DCP Teaching Artists take on larger roles -- help to grow program

February 2018….Dancing Classrooms Philly (DCP) is fortunate to have an exceptionally creative, talented, and ambitious group of Teaching Artists (TAs) who care deeply about the success of their students. Two such TAs are Andrew Polunin and Belle Alvarez. Mr. Andrew and Ms. Belle are not only talented dancers and exceptional teachers: Mr. Andrew is our DCP Academy Liaison, and Ms. Belle is our DCP Social Media Liaison.

Belle has been a DCP Teaching Artist for four years, and she added on the role of Social Media Liaison two years ago. When Belle was a dance major at Temple University, it was important to her to figure out ways to make dance accessible to anyone, including working with dancers outside of a classical dance setting. This love of sharing dance is one reason why being a TA with DCP is so fulfilling to her. “It’s an honor to be connected with a legacy of such impactful work. It’s not only effective but also fun, and a coming of age ritual for many fifth graders,” Belle said. As a TA, Belle works very hard to help her students feel the best that they can about themselves, and she tries to set them up for success. “I try to connect with them where they’re at, whether they’ve danced before or not, and encourage them to use their expression,” she said. “I also encourage a team dynamic and creativity in the classroom. To be able to tap into and foster a student’s artistic and expressive side makes for a well-rounded person and student.”
One of the highlights for Belle as DCP’s Social Media Liaison was when DCP received funding in 2015 for a series of films. “I love the storytelling aspect of what we do and showing the process of transformation. Once the films were complete, as Social Media Liaison, I was able to set the schedule of pushing out various clips and messages from the film on social media.”
Belle’s love of storytelling has led her to seek out written testimonies from DCP students that she can share on social media. “I also keep an eye out for news about Dancing Classrooms from around the country, so that I can show the transformative part of it, and why we do what we do, with our audience.”
Andrew is currently in his 7th year as a Teaching Artist with DCP and took on the role of DCP Academy Liaison this past fall. Andrew learned about DCP from one of his ballroom dance coaches, who happened to be a TA for DCP. That coach encouraged Andrew to get the training necessary to teach with DCP. One of the highlights for Andrew as a TA was when he transitioned from teaching fifth grade residencies to eighth grade residencies. “I saw a big difference between the fifth and eighth graders when I started teaching in middle school,” said Andrew. “The eighth graders are mentally in a different place than the fifth graders. They tend to be more self-conscious when they first begin their dance residency—but on the flip side they also have a thicker skin and therefore don’t feel as vulnerable–so I enjoy the challenge of working with them.”
For Andrew, some of his biggest goals as Academy Liaison are to expand the program, build up a community of ladies and gentlemen, and show them that dancing can be a part of their lives moving forward. “My hope is that the ladies and gentlemen currently in the program will stay because we will create more skill levels through a new syllabus I am developing,” said Andrew. “I want to show them that the end of their first Academy year doesn’t have to be the end (of ballroom dancing for them) and there are still new things to learn.”
Creating a new syllabus has been one of Andrew’s biggest challenges as Academy Liaison, but at the same time, one of his most fulfilling responsibilities. “Developing a new syllabus has given me a chance to be creative and give teachers new routines and dances to teach, all while keeping in line with the Dulaine Method,” said Andrew. [Dancing Classrooms was founded in 1994 by award-winning ballroom dancer Pierre Dulaine. All Dancing Classrooms curricula follow the Dulaine Method, which highlights respect and compassion as foundational elements.]