On Friday I took a master class from Ohio State alum Erika Randall. Erika Randall is an Associate Professor and the Director of Dance at University of Colorado Boulder. Not only did I love her class, I learned a lot from her teaching style and would love to emulate it when I teach my own class someday.
Classroom energy on a Friday can be either really great or really poor. Some weeks everyone is just pumped for the weekend, and other weeks everyone is exhausted by the time Friday technique time rolls around. I was leaning towards the latter this particular Friday, but Erika’s energy in her introduction and the starting of class changed the atmosphere of the room completely.
We started with a few minutes of improved inspired by some of her favorite words of Brian Andreas:
“There are days I drop words of comfort on myself like falling leaves and remember that it is enough to be taken care of by myself.”
These words were a perfect way to start a Friday morning class to gently warm up. Then after that we were off to the races and didn’t stop to breathe for a moment until the last two minutes of class. While that sounds exhausting, Erika’s high spirits and bright smile made the class pass by so quickly despite the demanding choreography.
Another aspect of her teaching style that I appreciated was her encouragement to support our fellow class members. We would address and sign our verbal letters of praise for something we saw our classmates do well. An important part of dance for me is the community it builds and this was an effective technique to bring our class closer together even though we have already known each other for eight weeks plus. I feel that this strategy would be effective for a class of strangers as well.
A third part of class I enjoyed was Erika’s use of the same choreography, but different dynamics. It is so easy to fall into the rut of trying to dance the same way as the teacher and be frustrated when you cannot match the same dynamic. However, Erika used the same combination, but we did it with a contemporary aesthetic, and then an African aesthetic. I struggled with the sequence the first time, but was able to embody it better the second time with the different approach. This again was a great teaching tool to empower the dancers and to remind the class to dance to their strengths and own their own individual styles.
Erika Randall’s class was a great way to end the week. Her enthusiasm for life and dance was infectious and the perfect reminder that we dance for a reason: because we love it.