For me, teaching is a reciprocal exchange, which benefits both teacher and student. The enrichment from this mutual work together deeply satisfies me and pushes me to continue learning, always a lifelong student myself. It excites me to have a dialogue with a diverse population of students, in whatever form that diversity takes – age, gender orientation, or cultural background. Our differences create a fertile ground for discussion, generating new ways of looking at things. This coincides with my research interest in how movement implies transition, and what happens in these in-between spaces. The interstitial connections made in the juxtaposition of people, images, or words generate more nuanced meanings. Teaching is a relationship, and through it, ideally we reach greater understanding of ourselves and of the world.
Another important connection I make in teaching is between the physical and intellectual. Whether the focus of the course is academic or practical, I strive to balance it in order to cultivate a more multidimensional learning experience. I believe that lived, experienced knowledge is the most meaningful and lasting way to learn. In teaching dance history, I strive to physically engage the students in the material as much as possible, for example, by asking them to tap out one rhythmic strain they hear in African drumming on their desks, or to get up and try a few iconic moves from a given style. I also weave experiential opportunities for learning how to research dance into the syllabus, such as library field trips, and tutorials with librarians and writing specialists.
In teaching a course in physical practice such as yoga, I likewise ground the embodied experience in an intellectual base. For instance, I emphasize the reasons for doing the physical practice in the first place, from detoxifying the body, to preparing it to sit still comfortably for long periods of time in meditation. Therefore, we practice not just the ‘how,’ but the ‘why’. In addition, we bring the mind into the body to observe it carefully. Observation of sensations through introspective analysis generates both a meditative state and a finely honed bodily awareness.
Finally, my goal is to teach so that the subject matter is meaningful enough to students that they will reference the material as they move forward in their lives and careers. They may use it as a means of personal development, an impetus for their own personal artistic exploration, or simply a way to interact more effectively with others. Thus, I focus on embodying the academic content of the syllabus, making it relevant to the students’ backgrounds, current studies, and curriculum. This way, the learning extends beyond the classroom and becomes a life skill, which permeates all future activities.