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As the WonderDance week-long intensive workshop came to a close, 34 happy participants shared one final dance together. There was a beautiful sense of fulfillment, inspiration, and joy in the room as each student danced uniquely into the center of the circle. As a student in this workshop, I know that I am not alone in saying that the experiences that we shared this last week were transformative and illuminating. The brilliant expert teachers, Ann Biddle, Deborah Damast, and Jen Katz, facilitated the learning experience in a wonderfully creative manner, demonstrating the true artistry of pedagogy. Participants were able to learn about WonderDance in a variety of forms – through lesson demonstrations, videos, discussions, and hands-on experience. Veteran teachers and novices alike left the workshop with new inspiration and insights.

When I walked out of the workshop, I left with fantastic nuggets of wisdom for teaching and for life. I learned that it is only after one has prepared thoroughly that one can truly have the freedom to be flexible. This is applicable to life in general, but is also very relevant to early childhood dance education. It seems that the key is to be very systematic and conscientious when creating a lesson plan. However, once you are in the classroom setting with the students, you must trust the foundation of your plan and allow your artistry to flourish. When you are truly immersed in the content of your lesson, you have the ability and freedom to be fully attentive to the students’ needs and desires, and you can think on your feet.

I also discovered the tremendous freedom within the WonderDance format. While watching different groups of students present original lesson plans, I saw how flexible and buoyant WonderDance can be. Although the general structure of each lesson fulfilled the WonderDance requirements, I could clearly witness each teacher’s heart, passion, and creative voice. The WonderDance curriculum is not only effective for many disparate populations of students, but it is also easily accessible, understandable, and appropriate for use by any teacher, irrespective of background or pedagogical style. Every teacher can mold the curriculum to accommodate his or her individual goals and objectives.

After participating in this workshop for the second consecutive year, I found that the most challenging yet rewarding part of the week is the final group project. This project not only gives each participant hands-on experience in creating a WonderDance lesson plan, but it also provides the challenge of collaboration. Teachers from many different areas of the world and many different training backgrounds gathered together in groups based on a common thematic interest to create an early childhood creative dance lesson. It was a beautiful opportunity to practice the artistry of dance teaching.

Thanks to the 92Y Dance Education Laboratory, there are now 34 potential early childhood dance educators going out into the world, equipped with masterful teaching techniques, innovative lesson plans, effective dance advocacy tools, and a fiery passion. I look forward to seeing this wonderful program continue to flourish and spread across the nation and throughout the world. Together, we can grow a new generation of creative thinkers and expressive movers!

Photo by Beatrice Martino