Refelxions and interviews on Dance to the people's first open class series at bax
An elementary school student might think her teacher lives under her desk to awaken only to teach and to retreat under after the school day terminates. Adults know that teachers lead lives outside of the classroom, though not necessarily separate from teaching. My definition of a teacher is one who began to study because of a strong pull or desire to master a certain area. A teacher knows more than a book or paper can explain and has experienced the lessons she passes on to the students. A teacher has the aptitude to convey knowledge and simultaneously gain knowledge. He is an improviser, a leader, a sage, and a life changer. I am interested in how teachers become a master of their subject and what knowledge they have learned from other teachers, from life experiences, and from mistakes. I interviewed two teachers, Angel Kaba and Melissa Lohman, who both taught for Dance to the People’s (DTTP) Open Class series at Brooklyn Art’s Exchange (BAX) this past fall (another series will start in the Spring). Here’s what they had to say about teaching.
"I must have been 9 years old and My body was changing and I remember feeling stiff and awkward. My teacher simply stated out loud that I was struggling, without making me feel bad or good about it. Acknowledging that I was going through a change, but that the disaster was not the end-all, was a crucial lesson for me that I still grapple with today. "
Do you have a story of a dance class that you can share or a dance class experience that you remember and think of often?
Angel: One day I was packing my bag in the dance studio and a 5 year old girl came with her mother to ask me to teach her dance classes. I had never worked with someone so young, so I said no. Persistently, the mother asked me to put on music and watch her daughter dance. Her name is Elya and as of today it’s been 11 years that I have taught her. She is one of the best dancers in my company.
Melissa: I must have been 9 years old and for some reason my jazz class choreography became a challenge for me. My body was changing and I remember feeling stiff and awkward. My teacher simply stated out loud that I was struggling, without making me feel bad or good about it. Acknowledging that I was going through a change, but that the disaster was not the end-all, was a crucial lesson for me that I still grapple with today.
What inspires you to teach?
Angel: Life and People.
Melissa: I learn things that I want to share with others and I believe that part of the learning process is sharing.
How do you think that non-dancers view your profession?
Angel: Some people will say that dance is not a real job, just a passion, but I think it’s funny when they say that.
Melissa: I think in general non-dancers are in awe of the dance world. It is a kind of mysterious profession that entails a lot of training and dedication in order to make beautiful things with the human body. A general stigma attached to dance and art at large is that it is not a necessity for society and so, the hesitation to view dance as a profession and to be paid fairly for one’s work remains a problem.