Rachel Dodson

Dance Artist, Educator, Choreographer, and Performer

My philosophy of dance education is student-centered with an emphasis on discovery--embracing and honing one’s unique talents, deepening dialogue and interests, and harnessing the ability to engage with familiar and unfamiliar concepts with respectful curiosity while building sound movement principles, meaningful scholarly inquiry, and artistic integrity. While every classroom community has its own unique dynamic, I believe that there are six elements conducive to a positive learning experience: the teacher’s role to function as guide and facilitator; a classroom environment that feels safe to take risks and interact respectfully with peers; the chance to hone personal practice; access to multiple methods of communication and learning tools; the opportunity for personal choice-making in pursuit of a particular area of interest; and engagement with healthy practices.


By fostering a warm and nurturing environment in which students are encouraged to listen to and express personal truth, I hold a unique space for dancers to feel safe as they explore the world of dance in a non-judgmental environment. Through community-building, peer-to-peer explorations, independent investigations, and facilitated discussion, students are encouraged to develop and sharpen their technical skills and artistic interests by asking questions, trying new things, failing forward, and pushing the limits of self-understanding. Whether developing technique, exploring composition, or engaging in theory, a safe environment facilitates academic, creative, and physical breakthroughs as students meet and exceed goals. I believe in the power of positive reinforcement to pave the way for healthy embodied experiences conducive to self-acceptance and respecting others throughout all stages of development.


Process is at the root of my pedagogical approach—learning through active research in technique, scholarship, and artistry. I prioritize the development and integration of knowledge through a multitude of access points to facilitate growth by increasing physical performance through embodied understanding and investigating theory and practice while optimizing efficiency of the body and artistic expression.  Instructing through an anatomical lens to uncover how the body produces a shape through sensation and an understanding of physical mechanics facilitates kinesthetic learning.  My classroom is primarily task-based and through student-centered self-exploration and collaboration dancers benefit from both individualized attention while also learning the value of a community experience. I believe in level-appropriate coursework that is challenging and fun diversely delivered through print, digital, and physical mediums to fully accommodate and engage with differing needs. The process of knowledge building is further reinforced through progressions and tactile feedback offered by the self, a partner, and/or using surfaces available in the studio to deepen reliable sensory appreciation.  Ultimately this leads dancers to a deeply accessed and integrated movement while producing a rich, full aesthetic experience for the viewer. 


The interweaving of my somatic expertise in The Alexander Technique (AT) and Bartenieff Fundamentals anchors my classes in a way that is entirely unique to my practice.  Affording students the opportunity to develop with improved ease, control, and extension of the body, AT emphasizes alignment of the head, neck and spine, while reeducating the nervous system and programming efficient response to external and internal stimulus. In developing these new neural pathways through the integration of AT into dance technique, the body is permitted to excel in movement efficiency and quality within the realm of safety. Having studied AT closely for four years as the primary delineation of my Master’s focus, my research catalyzed a close examination of its application to dance training. Bartenieff Fundamentals emphasize complete movement integration in the body through functional, expressive, and efficient movement experiences focused on the “how” and “why” of movement. Interweaving principles from these practices allows me to help students identify and abandon poor habits simultaneously building new ones for improved efficiency and expression of the whole self ultimately aiding a dancer’s ability to perform and train rigorously with decreased risk of injury and optimized physical potentiality. 


As body knowledge and form fluency are at the forefront of my studio practice, in scholarship I encourage students to explore areas of personal interest through deepened understanding and appreciation of dance in a historical context, terminology, contemporary theory, and critical analysis of current conversations in dance. Through a variety of extensions including direct mentorship, research catalyzing questions, related academic readings in history and theory, online discussions and interactive forums, film and video analysis, reflective and analytical writing, creative projects, and digital resources students can express and have individualized needs met while reinforcing their educational experience. I utilize reflexive practices throughout a course to aide student connection to personal process as they sharpen skills and refine research.


As a dance educator for over ten years, choreographer for twenty, and a student of dance for thirty-three years, I have benefitted from the mentorship of my predecessors as I clarified my values and priorities as an instructor, my purpose and intent as an artist, and the direction of my research as I continue to challenge hegemonic belief systems that enable cultural limitations and perpetuate marginalization. It is a great personal honor to dedicate my life work in facilitation to our future artists while instigating meaningful discussion, action, and advancement in the field of dance.