From time to time, NDEO features guest blog posts, written by our members about their experiences in the fields of dance and dance education. We continue this series with a contribution by Jenn Eisenberg, Teaching Artist with the National Dance Institute. 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 email Shannon Dooling-Cain at email@example.com
Why We Teach You
By Jenn Eisenberg, Teaching Artist, National Dance Institute
“Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach.” -Tony Robbins
I am writing from the epicenter of the pandemic. In New York City, to date, there have been nearly 200,000 cases of COVID-19. As I began writing this post back in March, the streets were hauntingly quiet, with the sounds of sirens profoundly noticeable. Each day, the situation seemed to intensify.
Today, around the globe, people are experiencing fear, grief, devastation, hopelessness, boredom, confusion, and more. Across the world, our students are experiencing the full range of emotions and responses as well. Children have found themselves learning in new ways, separated from friends and normalcy and trying their best to adjust to the current situation. Students are adjusting - some school years have concluded and none of it was what we'd imagined.
I say the current situation with emphasis, because it is important that we all remember that this will not be the forever situation. The world will be changed by this time, but at some point, things will recalibrate. At this moment, at the end of May, 2020, NYC is beginning to bounce back. With sunnier days, more people out and about, and businesses in early phases of re-opening, we feel some sense of restored hope, while grieving the immeasurable losses that have been a part of this chapter.
In mid-March, New York City made the call to close schools and move to distance learning. Many of us were shocked, but grateful to be able to take better care and make safety and wellness our top priority. As it became clearer that things were changing and that I wouldn’t see the students who I teach for an unknown amount of time, I was guided by the sentiment in this beautiful poem.
“Why we teach you.
Not because we expect you to major in the arts,
Not because we expect you to sing, play, paint or draw all of your life,
Not so you can relax or just have fun
So you will be more human
So you will recognize beauty
So you will be more sensitive
So you will be closer to an infinite beyond this world
So you will have more love, more compassion, more gentleness, more good.
In short, more life.
Of what value will it be to make a prosperous living unless you know how to live?" -Author Unknown
As educators, we are trained to be flexible. As K-12 dance teachers, teaching in gyms, studios, cafeterias, and beyond, all the more so. Though there has been an adjustment to teaching on Zoom, in GoToMeeting, in Google Classrooms, etc. etc. etc., we are doing this. We are following through and showing up for the children who need us, an anchor to normalcy, an anchor to the reality that we will return to. More than ever, they need to move, sweat, dance, smile, feel, and express. We must continue showing up. If our video is less than perfect, with cats walking through, or shot in a tiny apartment space, with sound that is imperfect or an arm that is cut out of the shot, because of our at-home, solo, flawed video skills, so be it. At least they will dance. At least they will be more human and see our humanity too. Our students will find more compassion-and so will we.
In my own teaching, I have embraced learning. I shifted things around in my apartment to create space for a greenscreen and lights and have done my best to have quality sound for live-Zoom classes, recorded videos, and recorded classes that have become performance pieces. I have never considered myself to be super tech-savvy (and still don’t), but I have let patience be a part of my practice, with my students and with myself. It has been a powerful reminder of community. I am lucky to have colleagues and friends who are willing to figure out Final Cut Pro and add graphics to videos, a husband who has spent hours filming me from different angles, and friends to brainstorm with. Choreographers and artists have created such beautiful work during this time and I’ve found deep inspiration through exploring and enjoying it, while staying home.
A found silver lining is that, on the digital platform, our work can be more visible. I have seen family members dancing along with their children in synchronous classes, received photos of friends children dancing along with National Dance Institute through ndi LIVE in Hong Kong and South Africa. In Zoom classes, through BOLD Arts, children have made new friends: today’s version of pen pals- virtual Zoom dance class pals!
As the school year comes to a close, we have shifted our focus towards performance. How can students have a rewarding end-of-year experience? Students have grown during this time, more patient and understanding. The unknown has been thrown upon all of us and we’ve been in it together. NDI created our first-ever virtual Gala; children danced in their homes and filmed themselves. The result of the edited video was a feeling of dancing together. The school that I teach at in Hoboken, NJ has taken on the slogan #MoreConnectedThanEver and I was thrilled to receive gorgeous submissions of children ages 3-14 dancing to the song “Rainbow” in their homes and yards. Their movement exudes hope, grace, love, and strength.
The future is still unknown. What is “normal?" Our careers as teachers, teaching artists, studio teachers, professors, and beyond are part of the shifting tide, and it is unnerving, but also gives us space to be patient and compassionate with ourselves.
Dance teachers, I salute all of you: keep going, with forgiveness and grace and a commitment to our students! This too shall pass.
Jenn Eisenberg (BA, Marymount Manhattan College, NYS Certified Dance Teacher) is a Senior Teaching Artist with National Dance Institute, based in New York City. Jenn has been instrumental in developing curricula and leading training for sequential programs and teaches over 700 dancers each week. Jenn co-founded BOLD Arts, with programs around the tri-state area. She has facilitated workshops on behalf of NDI for ABT, DEL, NDEO in 2018 and 2019, The Arts in Education Roundtable and Community Word Project. Jenn has consulted and developed programming for House of the Roses, Worldwide Orphans Foundation, All Saints Day School, Carolyn Dorfman Dance Company, National Dance Institute New Mexico and worked on Creative Galaxy, a children's television show. Jenn has performed with various modern dance companies and in children’s theater.
Headshot by Tau Braun.
Photo by Selena Sinko.