by Janet Neidhardt
As I begin a new school year I think about a theme for my classes to embrace. It needs to be a theme broad enough to fit within every unit of study and one that can be used as a through-line for the year. This year I have decided that dancing from the inside out will be my theme of choice.
What is dancing from the inside out?
Since there are many ways to interpret this theme, I discussed this with my students on the first day of class. We have determined that for us, this year, dancing from the inside out is being authentic about the way in which your body moves. I am approaching this topic from the standpoint of when I teach a movement phrase students will undoubtedly copy me however I want to push them to go beyond imitation and shift into a place of ownership over movement–right from the start. I want them to be aware of their body in space and time. Aware of their back, arms, feet, head, etc.
I can connect risk taking, performance, process of learning movement, ownership of movement, and so much more to this theme of dancing from the inside out. Having this theme will not only change how my students learn movement and concepts but it will also change how I teach movement and concepts. For example I might not demonstrate movement as much and ask that students work on their own to discover the movement in their bodies. I also will place emphasis on what movement feels like and transitions in movement phrases.
At the high school level students have the ability to take on more challenges yet they are still hesitant to take risks and be on their own. So much of how they value themselves is placed on what they look like or how they appear to others. Dancing from the inside out is a way for them to connect to themselves and have permission to look different than the person next to them without feeling like they are doing something wrong.
When teaching improvisation and choreography I hope that this theme will allow students to be more creative with their movement choices and experimentation. Perhaps students will make movement choices more based on feeling and instinct rather than what they think looks visually appealing, like tricks of some kind. Overall I think this theme will allow for individual process to take place within a community setting.
I am looking forward to seeing how this theme of dancing from the inside out changes and hopefully evolves my students understanding of what dancing is for them. Embracing this concept will be a good challenge for us all.
Contributor Janet Neidhardt has been a dance educator for 10 years. She has taught modern, ballet, and jazz at various studios and schools on Chicago’s North Shore. She received her MA in Dance with an emphasis in Choreography from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro and her BA in Communications with a Dance Minor from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Throughout her time in graduate school, Janet performed with Sidelong Dance Company based in Winston-Salem, NC.
Currently, Janet teaches dance at Loyola Academy High School in Wilmette, IL. She is the Director of Loyola Academy Dance Company B and the Brother Small Arts Guild, and choreographs for the Spring Dance Concert and school musical each year. Janet is very active within the Loyola Academy community leading student retreats and summer service trips. She regularly seeks out professional development opportunities to continue her own artistic growth. Recently, Janet performed with Keigwin and Company in the Chicago Dancing Festival 2012 and attended the Bates Dance Festival.
When she isn’t dancing, Janet enjoys teaching Pilates, practicing yoga, and running races around the city of Chicago.