At the beginning of each school year, Bank Street hosts the Barbara Biber Lecture. As a graduate student here, you’re likely to have the chance to attend one or two of them. I was lucky enough to get a last minute ticket to the Biber Lecture this September, where the guest presenter was Jacques d’Amboise, renowned ballet dancer and National Dance Institute founder.
D’Amboise engaged the crowd effortlessly, and related his life story to the crowd of alumni, current educators and graduate students. He is not a ‘typical’ learner. He was dancing for the New York City Ballet from a young age and founded the National Dance Institute in 1976. d’Amboise not only spoke of his passion for education, he also showed it by calling some young dancers from NDI to join him on stage. He had them improvising and moving in sync in what seemed like mere moments. He was funny, but also serious and demanding of the children. They seemed to immediately sense that they were working with a master. The sense of wonder and respect for him translated into engaged learning. I think that all teachers should strive for this kind of reverence from their students.
One memorable moment of his lesson on stage was teaching new dance steps by having students envision a clock on the floor. Standing in the center, d’Amboise gave certain hours – “12, 9, 3, 9, 12!” – and the student’s feet bounded to each, creating a dance which looked as though it had been performed for years. Accompanied by a pianist, the whole lecture had a musical current through it, particularly since the piano could adapt to the mood and motions d’Amboise was masterfully creating out of thin air.
I am taking a class this semester about music and movement with Nina Jaffe, and there are so many ways his lecture connects. In Nina’s class, we learn about how to teach academic concepts, culture, and empathy through music and dance. I also took a course at Bank Street with Susan Griss, a renown dance and movement educator and author, who combines movement and classroom space to create meaningful experiences which enrich learning.
I think Bank Street has done an amazing job at pushing young educators to think outside of the box, and realize that there are effective ways to teach that do not involve sitting at a desk all day. Having d’Amboise set this frame of mind for the school year is one of the many things that makes a Bank Street education so unique and wonderful.