Philosophy of Education

Allie Miks

I believe in a holistic approach to dance education that merges critical thinking processes in relationship to skill building and art making. I have developed my own movement style and manner of working significantly informed by both Release and Laban/Bartenieff techniques. Students in my class strive for virtuosity—virtuosity of skill, of thoughtfulness, of purpose, and of understanding.

post-show Q+AMy classes require self-reflection, mental and physical awareness, and boundless availability to intention and to the moment. My movement emphasizes core stability without superficial muscularity, in turn allowing for efficiency in both speed and slowness. Importance is placed on expanding the range of articulation throughout the joints, torso, and spine. I rely heavily on momentum and gravity to help students uncover intrinsic connectivity within movement. I encourage students to think about the body’s ability to affect energy and space as directly related to awareness in the eyes, the mind, and the body-brain. I focus on these things in my movement classes because I believe they are necessary tools in today’s field. They create intelligent movers, capable of problem solving with immense versatility.

This kind of problem solving is grounded in my use of Laban Movement Analysis. By teaching students to be keen observers—to intimately understand their own ways of working—they gain the capacity to face any challenge, artistic or other, in a way that serves their individuality and authenticity. Thus, more than a technique, students are developing the way they think about dance. This approach to teaching enables my classes to complement any number of other styles within a department. I greatly enjoy the camaraderie of the faculty team and believe that students gain the most when we think and act collaboratively.

I use Laban methodology not only in my movement classes—contemporary, jazz, and ballet, but also in theoretical contexts. In both composition and critical writing classes I encourage viewing and interpreting choreography in a way that doesn’t impose the viewer’s perception onto the work. Rather, I ask students to let the work reveal itself and comment on what they see. Similarly, when dealing with dance history, I encourage students to read with a discerning, not a prejudicial or all-accepting, eye, applying twenty-first century lenses judiciously.

Having worked with students at the college level over the last decade, I find that what connects them universally is their curiosity and capacity for growth. I believe it is my responsibility as a teacher to not only feed this inquisitiveness with passionate vigor, but to realize the same qualities in myself, so that my artistic quest sets an example for and inspires others.

Post-show Q+AI value environments that encourage exploration, risk taking, and independent thought. In my classes I talk about both physics and philosophy in order to bridge technical and somatic approaches. I encourage my students to seek all forms of knowledge and apply them to skill building and art making, all with an ever-present trust of the body as an incredibly vast source of knowledge.

By emphasizing somatic awareness in my class and through my choreography, I invite participants to look inward—to discover commonality inherent in the physical body. This universality allows individuals to see beyond themselves, creating a community of respect and empathy in which both personal and technical growth can flourish.

In all my interactions with students I bring a unique mixture of focus and levity that requires them to ask much of themselves without falling into self-judgment. I like to make my students laugh and remind them that failure is part of the journey. Art is something to be taken seriously, but never to the point where it is inhibitive of the self. My goal is to see the artistic growth these students experience surpassed only by the discovery of themselves as whole people and as contributors to the world around them.

I believe my most important role as an educator is to be a mentor—to challenge students to discover ways of overcoming difficulties, not only in the classroom, but in all facets of life. Dance for me is a microcosm of the world at large, and I believe that if a student has the steadfastness and the malleability required to master their own artistry, they have the essential tools to discover and work towards what is important to them in a larger scope. This is what inspires me most to teach.