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Dance Education Blog

NDEO's "Dance Education" Blog features articles written by NDEO members about dance and dance education topics as well as periodic updates on NDEO programs and services. This is a FREE resource available to ALL.


Dancing Through Transformation: A Non-traditional Educator's Journey with International Baccalaureate (IB) Dance

NDEO’s Guest Blog Series features posts written by our members about their experiences in the fields of dance and dance education. We continue this series with a post by Tamara Irving, Higher Ed Educator; Consultant, TMI Design & Consulting.  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.

As a passionate performer without a formal dance education degree, my journey into teaching was unorthodox. Still, I was eager to share my love for dance with students and inspire their passion for this art form. However, without a structured framework, it was challenging to offer comprehensive dance education. That's when I discovered the International Baccalaureate (IB) Dance Program, a game-changer for both my students and me. This program helped transform our high school dance department, and in this blog post, I'll share the incredible journey of how it all began.

The International Baccalaureate (IB) Dance course focuses on the composition, performance and analysis of dance, or “expressive movement,” which is practiced amongst peoples of various backgrounds, and for a variety of purposes, throughout the world. Students create, participate in, and reflect upon dance forms and styles from a range of cultures and traditions, both familiar and unfamiliar. My traditional class didn't go as deep as the IB Dance Course, nor were the assessments sent off to be scored like the IB Assessments.

The Spark of the IB Dance Program:

Our dance department had always been a vibrant space for artistic expression, but something was missing. When I stumbled upon the IB Dance Program, it felt like a revelation. This format provided a well-defined structure that would allow us to delve deeper into the world of dance. The program was a stepping stone for me, a non-traditional dance educator, and it gave me the tools I needed to provide a more holistic dance education.

Tamara, a black woman, demonstrating a lunge position with her arms in front of her.  She is wearing a bright orange tshirt, and black leggings.

Cultural Diversity in Dance Styles:

One of the most exciting aspects of the IB Dance Program was its openness to diverse dance styles. With its emphasis on exploring different dance cultures and traditions, we ventured into the world of dance like never before. Our students had the opportunity to be exposed to an array of styles: Bollywood, Irish Dance, Italian dances, African rhythms, Brazilian samba, Latin dance styles, Chinese classical dance, and more. This exposure was invaluable in fostering cultural understanding and celebrating diversity through dance. The IB Dance course focuses on the composition, performance and analysis of dance, or “expressive movement,” which is practiced amongst peoples of various backgrounds, and for a variety of purposes, throughout the world.

Measurable Success with Scores:

A clear testament to the program's effectiveness was the significant increase in our students' scores. The structured format of the IB Dance Program helped students understand the analytical aspects of dance and pushed them to new heights in their performances. It was inspiring to see their growth and achievement in dance, and their improved scores were a source of pride for the entire dance department.

The Journey to Professional Development:

The path that led us to the IB Dance Program was not without its challenges. At the time, I had never experienced formal professional development as a dance educator. However, after learning about the IB Dance Program, I decided to take a giant leap. I attended the IB Dance professional development sessions, which meant traveling from Atlanta to Los Angeles. This was the first significant step in initiating our IB Dance program, and it marked the beginning of a journey that would change the course of our dance department.

A Historic IB School:

Our school is one of the oldest International Baccalaureate schools in Georgia. This prestigious background played a vital role in the successful launch of our IB Dance Program. It aligned seamlessly with the IB principles of promoting holistic education and academic rigor, and it created an ideal environment for the dance program's growth.

Enhancing Our Reputation:

The IB Dance Program did more than just improve our students' scores; it enhanced our dance department's reputation. We became known for our commitment to offering a comprehensive dance education program. This newfound recognition within the school community was a testament to the transformative power of the IB Dance Program.

In conclusion, the International Baccalaureate Dance Program's influence on my teaching and our dance department was profound. It transformed the way I approached dance education as a non-traditional educator and exposed our students to a world of diverse dance styles. With improved scores, professional development journeys, and an enriched reputation, this program has left an indelible mark on our dance department. It serves as a reminder that with the right resources and opportunities, we can create educational experiences that foster growth, inclusivity, and passion for the arts. I had a blast teaching IB Dance for over a decade introducing my students and the school community to a plethora of dance styles! ! I’m excited to partner with schools curating workshops to expose students to styles they are not familiar with, yet eager to learn about.

Tamata, a black woman, with short dark hair, wearing red lipstick, smiles against a yellow backround, wearing a yellow tank top.

Tamara Irving, an esteemed arts educator and performer, boasts a rich background in dance. Her impressive career includes performances with the Atlanta Hawks, Atlanta Opera, and lead roles in Disney’s The Lion King. With 12 years as North Atlanta High School's dance director and adjunct roles at Kennesaw State University and Brenau University, she's a pillar in arts education. As owner of TMI Design & Consulting, she champions arts programs and co-founded Dance Stories ATL, dedicated to honoring Atlanta's black dance heritage.

Photo credits in order of appearance: Marley Irving, Courtney Bromwich, Nick Nelson

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