My Teaching Philosophy

Someone the other day called me a dance therapist. Although that is a term which refers to a very specific type of therapy, I liked it as a way to describe what I do.  More accurately, I am a dance and movement specialist but I do feel that I am also helping my students and clients grow and change. So how do I do that?


First of all, I use all of the knowledge I’ve gained as a dance professional augmented by my additional somatic studies to create efficient and effective warm-ups to prepare the body to do what is asked of it. This could be in a dance technique class or in a private stretch session or in a workshop that is based in movement which enables collaboration amongst work groups or teams.


I encourage everyone to work to their capacity. It doesn’t matter if their neighbor can lift his/her legs higher or do more multiple turns. What matters most is how each individual’s body feels and whether they are moving to their highest potential. I often tell students that if they make a mistake, then make it a big mistake. Convince the audience theirs is the correct movement.


Secondly, I see everyone in a holistic way. We express ourselves not only through overt movement but also through our posture, our tone of voice, where we are gazing, how we are emotionally feeling about the people we are with and how we feel about ourselves. What we are communicating is the sum total of who we are, not just the words we speak or write.  Plus who we are changes from day to day, depending on how we feel that day.


In order to effectively teach dance, I need to recognize and read the non-verbal messages that are being sent by my students and clients. I need to be able to adjust and improvise in order to present material in the way that will be most effectively heard and received. This requires empathy, active listening and interaction in the manner that is best suited to my clients on that day. By encouraging and supporting individuality; classes, private sessions and workshops are relevant to each person in a unique and distinctive way.


Finally, transformation is part of the process. My role is to help facilitate change. I want to help my students and clients reconnect with their bodies, become more authentic, feel more confident, and therefore live the lives they’ve dreamed of.


Many students tell me that they feel better about themselves after working with me. For example, a successful businesswoman recently told me that she gained enough self-confidence taking jazz classes to audition for a community musical theater production and she won a featured role. In private body work sessions, a young man who had spinal surgery and was in constant pain learned how to carry his body in a new and more healthful alignment and realized he didn’t have to live with back pain. Corporate work groups have discovered that they could improve project results and have fun at the same time when they learned to really listen and embody what they heard from their teammates. And, of course, students have learned how to apply technique in a way that most effectively works for their unique bodies, thus they more easily become highly skilled dancers.


In summary, I teach classes, work with people on a one to one basis, and develop and lead workshops that use dance as the foundation for learning and self-awareness. I employ the knowledge I’ve learned over the last 35 + years as not only a professional dancer but also as an observer of best leadership practices. I see the whole student/client and work diligently to find ways to communicate specifics that make sense to each client while scanning for comprehension and relevance. Ultimately, I facilitate personal growth and skill development so transformation can take place.


Copyright © 2011, Sheila Peters. All rights reserved.