as an artist and teacher, my techniques may refine and change but my philosophy on teaching will remain true. As an educator, it is my mission to create strong independent artists who are confident and find power within themselves.