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  • Writer's pictureLindsey St Onge

Open Exchange Summer 2023: Connecting with The Colorado Ballet Company

We recently met with Emily Herrin and Cassie Wilson from The Colorado Ballet Community Engagement Program. They recently participated in our Open Exchange this past summer and we were lucky enough to catch up with them in October. Emily and Cassie are accomplished and seasoned educators so it was great to get their perspective on the experience in Panama.


For a little background, Emily and Cassie currently run three programs which include school outreach, community, and adaptive programming. These three programs allow community members of all ages and backgrounds to explore, perform, and watch dance. Students are also exposed to all types of creative movements and genres of dance making their program incredibly diverse and accessible. Their guiding mission statement is "Everybody Dance". This closely aligns with Movement Exchanges's goal for the communities we serve, so our conversation was particularly inspiring. See some highlights from our interview below. We covered the methodology they use with students in their classes, their experience in Panama as educators, and why dance education.


Can you tell me a little about your pedagogical approach to teaching dance in your community and beyond?


EMILY

"So when we go into a studio or go into to teach dance we are very firm believers in positive youth engagement. Sometimes people use the term behavior management, but we believe that you can't control someone's behavior but you can increase trust and build community with your students. We also do a lot of professional learning with our department and our teaching artists. We make sure they are trained not only in positive youth engagement but also have an understanding of culturally responsive education, trauma-informed approach, and are familiar with social-emotional learning skills and techniques as well. So we try to think about the whole child initiative."


CASSIE

"From a dance perspective, we primarily use brain-compatible dance education which is the overarching category that Brain Dance fits into. So Emily studied with Anne Green Gilbert in Seattle to understand the neuroscience and development science behind why a curriculum is laid out the way it is."


Can you tell me about your trip to Panama?


CASSIE

"Absolutely! It was incredible from the moment that we got there. We both did a thorough job of what to expect and Blair prepped us really well in our educators meeting. We got a really clear picture we are not going to be teaching every day, but taking class and learning from other educators down there. We taught the very first class on the very first day and we were nervous but grateful because it kind of set the tone for the other dance educators. We took it really seriously and had a lot of materials prepped and ready to go like scarves, visuals. We worked with Maybe to get some of those translated. We did day two in Taboga and it was really lovely to see more of Panama. It was a nice balance of teaching and doing a lot during the days and having a combo of doing dinners together but having time to explore the city. Both of us love to travel so I thought it was nice being there for a purpose and having a lot of takeaways from learning from the students, our experiences, and other educators. But also getting to do some touristy things and explore the city. We wish we had had more opportunity to teach. We would have loved to work with some of the students again."


EMILY

"We debriefed a number of times now, I have to share the takeaway that was sticking the longest. If I had to summarize a takeaway from the entire experience, it would be the confidence in being able to teach cross-culturally and cross-languages. We learned that we just have to jump in and since then we have taught a whole library workshop in English and Spanish when our Spanish educator wasn't available. It was so empowering that in one short week, we could grow that much in our skills. The other piece of that takeaway is being so grateful for the framework we learned from Anne Green Gilbert and that the brain-compatible dance education and structures and the neuroscience supports the why we do what we do, and it works in other countries and it works with students from different cultural backgrounds. It had this unifying feeling at our core we are all humans and we have our differences to celebrate but we also have so much in common. The way I would support a kindergartner in America is the same way I would support a kindergartner in another country, with the exception of culturally sensitive topics and language. It was really neat to see our curriculum did really well over there because it affirmed in works in a lot of different settings and cultural communities."


Why dance education?


EMILY

"...It is incredible to see what intentional dance movement can have on a person."


CASSIE

"...Joy and connection and building that in our students through dance."


Both Cassie and Emily were drawn to dance education after they had pursued different endeavors in the arts and education world. At Movement Exchange, we think that there is space for dancers to express their artistry in multiple ways. Our exchanges are for any movers looking to expand their definition of sharing dance past the performance world. We welcome anyone who is looking to learn from others and positively impact communities to join our Open Exchange in Summer 2024!


For more info visit www.movementexchanges.org .

To see the work Emily and Cassie are doing visit



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