Sweet Briar senior Alexandra Dagher teaches dance to local public school students.
For the 22nd consecutive year, PreK-12 students are learning contemporary dance in the studios of Sweet Briar College, benefiting young dancers as well as Sweet Briar dance majors who teach the classes.
Students aged 4-17 from surrounding counties will attend class through April. The unique program strengthens the long-standing relationship between the Sweet Briar dance department and the state of Virginia for certification to teach PreK-12 in the public schools. Sweet Briar offers a Master of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.) and a Master of Education (M.Ed.) program.
Sweet Briar dance students who teach the classes base instruction on a developmental model that balances skill and creativity. Young students are encouraged to explore originality and freedom through creative problem solving and by choreographing their own dances.
“Because dance is expressive, it teaches empathy toward others at the same time that it creates self-respect in the mover,” says program director and Sweet Briar dance professor, Ella Magruder. “Rather than simply copy the teacher’s movements, the young students have input and ownership of the content and message of their dance.”
A final recital at the end of the session will showcase the young dancers’ own choreography.
Teaching in this program is an opportunity for Sweet Briar dance majors and minors to try out what they have learned in the dance pedagogy course about best teaching practices, according to Magruder. They also have a chance to study and implement a different teaching model that links liberal arts and sciences through dance.
This experience leads to success in graduate school and career opportunities in dance and dance therapy.
“I love teaching. It’s that one moment when suddenly everything clicks for the students and they grow as dancers that I find rewarding,” says senior dance major Ruth Packard, an instructor for the afternoon class.
Classes start at 4:30 Monday and Thursday afternoons in Sweet Briar’s dance studios.