A COVID Dance Teaching Time Capsule
Today marks the last day of school for many of the teachers we work with, and what a year it was! We celebrate educators' remarkable perseverance, resilience, adaptability, and creativity to make dance happen for their students this year. From learning editing techniques for asynchronous video teaching, to building outdoor studios, to figuring out how to teach concurrently online and in-person, these teachers continued to pivot and turn, while grounding themselves in their values.

We're collecting stories from these dance educators in our new COVID Dance Teaching Time Capsule to honor all the ways dance happened this year. We're excited to share extracts from the first set of stories below (full stories here).

We want to hear and amplify your story too! Fill out the short story survey by June 30, 2021 and we'll share it on our Time Capsule webpage and on social media.
We really made some magic happen
"In June 2020, to weather the tumultuous future, my sister and I let go of the lease on our studio and moved everything to my home and continued as much of our music and dance classes as we could virtually. Over the summer, we surveyed the families and together made plans to attempt to return to in-person classes in my backyard (I am very fortunate to live and work in the same neighborhood as our students). Families helped prepare for this adventure by supplying tarimas (wooden dance boards), chairs, making face covers for the students, and even helping me fix my fence! I still can’t believe how much love these families were throwing at us to make these classes possible over the last year-ish. We really made some magic happen in my home, and our business name, Casita de las Artes, took on a whole new literal meaning."

Sharon Benítez, she/her
Music/Dance Teacher, Luther Burbank School
Co-Director, Casita de las Artes
San José, CA
SI Alum 2019
We made pizzas with our bodies!
"I had the usual early challenges - finding music, learning how to see students in little boxes, learning to translate the explore aspect of creative movement…All changed and opened up when I brought a washing machine exploration to class. Prior to that I felt like I was not grounded in anything. The act of bringing in a very tangible real experience for students through dance brought so much kinesthetic connection to classes...and it kept on growing! We made pizzas with our bodies, pancakes, etc. There were so many ways we could explore and the dance teacher in me was giddy at the ways I could bring in dance vocab..."

Christine Atkins
Elementary Creative Expressions Teacher
Oakland Unified School District
SI Alum 2016
When we show up, dance creates magic
"During one dance residency this year, I was teaching a 3rd grade zoom class and we were exploring the elements of nature. I really didn’t know how this lesson was being received, it was hard to track what was happening in the many little boxes. When we arrived at the fire element, one student suddenly unmuted herself, jumped up, and sang, “This girl is on fiiiiiiiiiyahhhhhh!!!” In that moment she gave us a gift of joyous presence, and it became our fire dance soundtrack. I return to this moment often and it still makes me laugh out loud and marvel at how we truly can trust that when we show up, dance creates magic.”

Maura Whelehan she/her/hers
Teaching Artist, SF Ballet Dance in Schools and Communities
SI Alum 2014

Learning about art & allyship
"One moment I am proud of was when my students presented their original call and response piece to the whole school on Zoom. As a bilingual educator who is a product of colonization, it was transformative to investigate the connection between African American and Afro-Latin artistic expression with my third graders. We learned about history in the Americas through an antiracist lens and explored culturally relevant dance and music forms with experts from our classroom community and abroad. Ultimately this interdisciplinary experience allowed my students to deepen their sense of cultural identity and connect to African American culture by learning about art and allyship in a sociohistorical context."

Cinthia "Kitty" Conlon, she/they/ella/elle
Bilingual classroom teacher
San Francisco Unified School District
Independent movement practitioner
A dancing community in the park
"With everything still closed at the beginning of the 2020-21 school year, we lost a lot of teaching contracts. However, we made the decision to teach in the park. Because we normally go through a school or another community organization to teach our classes, we did a lot of work to locate our students from these schools and organizations and tell their parents about the park classes. I loved seeing the kids so very excited and happy to see each other. In addition, our outreach went even further as we met and enrolled children from the neighborhood to join us. We became a dancing community in the park! It was lovely."

Rosalina Macisco
Founder & Teaching Artist
Santa Barbara Dance Institute
Santa Barbara, CA
SI Alum 2018
I made so many adjustments this year
"I made so many adjustments this year. At times, I am amazed at how flexible I had to be moment to moment. Other times I feel thoroughly exhausted and frustrated by the constant unexpected shifts. However, in the process I gained access to new ways to teach, new places to have dance, and new tech skills gained. Most importantly, the students were happy and able to adjust. They are so resilient. They didn't care as long as they could be with each other having fun learning. And we did. We had so much fun learning."

Nia Womack-Freeman (she/her)
4th-8th Grade Movement & Music Teacher
Chinese American International School
San Francisco, CA
SI Alum 2008
A year of turning obstacles into opportunities
"This was a year of turning obstacles into opportunities, and nothing demonstrated that quite as clearly for me as our site-specific choreography unit, which allowed 2nd graders to turn the desks, chairs, and bookshelves strewn about their space into dance partners. As they explored the possibilities of dancing with rather than simply amidst a crowded space, they found ways to liberate themselves from the rigidity of classroom expectations and learned how to transform any space into a studio."

Emily Ban (she/her)
Dance Teacher
PS 770 The New American Academy
Brooklyn, NY
SI Alum 2017
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