Still here and still guided
by our Theory of Change

March 13th, when Luna was faced with halting our in-person public programming, now seems a world away. Since then, our society has been stirred-up in so many ways. As individuals, in communities, and as a nation we have been reminded of 400+ years of racism and inequities, and we are seeing the implications. We have had a chance to reflect upon what is truly important to us.

We at Luna, too, are taking a deep dive into examining our programs and the communities we serve with an attentive eye to the principles and values described in our Theory of Change. Our two-year-old Theory of Change is an extension of our original mission to bring creativity, community, and equity to every child’s life through the art of dance. Luna's 28-year investigation into racial equity turns to our board this year as they examine what it means to be stewards of Luna's future.
Together, Changing the World

Using inquiry, as we always have, we ask ourselves some hard questions:

  • Why does Luna need to exist?

  • Do our programs and non-profit infrastructure support the change we hope to see?

  • How can we do better?

  • And the most fundamental question, investigating our Theory of Change in action - How can we build a world where children embody the future because they are free to express themselves beyond the dance classroom, and where arts education leaders critically reflect on sustaining equity?

  • Can the creativity cultivated through Luna’s dance pedagogy set us up to realize this change?

During this season of reflection, we’ve affirmed that YES, Luna must exist. There continues to be disparate opportunities for children to embody their ideas and for artists and teachers to grow as educators, leaders, and change-makers. To see change manifested in one generation will require Luna’s inquiry-based leadership and the participation of many. So, we’re here to stay, adapting to the evolving needs of teachers, artists, parents, and caregivers who strive for children’s freedom through the art of dance.

In 2019-20, despite a global pandemic, Luna’s Professional Learning department served 818 artists and educators. These teachers brought dance to 136,013 children. Almost every other week during the shelter-in-place dance educators across the globe Zoomed in to Practitioner Exchanges where they shared ideas about distance learning, discussed power and agency in early education, and explored cultural relevance in dance.
Teaching artist Maura Whelehan who joined these discussions as a participant and facilitator reflects on the collegiality of these conversations, “These Practitioner Exchanges are the best professional development out there right now! I’m learning so much from everyone.” Maura dances and performs with Duniya Dance & Drum Company, and teaches for them and the San Francisco Ballet’s Dances in Schools and Communities Program. She was in Luna’s 2016 Summer Institute cohort, and she continues to use our professional resources while sharing her expertise with the dance education community. In this process of teaching and learning change unfolds.
This year our Professional Learning department is exploring new ways to support teachers. We are experimenting with blended learning courses using a critical and inquiry-based lens. As our school and residential center partners remain uncertain about in-person activity, we’re developing new resources that adapt to the realities of COVID-19 and taking time to be curious about future programming. This is a time to envision and imagine a post-COVID-19 dance education ecosystem that can alter and improve the structural inequities in social institutions.

Luna’s Theory of Change continues to guide the launch of our 20th Summer Institute (SI) as a year-long course. As we use technology, we stretch our creativity muscles in new ways. This year’s cohort is a group of teachers, working across the United States. They started this month to investigate creativity, critical reflection, disability awareness, culture, and anti-bias teaching as strategies to strengthen and support them as educators, advocates, and change agents. They care deeply about the children in the communities where they teach and their life’s work. The commitment of this year’s cohort addresses all three pillars of our Theory of Change: children embodying the future, dance cultivating creativity, and policy sustaining equity. Luna must exist because teachers such as these depend on us to support them in transforming the lives and education of all children.

-      Nancy Ng, Executive Director of Creavity & Policy, August 2020

Practitioner Exchanges: inquiry in action
Over the years, they've been known by various names - Issues of Practice, Lesson Studies, Topic Tuesdays, and most recently, Practitioner Exchanges. Despite the name changes, these monthly informal conversations facilitated by Summer Institute alumni have always been about building a community of support for dance educators, offering a forum for them to share questions, ideas and expertise, and an opportunity to develop as leaders and see themselves within the larger context of dance education.

The value and impact of these peer-to-peer discussions intensified during COVID's shelter-in-place restrictions, when dance educators, isolated in their teaching settings, reached out to each other to navigate the new terrain of teaching dance online. Luna’s first Teaching Dance from a Distance Practitioner Exchange in April grew into a spring series of Exchanges, as new questions kept popping up, and participants requested more opportunities to connect, check in, and share what they were learning in practice. This series allowed us at Luna to be responsive, to ask dance educators what they needed now, and to listen deeply to the challenges they were facing. And it allowed our community of participants to collaborate in a generative way, to build on new ideas together, to create. Teaching Dance from a Distance Practitioner Exchanges continue this fall, with new topics emerging as we go.

- Jochelle Pereña, Professional Learning Manager, August 2020