Sonja Travick is well-known in Oakland as a leading high school dance teacher. Since 1997 she has been bringing dance to Oakland Tech students expanding their knowledge, experience and interest. Her efforts to make dance accessible to students and build confidence in them as artists are her proudest endeavors as an educator.
Sonja feels it is her responsibility to show her students that the Bay Area is like a “passport to the world of dance,” and designs her program so that they interact with the local dance scene. They are required to take class at six different studios in the community and she annually invites six dance artists to lead classes and workshops for the whole school. During “Dance Week” students can request a pass from their teacher to take classes throughout the day in Salsa, West African dance, Bollywood, Hip Hop, Belly Dance, Tahitian, and other forms. “I am a constant advocate of the rigour of dance and helping the community understand what dance is and what it does for kids on many levels: physical, psychological, and emotional.”
“From Luna I have learned how to demystify dance, allowing students to enter dance in a way that is not intimidating. Luna makes dance accessible and sparks student creativity.” Students have always loved the creative and composition aspects of Sonja’s classes, and she now weaves it into her curriculum throughout the year to develop student choreography. One of her students’ most recent projects was inspired by uncelebrated African American women in history. Sonja is very curious about how to use creative dance to explore technique, engage students deeply in discovering the meaning and foundation of their choreography, and advocate for arts for students who don’t have access. “I want to learn to ask more questions to help students dive deeper into the meaning and foundation of their choreography. How do I help them unlock that and get to something that is their own voice, something connected to issues and to who they are?”
Performances, from fun flash mobs to formal productions, have become the forums for showcasing student choreography and creative expression, and dancers of all levels and learning ability are encouraged to perform. Sonja finds these types of activities build confidence, community, and let other students in the school see that perhaps they could dance too. “It’s important to be inclusive and help students push beyond their fears. . . [I find that] the community is so tight that they help each other. I appreciate that in dance class. Dance builds a relationship in which you will take care of someone else.”
Sonja also values taking care of the artist within. When her daughter was born she took time off from teaching to spend time with her, and meanwhile worked at City Center where she took cultural dance classes and managed the center. She nourished her dancer self again when she participated in Luna’s Summer Institute and Advanced Summer Institute from 2006 to 2011. Now she cultivates her creativity through explorations in Cuban dance and culture. Often dance educators toggle back and forth asking how their artist self and educator self can support and inform one another. Sonja has found a way to enrich the artist and educator, and, as a result, her students are able to get the most out of their dance experiences.
“The human body is a wonder. The kick is to see the wonder of that body in all different forms. Dance gets to push us and the more we expose kids to this, what the body can do, the emotion, it changes people’s consciousness, lets them experience what is possible in this world. So as a teacher I hope that I have exposed kids to enough things to give them the ability to choose and know what is out there.”
In 25 years, Luna has worked with hundreds of teachers who we’re now proud to say are teaching all around the globe.
From Emily Blossom to Jakey Toor, our past Professional Learning colleagues are collectively and cumulatively teaching tens of thousands of children. We’re sharing their stories, about how they continue to positively impact the dance education field, the future, the world.