DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.


"Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate the integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring out conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means of which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world."

Paulo Freire (Pedagogy of the Oppressed, 2000, p. 34)




Initial Reflections on the Educational Aesthetics of Paulo Freire

As a dance teacher, I emphasize building literacy through providing material that students can identify with, learning through dialogic conversations based on traditional and video texts, and promoting higher-order thinking skills that are synonymous to Freire’s Problem-Posing Model. Engaging in processes that aim to enlighten students through Freire’s Conscientization aim to help students discover the challenges of their local and national environment. Bringing this into the foreground as part of a dance curriculum aims to enable children to understand their culture and politics, facilitating change in their personal lives, as well as society-at-large Freire’s notion that cognition and emotion should never be dichotomized (Freire, 1998, p.3) aligns directly with my stance that dance educators should seek the connections between understandings and feelings. As art educators we have to think beyond conventional academic methods, and realize that real learning happens during continual metacognitive processes such as reflective journaling and dialogic conversation sourced from the heart and mind, and not during universal perfunctory memorization processes Freire describes in his Pedagogy of the Oppressed (Freire, p. 71). My objective is for students to engage in a dance education syllabus that emphasizes literacy through dialogic conversation as well as higher order thinking skills through Freire’s Problem-Posing Model and aims to empower students, especially those from low-opportunity families.


The upside of Paulo Freire’s Aesthetics

During my time as an elementary teacher in Hunts Point – one of the poorest neighborhoods of the United States – I discovered that there is an evident need for intervention to assist students in overcoming their negative temporal knowledge. I believe that teaching disenchanted students “to be agents of their own history, as opposed to passive participants, thus enabling them to transform their reality and liberate themselves from hopeless conditions” (Rossatto, 2005, p. 128) helps them transform into self-empowered and participatory adults. Utilizing students’ social and cultural backgrounds as a platform to base the curriculum on helps facilitate a willingness to engage in the learning process, and more importantly enables them to understand their own culture – family as well as national - and facilitates a change in their personal lives and society-at-large.

During many of my lessons I have explored the theatre exercises of Augusto Boal, who has based his praxis on that of Paulo Freire’s. Babbage (2004) posits that Boal, like Freire, “insists that theatre, which has been used as a tool of social control, can be turned into a weapon for liberation,” but also that the underlying function of theatre – or any other performing art – “presents a vision of the world in transformation” (Babbage, 2004, p. 38, 40). During my first few months teaching Kindergarten through 5th grade in the Bronx I discovered that for students to fully transform socially, culturally, and emotionally they need to have the support of parents, caretakers, and educators. Unfortunately, I’ve witnessed many community shortcomings in these poverty-stricken neighborhoods. How can caretakers effectively raise a child when they’re stuck working three low-income jobs? How can parents support their child’s academic growth when they don't speak English or are illiterates? How can educators be effective if they teach in overcrowded classrooms?


In Conclusion

Freirian’s aesthetic approach towards building content literacy has tremendous potential and can be effective for children if consistently taught by educators from a young age. Literacy is often praised and even sought out in modern-day business culture, but to foster it arts educators need the support of core content teachers that often engage in Freire’s dreaded banking method. To change this perfunctory memorization culture the stance towards the arts – as well as education-at-large – needs to change. Freirean approach teaches youth to engage in a process of inquiry and perpetual metacognitive reflection and aims to build confidence and redefine self-image. It’s a process that needs practice and needs be implemented across a school curriculum. America would benefit from Freirean aesthetics. Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. Education sets children up for their entire life. Give them the tools and set them up for life. Without it they’ll always be hungry and work minimum wage.




Strands of the New York City Blueprint for Teaching and Learning in Dance Pre-K-12:


Dance Making – Dancing and Performing, Creating and Composing


As a Lincoln Center Scholar, I am familiar with Lincoln Center Education's (LCE) inquiry-based model, which engages the student in a process of creating, performing, and responding, and is strongly rooted in Maxine Greene's teaching philosophy. First units of the school year build the dance vocabulary in playful ways and explores Laban methodology principles of Body, Space, Time, Energy, and Relationship. Throughout the semester students evolve from choreographed solo work to group dances, enabling them to become more confident as dance makers, performers, and human beings that have adopted strong values and verbal skills. Devised work within the units always is rooted in choreographic work of master artists, and - following the LCE model - additional modalities are included in the learning segment. 



Developing Dance Literacy – Analyzing and Critiquing and Writing about Dance


During my time as a Title 1 school educator, I have discovered that low-income, low-opportunity communities frequent live dance performance less than the average American (add resource). My curriculum creates dance-literate students by using popular culture as a vehicle of learning. I aim to familiarize students with theatre dance in the hopes they will be able to identify more with, and become more appreciative of, the performing arts.

Additionally and building on Paolo Freire's ideology, my lessons aim to empower students by connecting the arts to social issues and values that are prevalent in their lives. To illustrate, I have created units honing in on plagiarism addressing Beyoncé's controversial adaptation of Anne Theresa De Keersmaeker's choreography in her music video Countdown. Additionally, my Michael Jackson Thriller unit was a successful platform for dialogic conversation about modern-day racial barriers in the US. My students autonomously analyze, critique, and write about a wide range of masterworks through classroom conversation, reflective journaling, and engaging in choreographic processes of the artist. Through this, they discover more about culture and the social environment they live in.

Each unit incorporates elements of technology. Teenagers' worlds revolve around mobile devices, and I aim to use mobile devices as a tool for learning. Please surf to my iDanceed or my Arthenia web page to view some of the apps and interactive websites that have been successful in my classroom.



Making Connections – Knowing History, Context and Culture, Making Connections Across the Curriculum


Throughout my year curriculum, I connect popular dance culture (i.e., music videos, SYTYCD, social dance) to classic work of master dance artists. My aim is not only to create dance-literate students but also to foster an embodied knowledge of core content. Often I use historical choreography and contextualize it with current and cultural topics, as well as connect it with the ELA syllabus. For example, my Martha Graham's Errand Into the Maze connects to Greek mythology, mathematics (through Graham's angular dance vernacular), and English through James Dashner's The Maze Runner series. 



Working with Community and Cultural Resources – Developing relationships with and around professional artists and cultural organizations representing diverse cultural and personal approaches to dance.  Reflections and analyses of performances representing diverse genres and styles and venues


New York City is considered one of the main cradles of culture. Having been an active member of the NYC dance community as a dancer, choreographer, adjudicator, and presenter. Building on this, it's only natural to build on these existing relationships and connect the dance students with professionals and cultural organizations in the field. Being a Lincoln Center Scholar, I also have a strong association with Lincoln Center Education, which will also be a strong ally in improving the students' cultural knowledge.



Exploring Careers and Lifelong Learning – Active engagement in thinking about your own goals and future aspirations.  Gain information and seek resources from other areas of study that support the physical, social, cognitive, spiritual and affective domains necessary for appreciating and participating in a long dance education career.


As a DoE educator, I find myself on a path of perpetual inquiry to my own learning goals. Currently, I aim to improve my teaching skills to fit the need of my English Language Learners by reading literature on the topic and taking additional courses. I recently started to incorporate the National Dance Institute pedagogy, which was developed to celebrate that needs of all students, including those with physical and cognitive challenges, blind and deaf students, and English language learners. My aim is to provide a rich dance experience for all children, no matter what their cultural/social background or physical/cognitive level is. 















**Photos: DanceLoft students, Rorschach, Switzerland (Ages 13-18)



DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.