“Planting the seeds of a dance education is pivotal for the next generation’s development of competencies and creative skills in all areas of life.” -Tom Mayock
Making dance an integral part of an educational community takes time, persistence, commitment, structure, and creativity. And it is exactly what Tom Mayock is so excited about. For the past 7 years as a dance specialist (grades K-5) Tom has brought dance to children at schools in South San Francisco and Marin County, through the San Francisco Arts Education Project. “I find the work of a teaching artist singularly gratifying. The knowledge that I’ve influenced entire communities to embrace the dance arts and that everyone can dance, boys included, is essential [to] my well-being, and I believe theirs.” Tom’s childhood and youth were spent with the original people of the Pacific Northwest on a reservation in Washington State. Drum circles, sweat lodges, and men and boys groups profoundly impacted him and helped him foster an inner awareness of self. He draws upon his personal experience when learning and sharing various dance forms (non-Western & Western), and in providing creative space for boys to flourish. He noticed within three years some of the challenges that his boys’ faced dissolved due to sustained effort of his good intentions. He consciously integrates music and movement that he feels is “boy friendly” into his dance syllabus. As a male dancer and teacher he provides opportunities for them to see themselves as dancers.
What is the role of set choreography and creative dance in curriculum? How and when can they support each other? How do they support student confidence, creativity, and expression? These questions reflect Tom’s personal journey to discover how his strong background in choreography and performance can be supported by a creative dance approach in teaching and student learning. Tom has been developing his teaching syllabus for over 7 years, using a combination of creative dance and stylized dance forms to provide creative opportunities for his students. Influenced by students, teachers and music, he adjusts to meet the needs and interests of the students yearly. However, he didn’t always work this way. In 2012, with the encouragement of a fellow dance colleague and Summer Institute alum, Tom participated in Luna’s Summer Institute where he investigated how a creative dance model could be integrated with a set choreography and performance approach. He discovered how dance elements and dance vocabulary can be utilized to explore and express choreographic intent. For example when teaching choreography he might say, “punch the sky, stomp the ground” as visual metaphor to evoke a certain quality necessary for a dance.
Tom is most proud of his ability to get a community excited about dancing. He appreciates the many opportunities he has had to interact with so many students and their families. The role of set choreography in building community has been successful for him. Currently, he is excited about the possibilities of choreographic inspiration in this modern age with video game dance. Using accessible choreography from Wii Workouts and Just Dance has become part of his teaching approach that is exciting to the communities of students he works with. “Being well rehearsed does that, like when you know a dance role so well that you can call upon the inner and higher self to instinctively respond to the conditions of the music, stage and artistic intention of the dance.”
At this point in his career he appreciates the stability he has in teaching. “Now, with stable contracts and a robust teaching syllabus I can have a life.” He has worked over the years to have strong committed relationships with his partner schools by having a strong syllabus, showing excellence in teaching and mentoring, staging shows, and working in the field for a long period of time. This has provided him with the much desired balance between work and personal life, which is so important for the sustainability of dance teaching artists. “What keeps me intrigued with this profession are the sneak peeks I get into a student’s experience, or a parent who shares with me a positive reflection about my class and their kid, or a knowing look of understanding and camaraderie from a classroom teacher.”
In 25 years, Luna has worked with hundreds of teachers who we’re now proud to say are teaching all around the globe.
From Emily Blossom to Jakey Toor, our past Professional Learning colleagues are collectively and cumulatively teaching tens of thousands of children. We’re sharing their stories, about how they continue to positively impact the dance education field, the future, the world.