Teaching has been at the heart of my artistic career for the last twenty years. Most of my art-making happens within classrooms––rich environments that I consider a vortex for artistic discovery and a venue for co-creative process. My teaching philosophy is ever evolving and transforming as I lean into the emergent culture created with each new group of students.
Dance is a place where we can source from our lived experiences. For me, it follows that dance teaching is a practice of listening to the room, witnessing what each participant brings, and collaboratively joining forces that lead to a range of physical expressions. I invite students to come as they are, while challenging them toward new pathways. I give them space to explore the intricate wisdom, beauty, and fragility of the body/mind. I aim to generate a fluid yet defined container where we collaborate and move gently into our creative potentials, while touching into the essence of our shared and diverse human experiences. I experience teaching as an intersection of individuals who each uniquely contribute to the fabric of the classroom.
The study of dance is a deep dive into learning about human nature. It is a place for curiosity and a budding of our imaginations. I have been dancing since I was five years old, and teaching for two decades. Even now I am constantly refreshing and beginning again. I invite students to enter into a non-linear unfolding of learning, unlearning, relearning; of gradually emerging into a multifaceted version of oneself. There is no fixed place to get to. Through dancing, we become storytellers of the moment, exploring the poetics of the body and allowing our moving bodies to describe the small and massive narratives so alive in us and in the world. An artist I admire, Deborah Hay, presents this proposal: “What if the body in question is the dance?” This invitation to explore authentic expression is often the seed I share in all of my teaching.
Dance class can be a calling in. While my teaching comes from a Western European lens, I emphasize bringing personal histories, cultures, styles, and individual interests into the room. Each dancer is already uniquely creative, and our work together is a process towards trusting, uncovering, and empowering students to follow their intuition and to self-direct—in essence, to become their own teacher. My classes are an opportunity to bring forth what lives inside their hearts and let all that mystery come alive in their dancing. I make space for the messy, the raw, the real, the subtle, and the wildly virtuosic.
My teaching pedagogies are a product of decades of life in Seattle, where I have taught dance classes for people with a diverse range of gender/sexual orientations, ages, ethnic representations, and skill levels. If there is a core to my teaching philosophy it is to be in community, to have shared creative experiences where there is a profound coming together to connect, to be present to the vulnerability of our humanity. This essential core has been greatly challenged by COVID, moving to digital platforms, and having to be physically distant from one another. This kind of missing and longing, brings light to how life-giving it is to be in a space with dancing bodies, with all of their kinesthetic intelligence and non-verbal expression of profound ideas. I have stayed in this field so long because our world needs artists to be citizens at the forefront of change, and dance has the potential to be a powerful force of change.
Photos by: Michelle Smith-Lewis
Alia is pursuing an MFA in Teaching at the University of Washington. As part of the program she is teaching a range of classes to the student body.
Intro to Contemporary Dance Making
Advanced Contemporary Modern
Improvisation in Postmodern and Contemporary Dance
Intro to Contemporary Modern Dance
Full Teaching Resume can be found here.