Special Topics Conference: An Intern's Perspective
By Margaret McCaig, NDEO Intern Summer 2019
As the summer intern for the National Dance Education Organization, I was thrilled to be able to travel to New York City to work and attend the Emerging Pathways within Somatic Movement and Dance Education special topics conference, hosted by NDEO and the International Somatic Movement Education and Therapy Association (ISMETA). I went into the experience with many expectations, and a lot of uncertainty. As my of my internship, I had the opportunity to create an app that included the schedule and presenter bios that would enable the registrants to have access to useful information at their fingertips. Having this responsibility was exciting and nerve-wracking. Of course, as humans do, I made a few mistakes, but I was able to learn from them. The attendees weren’t offended or mad at me, which I was afraid would happen. I came to the realization that people who are movers or teach some type of movement are the kind of people who generally recognize one another’s humanity and are forgiving of others’ mistakes. This lesson was one that will stick with me because it taught me how to quickly fix my mistakes and move on from them, which is a lesson that I wish I had learned sooner in life! While working the conference, I got to learn about how many moving pieces there are when it comes to hosting a large conference. I learned about how much work goes into creating, planning, and executing a conference, which are other lessons that will continue to serve me as I progress with my career in this field.
Margaret (pictured right) at the Conference Registration Desk.
Having never been to Gibney Dance, I was unsure how a dance studio space in downtown Manhattan would be able to host a conference with over 100 attendees, but it is an amazing facility and the perfect location for this event. Being in New York added a whole new dimension of excitement for me. Having spent time in New York at various ballet summer intensives, I knew that the city is a hub for movers and artists and there would be many networking opportunities for myself and fellow attendees. The conversations I had were rich and full of new information that was useful to me as an emerging dance educator. I was surprised at how much information I was able to gather in these discussions.
The quality of the interactions I experienced definitely had something to do with the environment and atmosphere of the conference, which was calming and invigorating at the same time. As a dance education student, I am always eager to put more tools in my toolbox and connect with as many movement educators and specialists as possible. Being able to attend and work at this conference gave me that opportunity. One of my jobs was to check people in on the first day, which gave me the chance to meet each registrant and create an initial connection with each of them. I met someone who works in the field near my university, as well as someone who had just attended another conference I have been interested in. These simple conversations enabled me to see many aspects of dance education and how the field can continue to grow.
Conference attendees participating in a session.
Before immersing myself in this conference, I was not aware of what exactly somatic movement was and how it connected to my experience with dance education. However, during the hours spent listening and talking in the hall, I was able to gather information about somatic movement and how it has a direct effect on dance education. When I was not working, I was also able to attend three sessions, which was very rewarding. The sessions I attended were all very different, but I was still able to see a general theme: the love of movement, and the desire to share that love with the attendees. While I was still working for the majority of the conference, I was still able to observe the chatter and excitement in the hallway. I was also able to attend the opening reception, featuring a special performance and talk by Bill Evans, which was especially impactful. Being in a large room with so many movement educators was exciting, because I knew that anyone I spoke with would be able to offer some new perspective about somatic movement or dance education.
Bill Evans addressing attendees during the Opening Reception.
One of the most rewarding aspects of this conference was how much collaboration I was able to witness. Since NDEO partnered with the International Somatic Movement Education and Therapy Association (ISMETA) to produce this conference, collaboration was vital for success. Collaboration enables dancers and other artists to create art, and it also leads to success in the work environment. Since this conference was full of movers of all kinds, the degree of collaboration was monumental and moving, both between the two organizations and among attendees. Attendees included current performers, public and private school dance teachers, yoga teachers, physical therapists, somatic practitioners, and more. I have never been in the company of that many people who were employed as movers, teachers or body workers. Looking around and seeing people I knew would understand my questions regarding dance education added a sense of ease and comfort. I watched attendees leave sessions and come out in deep conversations with other attendees or even the presenter. In these moments of sharing and understanding, collaboration was at play throughout the entire weekend.
Margaret McCaig is a dance education student at the University of South Carolina who is interning with the National Dance Education Organization for the summer of 2019. She is a Maryland native and has plans to teach dance in the MD/DC area upon graduation in 2020. She grew up as a serious ballet student with the intention of being a professional ballet dancer, but experienced height discrimination, which made her want to be able to bring dance to everyone, everywhere. From that realization, she discovered that dance education was a major that was offered in colleges. She never had plans to go to college, but that quickly changed when she discovered USC’s dance education program, which is run by Dr. Stephanie Milling. During her time there, she has been able to perform, study many styles of dance, student-teach, and advocate for arts education. She has attended two South Carolina Arts Advocacy Days and one National Arts Advocacy Day in Washington, DC, which has allowed her to discover her second passion for arts advocacy. Arts advocacy is a way that she can use her voice in a way that will impact the greater dance community and ultimately bring dance to everyone that wants it in their lives. Her current internship with NDEO has given her the opportunity to learn more about how to make dance education more accessible and which tools are necessary to do so. She will graduate in May of 2020 with the hopes of moving back to the DC area and teaching dance, although she knows that her career path may take new turns as she continues to learn more about the dance education field.