Kelli's Summer Takeaways

After an extremely busy summer filled with 20+ hours of programming a week and traveling from coast to coast, EDN! National Program Director Kelli Forman finally had some time to sit down and reflect on an incredible few months. Read on to find out what she learned from her busy summer!

June Takeaway: Every single student is to be sincerely acknowledged in their current emotional, physical, and mental states. We can only move forward to develop students true artistic beings after meeting them where they are.

Summer started off on the right foot one mid-June morning as we warmed up our new dance students for the first day of camps. Smiles and giggles overwhelmed the room as funny comments were blurted out in attempts to get acquainted with one another throughout hip hop class. Movement just unites people’s inner goofballs naturally. What I noticed with one particular class that sparked my June realization was that students communicate where they are “at” with their eyes. Many students held joy in their eyes, but some were tired, restless, talkative, or sad. I decided to start looking in their eyes and doing a slight nod, as to say, “I see you where you are at, and you don’t have to change. Now let’s dance together.” The class ran smoothly… and it didn’t. The students listened… and they didn’t. The chaos accompanying the unknown makes life exciting, and we can relax in the back of the mind as we instruct, allowing students to be where they are and who they are.

July Takeaway: A community must be developed by continually inviting new members in, its members giving what they can back to the community, and that community holding ongoing practice, meetings, and public performances.

Oh, how I admire the New York City hip hop dance community! Dancers of all generations, even some of the hip hop dance originators, invited me in with open arms and a sharp New York lesson. They really understand the concept of lineage in a cultural art form, talking about who their teachers are instead of what classes or gigs they have taken. Each year I spend about a month training in the street dance community including classes, events, and dance clubs. This year, I worked up enough bravery to enter two dance battles to see where I was in my personal practice. Thankfully, I made it to the top eight in one battle and the top four in another. I am proud of my progress but remain aware that there is a long way to go! I noticed was the undeniable strength of the dance community because people showed up. When these New York Hip Hop Dancers showed up, they were fully present for one another. I look forward to growing our street dance community here in Santa Barbara this year with donation-based classes, multiple events, and open free-style sessions. Expanding the community’s passion will allow for the dedication to trickle down through future generations of dancers. 

August Takeaway: To develop self-awareness and compassion for others, we must try our best to create space throughout in our day for reflection, creative practices, and study in whatever subject we are passionate about. We must then express ourselves and inspire others to find their light and purpose.

Each year, my husband and I venture up the California mountains to take a month-long retreat of meditation and refocusing. Not everyone needs to take this amount of time, of course, however space for reflection is so important. We can ask those big life questions: Why are we here? What is our purpose? Am I serving others to the best of my ability? Can I take the space to really and genuinely face my fears and nagging mental voices? Am I being honest with myself and others? These questions might never be answered, but they are like an oar on a boat to peace and light, which then naturally ripples out to the rest of the community and then the world.

September Takeaway: Every student, regardless of economic position, should receive quality performing arts educated with highly qualified and credentialed teaching artists.

The California Alliance for Arts Education is an incredible organization that is focusing their energy on an Arts Now Campaign in order to encourage districts around the state to adopt fully comprehensive arts education programming and integration as a part of the school day. Not only do students statistically show up to school more often and do better in their other classes if they receive an in-school arts education, performing arts (such as dance, theater, visual art, and music) give students a form of expression for their developing emotions and creative minds. Arts allow students to reflect on their surroundings, reflect on their internal processes, think outside the box, and connect with others on various levels allowing for more cross-cultural understanding.