I train. I educate. I encourage. I value.
I train dancers.
My role as a teacher is to guide, inform and equip the dancer with technique and kinesthetic tools. When teaching, I use psychomotor (learning through physical movement) and cognitive approaches. This technique allows me to communicate to my students through demonstration, dance terminology, counts and imagery. I believe that the process of teaching and learning requires shared ownership to develop students’ independence. In a dance technique class I clarify mechanics, bring attention to detail, identify the initiation of movement, sequencing, alignment, and connectivity. It is vital to identify inefficient use of muscles to avoid overuse and injury. I encourage continuous practice and application of this so that dancers can consistently execute movement to develop information recall and develop proper technique.
I educate students.
I believe that the dance classroom should go beyond technique for pre-professionals. In my class, students learn diverse artistic approaches and historical context. I teach them how in-class content applies or departs from choreographic and artistic approaches and how to understand the cultural influences on past and present audiences. It is important to me that the dancer develops critical thinking skills and learns to deconstruct movement. In class we will discuss the dancers' interpretation of the choreographic work, execution and theatrical elements. It is important for students to understand that audience members arrive to the theater with diverse education, expectations and cultural influence. Therefore, the student’s throughts and perspectives are valid and bring great value to the performance.
I encourage creativity.
I seek to inspire. I see the dance studio as a laboratory for experimentation and discovery. I ask dancers to give themselves permission to depart from following the teacher, to unearthing fresh ideas and move with their own artistic voice. Each dancer’s individual path to discovery is valued in this open-concept learning environment in which patterns, themes, stories and qualities of movement go beyond the content of technique classes. Creative work promotes independence, trust and unjudged confidence. Their individual journey extends to a creative collaboration in which students learn from each other through collaboration with other dance, visual and compositional artists.
I believe dancers have value.
In a culture of seeking perfection both in and out of the studio, it is important to me that I take the time tell each individual student they have value and that I treat them as such in class. One my favorite quotes is, “Differences hold great opportunities for learning” (Barth 1990, 414-515) because it is a reflection of societal makeup. Dancers come from various economic, social, political, geographic, and ethnic backgrounds. When they enter the studio, they are respected for their differences but above all are identified and unified as dancers. The arts can enable students to make a connection between those unlike themselves by creating unity through a common element – the arts. Providing the bridge between class and their daily life, I communicate and provide content through creative work, education and technique class in a way that empowers them to discover and/or support their independence, trust and confidence without and overcoming judgement from myself and the students. This is not only in technique but in terms of providing help through education and creative discovery in which they must make individual choices instead of copying what I do or following instructions of what I do. I support and encourage their discovery because their voice has value.
Tying it all together
My passion for human rights and expanding opportunities in the dance arts influence my approach. My family immigrated to America in 1640 as an indentured servant. Stories of my family have been officially documented in a published book as well as passed down through letters and oral stories. During the grave famine in Africa (1983-1985), my interest in human rights and awareness became heightened. I was very upset because people were not able to have their basic human needs filled. Later I spoke up in school against prejudice and bullying and the rights of religious worship for socially discarded and oppressed persons. I formed a dance company called Ryanstrati & Co. which included dancers with and without disabilities. In addition to the company, I attend training and continued to work with visible and invisible disabilities or conditions including Multiple Sclerosis, Polio, Depression, Cystic Fibrosis, Bi-polar, Polio, Spina bifida, Anxiety, Osteoporosis, Attention Deficit Hypotension Disorder, Low vision/Blind, Brain Injury, Parkinson's Disease, and a disabling condition as a result of suicide attempt. I recently suffered a Traumatic Brain injury when a dancer accidentally kicked me in the head, causing a brain hemorrhage and swelling. I now live with a permanent disability. I am a very positive, determined person, unwilling to give up. This has not stopped my passion for human rights, but expanded to choreographic projects raising awareness of the strength of people facing adversity and expressing value to my students. We all come into the studio from different geographic areas, diverse families, ethnicities, race, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, body shapes, and socio-economic standing. When we step into the studio, we are all dancers.