Arden Professional Apprentices, A View from the Trenches: Episode Four

April 21, 2009

A View from the Trenches: APA Hillary discusses her experience as a teaching artist for Arden Drama School Spring Break Camp.

When I was 12 years old I learned how to tap dance. Once a week I would walk with my mom to St. Stephen’s Alley and meet up with my teacher, Juliana Schaurman and the four other students in class (they were all adults). And when the two hour class came to close I would immediately anticipate coming to next week’s lesson. On the days I didn’t have tap class, I tapped. If I was sitting at a desk at school, ask I was tapping under the table. If I was walking around Center City with my parents I was tapping every step of the way. I remember learning choreography to “Lazy River” and my favorite step was the Cincinnati. I have a clearer picture of what I learned in that tap class than the tap classes I took in college or even a year ago. Did I mention that this tap class was at the Arden?

Fourteen years later I am back at the Arden as an APA. It is because of my experience in that tap class that I get excited to see Arden Drama School listed on my weekly apprentice schedule. And, when I discovered I would be teaching dance classes all week during the Kids’ Crew Spring Break Camp, my excitement level quadrupled. I immediately began planning out a week’s worth of lessons. I flipped through all of my music, and surfed YouTube for some choreography ideas. I re-imagined the dance in my one-bedroom apartment and wrote down the structure, the steps and how I was going to teach this. I was so absorbed by it all that I even made some of my friends practice the dance with me.

The first dance class was off to a lukewarm start when the kids made fun of me for putting on the first High School Musical as their warm-up music. High School Musical 2 is the only cool one, I was informed. Oddly enough Pippin was acceptable and we carried on with our jazz hands and grape vines. As the week went on we learned the choreography for the dance that the students were going to perform in their Camp Show. I explained to them that even though they had to remember certain dance steps and certain positions on the stage, dance was actually story-telling through movement. By far their favorite section of the routine was the “free dance” where each student could dance however they wanted for eight counts of music. On Friday I managed to stop giving them hints by flailing my arms and legs in the back of the theater just in time to see the individual free dances. I could not stop smiling. They were fantastic.

I now have one more dance class that I will always remember. I hope that the boys and girls who came to Spring Break Camp will feel the same way. I look forward to continuing work as a teaching artist upon completion of the apprenticeship program and have a sneaking suspicion that there will be many more unforgettable students and classes to come.

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