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New Territory: Launching a Dance Resource During Covid-19

NDEO’s Guest Blog Series features posts written by our members about their experiences in the fields of dance and dance education. Guest posts reflect the experiences, opinions, and viewpoints of the author and are printed here with their permission. NDEO does not endorse any business, product, or service mentioned in guest blog posts. If you are interested in learning more about the guest blogger program or submitting an article for consideration, please click here.

The onset of Covid-19 in our world limited a lot of the things I was used to doing. Being an active dance teacher, running a non-profit dance company, and being very social with a full calendar, in mid-March of 2020 my life shifted quite a bit, as did many of our lives. I found myself delving into things I had put on a back burner. I had time to think about, “What can I do to keep learning and feeling excited about my art form, while dealing with this new environment and limited social contact?” An opportunity had arisen to create. was something I had been thinking about for a couple of years. It started when I was helping with a summer Biology course. I saw students watching a video series called “Crash Course Biology” at the beginning of a class, then taking the ideas into more expanded capacity throughout the class session. 
At first, I found the episodes of Crash Course a little annoying: the fast-paced talk, the barrage of images – then it started to grow on me – it was a fun, humorous, relatable educational video series! I saw students responding, I saw lessons being built on it. I saw it as a springboard for teachers – to take lessons into various directions after a creative, attention getting introduction to various topics. I thought, we need one of these for dance! 
There are many situations where dance teachers could benefit from this kind of resource. I thought of dance teachers who might need a new spin on ideas they have been working with, dance educators who are wondering where to start on certain topics, teachers who need a quick sub lesson that can be used virtually or live in the classroom, or those who a new voice to speak to their students, to reiterate things they have said, but maybe in a new way. was born from this experience. is a resource for teachers, students, and dance enthusiasts. We have created a site where students can learn about dance, move, and engage in conversations about dance. The episodes and accompanying movement activities are designed to introduce students in middle school, high school, and onward to think about dance and try various aspects of movement. We believe dance is for EVERYONE, and are making it fun and accessible to anyone who is interested in learning about dance as an artistic form of self-expression! We want to support dance educators by providing thought-provoking, fun lesson ideas.

DanceTalk101 began with many conversations with fellow dancers and educators, and finally with my long-time friend, and dance professional, Jordan Kriston. When building a team – I thought of who would be a fit for my vision? Jordan came to mind as she was just leaving a professional touring setting and carving out her own personal dance career. Her philosophy, sincerity, work ethic, and passion for dance as a human, expressive art form for everyone matched mine. Her rich experience of dancing and teaching with Pilobolus, along with the personal work she has been developing, drew me to her. My other long-time friend and colleague, Frances McMahon Ward, came to mind. We have collaborated on several dance film and animation projects, art installations, and educational endeavors, and her humor and creative edge have always appealed to me. Her amazing knowledge of her craft and open mind and heart are very welcoming. 
We found ourselves in three different cities across America – Phoenix, Portland, and Chicago. Thankful for the technology that can bring us together with ease, we continued conversations and blended our passion for dance, education, and the arts to create DanceTalk101. 
Creating this video series has been a learning experience and time commitment! The process includes brainstorming, collaborating, writing the scripts, planning the activities and lesson plans, rehearsing and recording on zoom, sending the files to Frances for edits, condensing and posting. Jordan has delved into exploring technology: creating the actual website, learning how to set up work for purchase, and designing and interfacing with technology to serve our vision. We hope to eventually have the website become more interactive so that students can share work and get feedback after doing the movement activities that are offered on the site. Like most creative projects, this has been gratifying, interesting, fun, and more time consuming than we anticipated - naturally taking longer to create and launch, but we are thrilled it is happening! 

The videos in the DanceTalk101 series covers a range of dance topics from a What Is rather than a How To perspective. “What is Dance?: The Concepts of Time, Space, Energy, Action and Body” are addressed in the first few episodes with short conversations between myself and Jordan. Animation, images, and video clips are layered in, making the words come to life! 

Each talk has a companion movement activity video. The site also has 5 lessons to go with each talk so teachers can use this resource to plan a full week of lessons - building on each topic for students. This can also be a great aid if a teacher needs a substitute for time away. Often, qualified dance subs are not available, and the lessons in DanceTalk101 provide material students can complete on their own or with added guidance. Students and teachers can watch these videos, then use them in the studio or classroom to jumpstart a full exploration of these topics. Each talk and activity is approximately 10 minutes long. 

The second set of videos address “What is Choreography?,” introducing various choreographic tools. We plan to expand the series by exploring different dance styles and genres, conducting conversations and interviews with dance company directors, scholars, teachers, and choreographers. The site also includes blogs from an array of individual dancers with diverse perspectives, introducing new ideas each month related to the topics in the series.

It is the beginning of the process for DanceTalk101. I know it will ebb and flow and change as it grows. Some of that will be based on input we receive from our valued friends, colleagues, teachers, students, and all who visit our site. We are excited about what it is, where it is going and all the conversations, activities and lessons that will be shared. Thinking of students and teachers using it and making their extensions of it, from it and with it, is exciting. 

I am nervous and excited, like a mom sending a child off to a first day of school or a play date away from home as we start this site, this project, this adventure. There is naturally a feeling of vulnerability, risk, and joy that comes with doing something new. Our hearts are in it. We welcome you to Dancetalk101: simply go to  to access the site and check it out!

MaryAnne has shoulder-length brown hair, is smiling, and is pictured before flowers on a sunny day.Mary Anne Fernandez Herding is the director and founding member of The Movement Source Dance Company, a non-profit, professional, multi-media, contemporary dance company based in Arizona since 1988. Her professional background encompasses dance, arts administration, program development, choreography and teaching. She chairs the Dance Department at Xavier College Preparatory where she established the program in 2002. She holds a BFA in Dance and Education from Arizona State University, as well as an MA from the University of Arizona. She most recently created in collaboration with Jordan Kriston and Frances Mcmahon Ward to bring engaging dance conversations and activities to those interested in dance! She also created and directs guiDANCE, a mentoring program for serious high school aged dance students to connect with touring, professional dance artists. Mary Anne is currently working with the Arizona Dance Educators Project, a team of Arizona and National Dance Educators creating a pedagogical framework exploring somatics, emotional, moral, and social learning/integration in dance education. She is a native Arizonan and an active member of the local arts community. Mary Anne enjoys the diversity each season brings, and is grateful to be able to direct and dance with such an amazing, vivacious and authentic group of dancers, in Movement Source! She also loves teaching at XCP and looks forward to the energy and creativity students bring every school year. She is an enthusiastic member of the dance community and enjoys seeing it continually transform, evolve and grow. 

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