It is safe to say that 2020 was a true test of the commitment, creativity, and courage of the field of dance education. Together, we have navigated our way through the “Ultimate Structured Improvisation” that was teaching dance in 2020. (Thanks to long-time NDEO member Tori Rogoski-Rutta for coining the phrase!) Through it all, we kept our eyes on the future, knowing that together, we can emerge better, safer, and more inclusive.
NDEO has been on the forefront of the dance education community’s COVID-19 response from the start. We’ve listened and responded to the needs of teachers and students as they’ve dealt with the trials of teaching during this challenging time. We’ve been amazed - but not surprised - by the way that our members have stepped up this year. They have adapted their pedagogy, reimagined their teaching strategies, and kept their students’ well-being at the heart of everything they do. But most importantly, they have remained hopeful, persistent, and focused on the future.
NDEO recently asked our members to describe their vision for the future of dance education. Here is a sample of the responses we received:
I envision a future for dance education that is inclusive and accessible to anyone at any time. As dance educators, we have a responsibility as we move forward together to inspire students of all ages, abilities, races, and genders, no matter how challenging life is around us in this ever changing world. We will inspire our students no matter their circumstances, whether they wish to move on in the field of dance in career or college, or if they haven’t yet had the chance to dance. We will keep teaching, loving, and inspiring our youth through movement, holistic wellness, and kindness. We will be a model for the world in what we do in our studios, classrooms and communities. - Rebecca McGregor, Dance Educator, Lyndon Institute, Vermont
My vision for dance education is that we, as dance educators, will hold ourselves to a standard of teaching and use appropriate curricula to help guide us in best teaching practices. We need to take very seriously the responsibility we have in these students’ lives and hold ourselves to high standards in our teaching methods and practices. - Nicole Thate, Owner/Director, Precision Dance Conservatory, Florida
As an arts administrator, I believe dancers are extremely powerful and creative, and that their skills can be utilized not just to advance the art form, but to help change our industry. Dance artists are naturally creative, and this is a skill that can be developed outside of performing. Encouraging students to see opportunities and find solutions in their dancing can translate into the same thought- processes and habits in the “real world". Getting dancers into the administrative workforce in places like performing arts centers, arts agencies, and performing companies would be a natural step. These workplaces understand the pivotal role artists play and will likely create flexible schedules for artists that are also arts administrators. We should encourage our students to find career paths that keep dancing close. Just because they don’t want or can’t have a performance career doesn’t mean they have to leave the industry! - Sarah Horne, Founder of RahDanceWorks and Co-Founder of ROLE CALL: College Admissions for Dancers, Vermont
My vision and sincere hope is that the dance world, in all arenas, continues to do the hard work to change antiquated ideas of gender, race and roles and pushes for a more inclusive and equitable space for ALL dancers. From studios to higher ed to professional companies to commercial dance - we know better, we must do better, and we are better than what our past has been. I see a bright and welcoming future for dance. - Jennifer O’Neill, Faculty/Director Ace Dance Academy and Center for Community Arts, California
My vision for dance education is for acceptance within society. Society still looks at dance as something that can be replaced, but you cannot replace the experience of a quality dance education for students. You can not replace the life skills students learn from dance: time management, self acceptance, acceptance of others, and so much more. Dancers are the most open hearted, accepting people I know because we allow others into our space. - Jenifer Kemper, Owner and Director of Kemper Dance Academy, Colorado
I foresee the new normal as a hybrid approach retaining benefits of remote instruction in service of the Dance Program or Department’s mission; access to global guest artists without the travel costs; asynchronous options for appropriate courses; partnerships with institutions and their archival materials for more inclusive and deepened dance literacy. - Bonnie Homsey, Adjunct Assistant Professor, USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance, California
The future of dance is truly collaborative. With emerging technologies and performance formats, dancers need to be multi-skilled, multi-talented, and comfortable in multimedia settings. If we want to be successful in this new world we must realize that our art forms are not only interrelated, but interdependent. In this moment, it is thrilling to teach the finer technical points of dance genres and use movement to achieve wellness (mindfulness, patterning, crossing the midline, mind-brain education) all while employing the creative process as we edit, play, explore, and iterate in real space and time. This type of approach to dance/movement engages the full artist by connecting mind with body in new and exciting ways. Student’s artistic explorations bolster their literacy, problem solving, and critical thinking. With a spirit of collaboration, our field will grow, redefine, and rediscover what it means to move. - Amanda Lower, Performing Arts Instructor, The Mount Vernon School, Georgia
Dance education, beginning in Kindergarten, allows students to find their place in a community. As a student progresses through school, dance education experiences help them identify and hone their special gifts as a human being. My vision is that dance education will be recognized for not only increasing academic test scores, but for also developing skills and traits in students that lead to exceptional human beings. - Cynthia Waddell, Dance Teacher, Stone Academy of Communication Arts, South Carolina
The dance educator of the future will be better equipped to deal with any situation regarding teaching and challenging environments. Technology will be a key component in the future of dance as it has to be in order to survive. Creativity will take another turn as dancers negotiate the restrictions imposed by our fluid environment. I don't see dance education stopping , only getting more innovative to meet the demands of whatever the future holds. - Lynda Fitzgerald, Coordinator, Performing Arts-Dance at Anne Arundel Community College and Director of AACC Dance Company, Maryland
I think the future of dance education lies in the notion that we all deserve to dance, to feel a kinesthetic experience and access what it can provide us. Dance and movement is not always about the perfect execution of a skill, it's uncovering what it means to engage in movement, to allow one's body to be an instrument and guide. Movement allows us to create connections with one another - to understand one another on a deeper level. If we confine dance to just those who are technically trained, we are denying the field and individuals the opportunity to engage in these precious experiences. For me, I think there is inspiration and empowerment to be cultivated in movement and by allowing us to bring that to the forefront of our communities and societies, then we create the space for dance to tell stories, create relationships, and further close spaces of inequities. The future of dance education lies in a coming together regardless of level of training, background, and location to share in a full-bodied kinesthetic experience. - Kimberlee Gerstheimer, Part Time Lecturer and MFA Candidate, Rutgers University, New Jersey
If you share our vision, and want to be part of the movement forward, we invite you to join us! Align yourself with like-minded educators who are creating the future for the field. NDEO membership offers benefits that will help you through the current challenges, including webinars, online classes*, virtual special interest group meetings, online forums, and much more. But more importantly, membership offers community, connection, and inspiration needed to bring our shared vision for a vibrant future to life!
Photo of Lynda Fitzgerald and the Anne Arundel Community College Dance Company by Rosemary Malecki.