A Student-Centric, Holistic Approach to Dance Pedagogy

All photos by Lydia Hance

Frame Dance is gearing up to offer two unique, separate but related, professional development opportunities for dance educators and classroom teachers in June 2024. This program, a brand-new offering by Frame Dance, will be based on an impactful and innovative curriculum and pedagogy developed by founder Lydia Hance, and dance educator Ashley Horn.

Centered around dance education in early childhood, the Little Framers Curriculum has been developed over the last 15 years, and offers a new, student-centric perspective to the teaching of dance. In a departure from traditional methods that focus purely or primarily on technique, the curriculum intentionally focuses holistically on the young dancer as an individual, and has been developed from collective decades of experience and work in varied early childhood settings. Little Framers creates ways to engage the student’s interest while teaching the framework of dance technique – through theme-based teaching, fostering interactions with other students, allowing students the freedom to explore the concepts of space, time and shape, and touching on various related topics such as dancer etiquette, the student-teacher relationship, and allied skills such as choreography, visual design of the set and stage, and costume design. 

“My approach to dance pedagogy is informed by my experiences”, says Lydia Hance. Years of teaching neurodiverse children at the Monarch School gave her a deep appreciation of the individuality of each student, and working with children at the Houston Area Women’s Center and learning about their experiences has given her a trauma-informed lens through which to view the practice of teaching. As Education Director at Hope Stone, she worked with underprivileged children in Houston city schools, adding another dimension to her understanding of the spectrum of needs among students. In identifying the need for a holistic student-based curriculum, Lydia also drew from her own experience growing up in the world of dance education and training, where, as she puts it, “delight and excitement…” were occasionally counterbalanced by “harsh criticism, an unhealthy attitude toward the body, and the pressure to fit into someone else’s mold.”

Houston-based dance educator, curriculum writer and multifaceted artist Ashley Horn has co-developed this curriculum with Lydia. Ashley draws on her two decades of experience in dance education, spanning a variety of settings including dance studios, community centers, elementary and middle school levels within Houston ISD, and universities. Her deep understanding of neural development and social-emotional learning in early childhood is reflected in the curriculum, which focuses on fostering agency and self-worth in the young dancer through dance education.

Created and implemented at Frame Dance over several years, the Little Framers Curriculum is well-tested, with internal teacher training having been offered to Frame Dance instructors for several years. Lydia and her team now look towards offering this holistic curriculum and pedagogy to empower educators to positively impact their students within and outside their own educational settings. 

Two separate but related comprehensive training programs, offered this June, will equip dance educators and classroom teachers, respectively, to understand, license, and implement the pedagogy in their studio or classroom. The professional development opportunity for dance educators involves two weekends (June 7/8 and June 15) of in-person lecture and practice, with a week of self-guided study in between. Classroom educators can register for a separate professional development opportunity, offered in two parts, with Part 1 consisting of four modules (virtual or in-person) and Part 2 consisting of a full day of hands-on individualized training.

The Little Framers Curriculum is well on its way to creating meaningful change and impact in young lives. A recent partnership with Community Preschools, a system of charter schools in Houston, will allow the pedagogy to be implemented in preschool classrooms, with a dance educator from the charter school system set to undergo the training offered in June, following which the Little Framers Curriculum will be licensed for use throughout the Community Preschools system. 

While the curriculum currently focuses on early childhood education, the larger vision is to expand and codify the curriculum to include later elementary and middle school ages as well.

“Dance education has incredible potential to unlock so much in a child”, says Lydia. Through this unique curriculum and pedagogy, Frame Dance hopes to reframe the meaning of dance education and center it around the young student, with a deep understanding of individual needs at various levels.

More information on the Little Framers Curriculum, and the new professional development training being offered by Frame Dance for dance and classroom educators this June, can be found at framedance.org.

About the Author

Dr. Lavanya Rajagopalan is a dancer/choreographer, arts educator, advocate, and administrator, and Executive Artistic Director of Silambam Houston, a ‘Houston Cultural Treasure’.

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