1. How did you get into dance and what are you doing right now?
My mom signed me up for dance class when I was 3 years old. I was a leader for the babies, an assistant, a teacher and then became a dance major. I then moved to New York City to earn my masters in dance education and here I stay. I live in NYC and look at myself as an independent dance educator. I teach for New York City Ballet’s outreach programs, I teach creative movement and tap at Mark Morris Dance Group, I am a movement specialist for a preschool and teach creative ballet at the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan. I am also building my own business called Maria’s Movers. I have a lot going on, but I love it! I thank my mom for enrolling me many years ago!
2. Why did you start your blog?
I started Move. Create. Educate to have a place to write down my ideas. I think of it as my journal. I go so many places in a day that this blog creates a “dance home” for my ideas, questions, and accomplishments. I love to write about my experiences teaching young children, opening and maintaining a business, and the importance of building a community of dance educators.
3. What do you feel are the most important things to focus on in terms of teaching little ones?
I try to focus on being a positive role model for the little ones. You would be surprised how attached 2-3-4 year olds get to their teachers. They look up to me and all they want in return is to show that I listen to their ideas and give them a smile when I see them. Making class fun and exciting every week is a main focus too. I feel that it’s a privilege to be able to teach young dancers when they are so impressionable. I think it takes a certain kind of person to work with young children. Even though I am their teacher, they teach me something new every day!
4. How do you think a community of dance professionals can help one another?
I think it is so important to be apart of a dance community. In fact, one of the goals of Move. Create. Educate is to create and support a community of dance teachers. Since starting the blog I have met some wonderful and amazing dancers and dance teachers. Building and inserting yourself into a community of dance professionals can widen your view, open up new opportunities, and allow you to grow as a dancer and dance teacher. I look forward to meeting and connecting new people everyday.
5. Who are your all-time favorite dancers?
I love Gene Kelly, of course! Isadora Duncan is also one of my favorites! My all time favorite dancer is Douglas Dunn. I studied with him at NYU and he’s amazing. He gets you to move in ways you never thought you could! If you are ever in NYC he teaches classes out of his loft apartment in Soho. A great experience in itself!
6. What is it about dance that you love so much?
I really love that being a dancer and dance teacher can be a JOB! Whenever someone asks me what I do (the dreaded question, right?) I say “I’m a dance teacher!” They seem very surprised and think it’s really amazing, but then I always think, do they really know what being a dance teacher is? I love that dancers have a way of connecting on a different level. I love that dance inspires me to be creative and in turn inspires children to love dance.
7. What is the best dance advice you have ever heard?
I have heard a lot of advice, but the best advice I have ever heard is “A loud classroom is a learning classroom.” I always remember this advice when my class gets loud and excited. If the students are loud and are giving ideas, I know that they are learning and thinking. I try to gage my classes this way, it doesn’t work in every class, but for most it’s a helpful tool!
8. What do you think it is important for parents to know about dance?
I think it’s most important for parents to know that dance can and should be fun and educational at the same time. Many of the mom’s I work with are my biggest fans. They know my class brings out the best in their child and so that is what they advocate for. I like to show the parents that learning dance is a process and the process should be exciting for them as well. I encourage my students to practice at home and to talk about what we did in class each week. The parents love to be involved and I love that they are so supportive.
9. What changes do you think need to come about in the field?
I think dance teachers need to advocate for what they know works. As I visit public schools, it’s clear to me that most people have no idea what dance teachers even do. Dance teachers work hard and we deserve more credit and recognition. I believe dance educators can contribute to so much of a child’s education. We just have to prove that what we do is just as important as math and science. We need to get to a place where everyone puts math, art, science, and dance on the same level.
10. Can you share any upcoming plans for your blog?
I want to introduce a new segment on the blog coming up soon. I would love to get some guest bloggers. Teachers in public schools, also choreographers who work with children and maybe even children themselves!