I am a mover first of all. I love the immediacy of movement, the humanness of it, its craft, and its inspired, fleeting nature. My understanding of the art of dance in particular is anchored in my passionate and a lifelong involvement with the art itself. My core teaching philosophy is embedded in the physicality of art and verified by means of ongoing exploration and critical dialogue. For me, teaching is part of the process of being an artist. People learn as they teach… and therefore my teaching philosophy continues to evolve as I examine and challenge my teaching principles and practices through ongoing teaching. As Stephen Brookfield puts it in his book The Skillful Teacher (1990) “Teaching is about making some kind of dent in the world so that the world is different than it was before you practiced your craft.” As an educator, I view my craft as an open platform that offers extension to younger artists as to where the road of artistry could lead. I believe in students’ inherent right to a quality education and training based on the principles of individualism, collaboration, transformation, and progress. At the core of my pedagogical philosophy is the principle of “ teaching for social impact.” Therefore, my ongoing pedagogical goal is to develop new artists who will be culturally and emotionally literate and capable of expanding their own intuition, creativity, artistry.
When teaching in academia, I believe in student-centered instruction combined with self-directed learning; both foster mutual responsibility within higher education. My style of instruction urges students to construct and integrate their own knowledge cooperatively with me as instructor. By doing this, I aspire to achieve one of the essential tasks of teaching in higher education: helping students develop their capacity for self-knowledge and self-assessment. Due to this belief, I always strive to educate “the whole person” and foster an approach to curricular study that emphasizes process rather than mere task-oriented accomplishments. For instance, in the case of graduation “capstone studies,” I firmly believe that educational material/study plans should be based on a student’s individual interests, collaboratively prepared with the instructor. Though it may seem paradoxical, I have discovered through trial and error that the best way for students to cultivate a sense of ownership in their education is by means of radical sharing of knowledge. By following the above-mentioned strategies, I remain true to my role of a teacher as a leader who enters the arena of learning along with his students, leads them by example, and then collegially challenges and inspires them. As a pedagogue I’ve always believed that the all-embracing passion and enthusiasm of a teacher can and does transfer itself to pupils, who in return are inspired to be learners for life. These pedagogical principles that guide my teaching style and strategies are based on the model of teaching for impact and personal transformation.
I believe in the risk-taking of artistic inquiry and in unapologetic artistic expression and intimacy.To me as a dance educator, art is a verb, not a noun or a subject. Therefore, my teaching style focuses on approaching and embracing art, not just analytically or historically, but autobiographically, as a personal process. Understanding how people learn and create is one of the significant aspects of teaching. Since my approach to art making is collaborative in nature, wherein the creative process is distributed over many individuals, I anchor my pedagogy (while teaching creative process/choreography classes) on four interrelated teaching principles, namely: 1) Improvisational Scoring 2) Problem Solving and Tasking 3) Group Research and 4) Meaningful Reflection.
These guiding teaching principles are not mere academic embellishments. If you were in one of my creative process classes, you would see them implemented systematically. Forming the foundation for specific teaching strategies, these principles never allow me to forget that the best pedagogue is one who adopts, inspires and challenges the perspective of a perpetual learner. Due to physical nature of dance, I teach immediate kinetic learning through the use of various improvisational structures. These provide dancers with a frame in which they are free to create their own movements. In return the students are provided with rich and often inspiring experiences of dance expression. Subsequently assigned specific problems to solve, students are invited to stretch out their critical responsiveness to a given challenge. By creating movements that originate as a solution to a specific problem, students are more likely to infuse their choreographic repertoire with intentionality and purpose. During the next learning phase, dancers themselves are also guided to solve various tasks. I use this method since tasks increase the resources available to dancers when they are looking for inspiration, and thus encourage their personal imaginative responses. This method is purposefully used to help young art makers recognize an endless variety of solutions which open doors to further collaborative interactions.
Since students need mentoring not only in creative and technical aspects of learning, but also in group interaction and effective teamwork, I implement the use of research in order to lead students towards a diversity of insights and experiences as achieved by other artists. Integrated into the creative process, group research is used in order to spark open, intellectually stimulating critical dialogue between groups of students. In order to provide this crucial mentoring role, I spend significant time giving positive and practical feedback/feed-forward sessions within each group. Finally, in order to enliven the self-discovered, self-appropriated learning that can truly influence individual behavior, students are urged to spend periods of meaningful reflection and integration. I believe in exuding authority rather than centralizing it. This means, of course, that students must leave behind the passive role of “learner” and adopt a more active role of “self-defined artist” in their own field. As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, by establishing a collegial rather than directorial role, I strive to promote the type of education that highlights responsibility and accountability, one of the pivotal pillars of self-learning that persists beyond classroom walls. Enacting this principle is more challenging than retaining the traditional roles of student/teacher, but I have found that the results are always more lasting and educationally transformative for the students. In other words I teach creative process by teaching the art of intellectual exploration, collaboration and authentic self-discovery. These are just a few examples among many motivating, ever-evolving attempts to empower students by encouraging them to perceive themselves as valuable originators and co-creators of the work of art, and of their education as well.
Finally, because I believe that committed teachers are the key to quality in education, I continue to actively engage in a variety of professional service, research and development programs. My students, peers and faculty describe me as “passionate, dedicated, approachable, resourceful, innovative and knowledgeable with a keen gift for helping students find and define their own voices of relevance.” Finally, I believe that my dedication to teaching demonstrates an ongoing level of commitment to my chosen art form. The impact of my teaching philosophies and methods are evident in the thriving careers of my past students who still actively seek out my long-term mentorship and guidance.
Broadly speaking, I believe that art education is essential to a well-rounded, healthy society, and that dance in particular has the inherent power to communicate the value of art education cross culturally. While honoring the contributions of artists from the past, we should simultaneously strive to integrate the current achievements of the contemporary art world. In other words, providing meaningful intellectual, creative, and socially relevant instruction to our students. I join my efforts to those of numerous other educators who are focusing on developing academic learners who think like artists, are creative, curious, and seeking their own creative expressions and solutions. In short, teaching for creativity!
In the age of instant access of information, I argue that teaching of passion, intuition and introspection is perhaps of greater significance to performing art students.
When working with other fellow professionals in the field, I have always been an outspoken advocate of collaborative, interdisciplinary work. In my opinion, this approach to professional work directly expands our own collegial research capacities, practices, and comprehensive educational goals. I embrace strategic partnerships on local, national and international levels in order to increase relevance, visibility, and the impact of dance on society. Expanding relationships with the local community in particular offers young artists a platform to demonstrate their working knowledge and creative skills, while in turn showing the cultural value of art to their community.
I am committed to building the academic, learning, environment that foster productive, progressive learning based on curiosity and self-expression.