Last weekend I attended the California Dance Education Association (CDEA) mini-conference for northern California... it was not as big a gathering as in the past (before CDEA became an affiliate of NDEO and everyone started going to those conferences instead), but definitely worthwhile — I hope CDEA will grow to have larger (perhaps statewide) conferences again!
First, we had a fabulous workshop on creative dance and the African aesthetic from Cherie HIll from Luna Dance Institute. I especially loved the treatment of the Brain Dance for warmup, and the juxtaposition of open-and-close with various body parts — it felt like discovering anew everything I've ever been taught in technique classes in African forms, from the inside out. Wonderful work! In the afternoon we had a roundtable discussion on many issues, including the struggle to reinstate a dance credential in California, about which more in a later post; and we finished the day with a wonderfully rejuvenating Somatics workshop with Susan Bauer.
I think one of the valuable parts of the conference for me, oddly enough, was the informal discussion we had over lunch. We dance teachers are so often lonely "singletons" at our schools — a typical high school may have any number of math, science, social studies, or English teachers, but only one dance teacher (if that). So while, say, math teachers can get together at department meetings to share ideas and strategies, at our department meetings we see the art, music, and drama teachers — nice for sharing cross-curricular integration and links between art forms, but definitely not the same as talking with other dance teachers about the nuts and bolts of teaching our specialty! So this conversation was invaluable — in a short 45 minutes we gave each other some great ideas on student musical choices, structures for casting student choreography and adjudicating pieces for a concert, dealing with administrators who don't understand dance… and much more. Such a rich conversation! Next month a colleague and I will be starting a little gathering of local dance teachers for just this kind of discussion — now I know how valuable that can be, and I hope it will be able to grow into a regular discussion group.