community cultivation ● inclusivity ● choice-making ● connection ● positive environments ● expansion
My teaching philosophy draws from my cultural identity and political reality...
Everything is shared, everything is history
As a dance educator, I encourage students to create their own educational reality
... well-being must prevail above everything
... practice what has been cultivated in the studio outside of the studio
I am a Mexican American dance-maker and performing artist who values “movement” as a means to point towards the flux that exists within bi/cultural stereotypes of gender, class, race and citizenship and how it is being represented or translated in to pedagogical and/or performance spaces. My movement aesthetic and choreographic interests are rooted on a mix of Late-Modern/Post-Modern and Banda-Norteño social dance forms approached by “Experimental” dance-making processes. My teaching philosophy draws from my cultural identity and political reality as a U.S. citizen with Mexican descent. I understand “movement” as inquiry and its relationship to “rigor,” “form,” and “technique” in academic settings. I recognize movement as a physical practice that creates pathways towards joy, well-being, receptivity, and resistance when needed. I furthermore acknowledge movement as a philosophical force that allows me to navigate the world and an expressive behavior that allows me to cultivate community and networks among under-represented artists of color like myself. Movement, meaning dance, is how I see and understand the world.
I often use the expression, “everything is shared, everything is history,” to highlight the importance of giving homage to those teachers/mentors/influencers that come before you. It is a part of my curriculum to acknowledge their methods and theories in the pedagogical creative space. My teaching practices are not only a product of training with post-modern, contemporary, somatic, theater-based, improvisational, dance advocators, artists, and educators, but also a product of years working in traditional institutional settings and community-based less-traditional settings. I have worked with students from all ages, mostly fourteen to eighteen years of age, in low socioeconomic communities that are predominately Latinx/Hispanic and African American.
It is also a product of my artistic endeavors, research and focus to create a foundation where students have complete access to an equitable high-caliber dance education regardless of their ethnic/racial, gender, or socioeconomic status. My movement practices, whether it be institutional western dance forms or social dance forms, derive from somatic approaches that encourage students to connect with their human emotional thinking body more than the aesthetically valued body that is conditioned by non-tangible experiences. Growing up as an English-language learner where I depended on visual cues to learn, my teaching methods are guided by holistic learning modalities that challenge students to choice-making and individual expression.
As a dance educator, I encourage students to create their own educational reality and practice their ability to make global connections to the development of their physical and mental training. I value rigorous, nurturing, positive learning environments where students are offered multiple learning pathways that move towards a common outcome. I appreciate when standards, course expectations and grading criteria are clear, yet fluid in a way that it allows students to feel safe enough to explore, play, and experiment. I incline towards learning environments where students are validated for their effort level, their commitment, their facility for trainable growth, their ability to source ideas from self, and their openness to bring their authentic self in to a space where value systems and methodical practices might contrast with what they already know. As much as I would love for all students to work up to my high expectations at all times, I recognize that everyone’s journey is different and unique to them. Therefore, acknowledging that self-care is important and trusting that all things manifest themselves with focus, I often choose to create a vibrant reality for myself that all of my students will and already been working up to their maximum potential so that I do not see them for what they resist to achieve, but rather see them with no better eyes than of ultimate accomplishment and resilience.
class | room environments
My ultimate goal as an educator is to guide students towards taking agency over their artistic choices, to consider that in order to undo the “system,” you must learn the system, and that in whatever they choose to pursue, well-being must prevail above everything, which often entails physically and emotionally showing up for ourselves. I encourage these ideas by:
Establishing non-hierarchal environments where individual expression and choice-making is encouraged. I often use guiding expressions like, “I propose,” “I suggest,” “I encourage us to,” “What if we attempt it this way,” to encourage choice and experimentation. I practice multi-tasking as facilitator and participant to demonstrate the importance of shared experience. I practice physically leveling myself to how students are holding up space in the room to inherently imply that we are all responsible for the group’s energy. I gravitate to moments when students think they have made a “mistake” and reapproach the occasion by integrating the mistake to an intentional choice in the class material. I prefer group collaborations that have clear criteria that hold each member in the group accountable for contributing something to the work as a whole. I favor projects that lend themselves to process-based options and products that extend from individual expression.
Creating reflective lab spaces where students can develop their artistic perspective and its impact on society at large. As students begin to recognize and value the fullness of the history inscribed within their intelligent bodies, it is important to allow students to consider what it looks like when artistic desires manifest in different spaces, places, and environments. We workshop these ideas by creating conditions where students are challenged to think, speak, write or witness the forming of movement ideas in real time. Students might be asked to access internal inspiration, exterior triggers, offer/take partnership, make contact, speak as they dance, say what they are doing as they dance, witness others dancing, do what they thought they saw, direct their peers towards curiosities, be directed, change direction, change speed, respond to change of sound, smell, taste or environment, collaborate, generate a common idea without speaking, improvise, go to “new,” or simply let go of something when it becomes too precious. Together, we cultivate awareness of tendencies, habits, and conditions we employ as we make live choices about how we choose to relate to space, time, and energy and how this becomes a larger reflection/extension of our social, cultural and political reality.
Sequencing instructional time in a way that it promotes confidence, positive vibrations, and well-being. As reciprocators of energy and responsible space holders, at the start of class students are motivated by the idea of allowing their physical and emotional self to “arrive” into the space. This might include guided/self-guided mindful breathing, finding their prime intensity level by psyching themselves up or down, or connecting with a peer in response to an icebreaker which consequently stimulates collaboration and reflection. The start of class if one of the most important moments for me because we ready ourselves to receive tangible and conceptual information. Once we ready our physical and emotional self, we transition to the practice of old and new information where students are encouraged to perceive information from an anatomical place of “how” movement moves towards, away, from, and around, rather than “what” it looks like. When students lose momentum or seem challenged by the physical or technical execution in a movement pattern/idea, they are guided with affirmative thoughts that help create less resistance for their potential to accomplish what they want. Students benefit from felt experiences of movement because it allows them to connect, inscribe and archive information in a tangible manner. Questions that start with “how” will often float in the learning space, teacher and student’s thought-process and inquiry is often heard in the process, class temperature assessment and peer check-ins often take place at the end of most exercises. Furthermore, movement landmarks, time frames, and percentages are often utilized to suggest or express teacher’s class observations. Other fun affirmative expressions used in class to support these learning processes are: “this is a piece of cake,” “I am fearless,” “I am strong,” “I have so much endurance,” “I can do this for days,” “The floor is my friend,” “Smooth like butter.” From my personal experience, when students learn in this format they look forward to new discoveries in every class, they look beyond their limitations because they rejoice in their growth, and they develop awareness to the physical self and the emotional self, which consequently enhances confidence, self-reliance and joy. This brings me to the conclusion of class, which often leads to promoting the connection of in-studio practice to social practices out in the world.
It is my artistic learning philosophy and educational teaching philosophy to reiterate the importance of not only allowing dance to do something for self, but allowing “I” to do something for the world. Philosophical lines between the studio and the street are blurred for me. It is part of my intellectual repertoire to encourage dancers, and myself, to practice what has been cultivated in the studio outside of the studio—that is in our homes, communities, and social environments. That is: focus, responsibility, loyalty, commitment, repetition of what feels right, organization, time-management, positive vibrations, effortless flow, movement functionality, connection with humans, relationship to the earth, emotional sensitivity, validation, self-care, adaptability, joy, joy, joy. As a life-long learner and teacher, it is my upmost priority to guide students, and myself, to be in line with our emotional well-being, our physical expressive self which allows us to universally communicate with one another, and our unique calling to undo codified inequitable systems that have the potential to create pathways of least resistance for inclusivity, diversity, and educational expansion.