The Relationship Enhancing Power of the Art of Dance
This blog was written by dance teaching artist, Meg Glaser Terán about her experience with family dance.
The Family Dance Institute at Luna Dance Institute provides a unique space to cultivate ideas about relationship-based dance classes. During January 2014, Luna hosted their first Family Dance Institute. As a participant in Luna’s Dance Education Leadership cohort, I gratefully received a scholarship to attend this Institute. This was thrilling, because I began teaching relationship-based dance classes in 2011 and was seeking resources to deepen my curriculum and to share this practice in new communities.
Ruth Ramos Torres, Maya Luz Gordon, Rosemary Robertson and I were interns with Luna Dance Institute from 2011-2013, and during this time we piloted several series of family dance classes at elementary schools, libraries and dance organizations in Los Angeles, Ventura and Orange Counties. Patricia Reedy and Nancy Ng, directors of Luna Dance Institute, guided us. They created MPACT, Moving Parents and Children Together, 15 years ago. The program still thrives in the Bay Area, bringing the relationship enhancing power of the art of dance to families who have been separated due to court mandates, domestic violence, substance abuse, immigration or other situations. In an MPACT class, families who are in the process of reunification have the opportunity to strengthen their bond as they dance and play together in a safe environment.
This internship experience led to a passion for teaching relationship-based dance classes, and a desire to attend the first Family Dance Institute. Over the course of three rich days, I listened and shared ideas while dancing with cultural workers, mental health experts, and professional dancers. We represented current and future family dance programs in California, Texas and Tennessee. We all came together to learn from and with Patricia Reedy, Nancy Ng, Cherie Hill, and Deborah Karp. Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen also led part of the institute, introducing us to some of the developmental stages in her Body-Mind Centering work to inform our curriculum writing for multi-age dance classes.
Each person present at this institute shared expertise in their respective fields, and deepened our investigations with a variety of inquiry questions. Our leaders guided us through multiple ways to think about this work: crafting and leading a one-off class, curriculum design for a series of classes, support for sustaining an existing family dance program, and cultural competency when entering a new community. As someone who identifies as a person of privilege, the aspect of cultural competency was essential. I am committed to ongoing learning about respectful ways to enter a community, and developing relationships that do not perpetuate oppressive structures.
In the year and a half since the first Institute, I have used the resources gained as I continue to teach family dance classes in Southern California.
- On July 26, 2014, a group of teaching artists from The Wooden Floor and LAUSD co-led a Family Dance mini-workshop with me at National Dance Day in Downtown Los Angeles.
- Each summer, I work with Community Health Nursing students from Cal State Fullerton to lead family dance classes at health workshops in schools and libraries.
- The Wooden Floor in Santa Ana has a program in place, and I facilitate three 6-week sessions each year. My curriculum now includes ideas from Body-Mind Centering, and new improvisations that I learned at the Family Dance Institute. We are currently in the process of refining our pre- and post-assessments, to include more data in our program evaluation.
All aspects of cultivating and nurturing a family dance program are important; my ongoing investigation into the structure of each class keeps me especially curious and hopeful. In a family dance class, there are multiple focuses for the facilitator to hold for the group: dance content, relationships within each family, and relationships between each family and the group. In an ideal class, each dancer will experience rigorous cognitive challenges while exploring dance concepts. During this same class, a dancer will also share decision-making with a vital person or people in their life through the process of co-creating a dance phrase. As families watch and respond to each other’s dances, everybody in the class experiences being seen. A group of thoughtful dance makers and reflective audience members emerges. The art of dance has enhanced the relationships in this class community.
I am grateful for the inspiration to continue deepening my curriculum, and for Luna’s support in sharing the practice of dancing with families in order to heal and strengthen relationships. For more information about the history and continued development of Luna Dance Institute’s groundbreaking work, please visit https://lunadanceinstitute.org/mpact/.
Meg Glaser Terán is a dance-teaching artist working with The Wooden Floor, All the Arts for All the Kids, Segerstrom Center for the Arts and VSA California. She uses the Create, Perform and Respond framework, developing awareness of each student’s unique contribution to the class community. Meg worked with Luna’s Building Cultures of Dance Initiative to pilot three family dance programs in collaboration with The Wooden Floor, the Migrant Education program of Anaheim City School District, and Active Learning. A bilingual educator, she previously taught second and third grade for eight years. In 2010, Meg was awarded Elementary Dance Educator of the Year from the Orange County Music and Arts Administrators. She holds a BA in World Arts and Cultures from UCLA and an MA in Education from Chapman University.