DEL Lab Schools Feature: Susan Pope

DEL Lab Schools Feature: Susan Pope

Highlighting 2023 DEL Lab School recipient: Susan Pope!
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A passionate dance educator, Susan Pope has over 30 years of experience in K-12 schools in Newark, NJ and the New York City Department of Education.

After retiring from the Newark Board of Education in 2021, she transitioned to Montclair State University to teach their “Dance for Children” course. As an adjunct professor and coordinator of the BA in Dance program at Montclair State University, Susan works with BFA and BA students, helping them create creative movement lessons for children. Through hands-on teaching experiences with pre-K to 5th graders at a local elementary school, Susan teaches her students about developmental stages, multiculturalism, cultural competence, and lesson and unit planning.

Susan is a doctoral candidate in the Dance Education program at Teachers College, Columbia University. Her research on embodied pedagogy as an indigenous practice and the use of storytelling in research pushes back against the dominant way of knowing by recognizing the body’s capacity to impact student learning. As a published author, Susan has contributed to the depth of knowledge in dance education through journals and books.

Susan leads workshops for dance educators and classroom teachers on creative movement, hip-hop education, and culturally relevant practices and consults through her non-profit organization, I Dance Because.

She is a frequent presenter for the New Jersey Performing Arts Center Community (NJPAC) Engagement Program, providing community workshops, and serves on the NJPAC dance advisory council. 


Susan has a teacher’s heart and believes all teaching spaces should be filled with love, joy, and embodiment.

She believes dance is a way of knowing and being, historically used by indigenous cultures. She has a heart for students in urban communities, considered neo-indigenous, and believes they thrive when given the opportunities to explore life and express themselves through movement.

“Life is a beautiful tapestry, and dance is the common thread we use to transform our fabric into garments of joy.” – Susan Pope


We asked Susan to answer the following questions:

A. What is one of the biggest learnings or takeaways that has stuck with you from a DEL Course/Workshop?

The biggest takeaway that has stuck with me from the DEL workshops has been the facilitation skills of the instructor.

Each workshop has been organized and scaffolded well. I have come away from each one with three words that help me to remember the key points or concepts of the lesson. The facilitator is able to take the course content and break it down into digestible chunks of information so that participants can process, understand, remember, retain, and ultimately embody it.

The workshop I took with Ronald K. Brown and Deb Demast in 2019 was one of the deciding factors for my dissertation research. I came away from that workshop feeling affirmed, seen, and valued. DEL facilitators demonstrate their love for what they do.


B. How do you apply the DEL model in your teaching environment? Tell us more about how you use what you’ve learned from DEL in your real life.

I apply the DEL Model in my higher ed curriculum for BA and BFA dance majors.

Every DEL course I have taken has been a joy to experience, so I try to make sure my course helps my students experience the joy of movement while teaching the facilitation skills they need. I stress going into each class with a clear, well-thought-out, structured plan.

I think that one of the biggest things I have learned from DEL is the art of planning. I have found it so helpful in my own facilitation skills and in teaching methods to dance majors. In my own life, I am more conscious of my internal agenda when I am planning meetings, on Zoom calls, or teaching choreography.


C. At the center of the DEL Model is the Teacher’s Heart, which represents the core artistic and philosophical values and beliefs of every dance educator. Susan shared:

“My Teacher’s Heart is filled with stories and exploring the connectivity of our stories which reveal our commonalities and our differences.”


The DEL Lab School initiative is designed to acknowledge and celebrate dance educators who are bringing the DEL Model to life in their unique teaching contexts.