by Heather Stockton
In February I had the honor of speaking on two different panels as a dance teaching artist. The first was for California Alliance for Arts Education. The Alliance hosted a webinar about how special education has been impacted by the shift to virtual learning and how the arts play an important role in facilitating connection and encouraging engagement. The second panel was an invitation from someone I have known for twenty years and is a past California Dance Education Association President, Nicole Robinson. The California Arts Project held a TCAP Conversations webinar for dance educators, with the focus of the conversation on culturally responsive pedagogy in dance and how our teaching practice reflects this.
I have to be honest – as soon as I realized that I would be contributing to these conversations, I felt a tightening in my chest and broke out in a nervous sweat. The same kind of nervousness I felt when I presented for the National Dance Education Organization for the first time. Come to think of it, I felt this way before every class I taught in my first year at Luna. It’s the kind of feeling that arises when you challenge yourself to step into new territory. When you know you are on the precipice of discovering new parts of yourself through a rigorous self assessment of where you are at and where you are going. Luckily, my colleague Jochelle was gracious and able to support me by talking me through what to expect and by being my sounding board beforehand. The first panel was made up of three Doctors and myself. I realized that I was the only teaching artist present and the feeling of responsibility to show up for all the other teaching artists helped to ground me. I felt strength in the fact that I am in the field, practicing right now and that I have a lot to share. The conversation often traveled into theory jargon and I helped round it out with stories of practice.
The second panel was a totally different experience. This conversation felt organic, authentic, and rigorous in an inquisitive way. Before the panel I checked myself as a white educator and how I could show up for the conversation of practicing cultural responsiveness in my teaching and curriculum. Nicole shared with the panel beforehand that she had asked me specifically because I am a white woman. The dance education field is heavily populated with white women who are looking for answers around these questions and Nicole felt that I could share my perspective on how I situate myself and my whiteness so that I can authentically show up for my students and serve their needs.
When it came down to it, the salient points from both panels were of the same thought: no matter the context, synchronous or asynchronous, we as teaching artists have a responsibility to show up in every class we teach, observe what is happening in the moment, reflect, and create authentic connections for our students and ourselves.
In challenging myself to take this leap of professional development by joining in on these webinars, and asking questions of myself and others in how we can push the field to be more responsive, I have indeed discovered in myself an emergent leader in this field.