This series is a part of the Creating With Kids Interview Project! I have set out to interview 52 dance teachers working with young children everyday. By doing this project, I have learned that you are all amazing, hard working, creative and inspiring! I hope you enjoy the interviews and can take something special away from each one. A look inside a dance teacher’s class, is a look inside a dance teacher’s heart. -Maria
Introducing Leslea Clark…
Leslea owns Uptown Dance, a dance and fitness studio in Belleville, NJ. She teaches 2.5 year olds through adult and is very involved in her community. Leslea has an associates degree in dance arts and holds multiple fitness certifications for children and adults.
Maria: Paint us a picture of your typical teaching day?
Leslea: In the morning I visit local gyms to teach adults Zumba or other forms of fitness classes. In the evening I go to my studio to teach dance. Ballet, tap, and jazz workshops are on a typical day.
Maria: In a few sentences, describe your teaching philosophy.
Leslea: I feel we need to show both young and old that dance is a beautiful art form and a way to express yourself. It’s an outlet, a time where you can be free. I prefer a nurturing non competitive environment. I want my students to always feel at home and feel as if they are able to express themselves freely. There is respect and comradery in my class. We have fun and we learn proper technique all at the same time. For that hour or two we forget our troubles and worries and don’t care what is happening on FB or who has what… We are all equal and we are all free spirits.
Maria: If I came to observe you teach today, what is the first quality I would notice about you as a teacher?
Leslea: I’m compassionate and energetic.
Maria: What are 2 things you love about teaching, and one thing you don’t like very much at all.
Leslea: My answer is the same for both… The wide variety of personalities, you never know what you will get in your classroom. It tests you, challenges you, and makes you grow as a teacher.
Maria: What surprises you the most about teaching dance to young children?
Leslea: Haha! My favorite saying ” out of the mouths of babes” you never know what they will tell u!!
Maria: If you were going to speak to a group of aspiring creative dance teachers, what would you tell them?
Leslea: To remember what inspired you to be a better dancer. Who or what motivated you. Tap into that. Remember that. Being a teacher means that you yourself are no longer the performer, you are there for your students. Don’t teach a class to stare at yourself in the mirror. Correct, motivate, teach, inspire. Go with the flow of the class energy. Always give them all of you. 100%
Maria: Share with us one teaching moment that you will never forget.
Leslea: Oh I have many. One thing that sticks out at the moment is when a student drew a picture of me with the president saying I was chosen to dance for him and she drew my family there with me. It was pretty hysterical, her interpretation of why I was good enough to be dancing for president Obama.
Maria: Teachers of young children need a pocket full of management techniques and tricks to keep things on track. What is one trick in your pocket that almost never fails?
Leslea: A good attendance book with notes so I remember names. I sometimes write something next to their name to help me remember
Maria: Since teachers continue to learn too, what is one teaching goal that you are working towards?
Leslea: I’d like to get my zumbini (baby Zumba) and infant toddler yoga certification this year.
Maria: Share with us your most favorite creative dance lesson so we can all use it tomorrow. You know, Maria’s Movers style!
Leslea: Of course Miss Maria’s style! Lately I’ve been enjoying my hula hoop memory game. Each hoop we must do a different movement and I add on as we go. Keeps their minds active and tests their skills.
you can connect with Leslea on her website. Thank you Leslea for being a part of the project! I love what you said about teaching “we need to show both young and old that dance is a beautiful art form and a way to express yourself.” So wonderful! 🙂