“In the ’50s, NYU began shifting its focus to the education of children in dance,” says Damast. “They offered classes in dance history, the philosophy of education and aesthetics, and administration in public schools – they were looking at dance as an art form, but also at pedagogy. In addition, they moved all their courses to afternoons or evenings so students who were teaching full time could attend.”
Around this time, NYU’s program also began bringing dance into the community – a nexus that took shape in the founding of the Kaleidoscope Dancers. This professional and academic service learning dance company sees Steinhardt students collaboratively designing interactive lesson plans and performances with children in K–12 settings.
“Over two semesters, our Kaleidoscope students learn about lesson planning, culturally responsible pedagogy, and repertoire,” says Damast, who is the company’s current artistic director. “Graduate students work with existing teachers in partner schools – many of whom are Dance Education alumni and learn to integrate kids and grownups together into dance-making and performing.”
Working with different populations in a range of schools, Kaleidoscope is critical for showing young people that dance is open to them. “Some of the children are not aware that dance can be a career option or a course of study in college,” says Damast. “Kaleidoscope shows them that they belong – in dance and at NYU.”
Room for All Voices
By the 1970s, Dance Education had become its own program engaging in extensive research in dance, pedagogy, and the creative arts. This exploration led to an influx of new styles, from postmodern to a range of non-Western forms.
We are dedicated to honoring all types of dance, developing new ideas, and disseminating them in ways that work for everyone. By opening up the world for our students, we can only begin to imagine what they will accomplish for their own students.
“The beautiful thing is that all of these students end up taking classes together, so at some point, everyone is learning something they don’t know,” says Damast. “We’ve done away with auditions for all tracks except for ABT, because we want to make sure we’re not up in an ivory tower deciding who is allowed to learn to dance and teach and who can’t. We’re working to marry tradition and innovation to be leaders in our field.”
While the program has grown and changed over the last 90 years, some things have stayed the same: the commitment to the synergy between dance and dance education, the synthesis of the professional world of dance with the importance of dance in school, and a commitment to equity in practice.
“We are dedicated to honoring all types of dance, developing new ideas, and disseminating them in ways that work for everyone,” says Damast. “By opening up the world for our students, we can only begin to imagine what they will accomplish for their own students.”
On Your Mark, a dance choreographed by first year Dance Education student Sky Morgan, was inspired by the NY Marathon. The piece will be one of 14 performed in the Master’s Dance Concert on April 21 and 22 at the Frederick Leowe Theatre.
This year marks the 90th anniversary of the Dance Education program. Celebrations include the 2022 Distinguished Faculty Dance Concert, featuring original dances created by our faculty and performed by students and alumni.
Alum Kim Elliott speaks about her life and work.