StEPS: Cultivating Inclusivity in Dance Education with Erin Pride

Inclusivity in Dance

Cultivating Inclusivity in Dance Education with Erin Pride

In the dynamic world of dance education, it is crucial for studio owners, directors, and educators to prioritize inclusivity and diversity. In recent years, there has been a growing recognition of the need to address racial issues, foster a welcoming environment, and integrate dance history into the curriculum.

Welcome to Beyond the StEPS

We will delve into the insights shared by Erin Pride*, the host of the Dance Boss Podcast, on how dance educators can navigate these critical aspects of their profession.


Understanding the Importance of Inclusivity:

Erin emphasizes the significance of creating an inclusive dance space that honors the contributions of people from all races and backgrounds. Dance educators should be proactive in developing a culture of acceptance rather than waiting for discussions to arise among students. This proactive approach involves being mindful of the representation in studio walls, choosing diverse content for classes, and embracing a holistic perspective on dance.

Navigating Uncomfortable Conversations:

Dance educators often find themselves in situations where uncomfortable conversations about race and identity arise unexpectedly. Erin emphasizes the importance of approaching these moments with thoughtfulness and a proactive mindset. Addressing these conversations requires a nuanced approach to ensure that they become constructive learning opportunities rather than divisive moments. The first step is to pause and assess your mental capacity and knowledge on the topic. If needed, take the time to regroup and plan how to facilitate the discussion constructively.

Pause and Assess:

  • The initial step when faced with an uncomfortable conversation is to pause and assess the situation. Erin encourages educators to reflect on their mental capacity and evaluate whether they have the necessary knowledge and guidelines at hand. If uncertainties arise, it is perfectly acceptable to take a step back, regroup, and plan the discussion for a more suitable time.

Prepare Guidelines:

  • Creating a set of guidelines for conversations about race can significantly contribute to a constructive and respectful environment. These guidelines may include fostering a loving and caring tone, discouraging negative language, and ensuring that the conversation remains supportive. By setting clear expectations, educators provide a framework that helps students navigate these discussions with sensitivity.

Facilitate the Conversation:

  • Actively facilitating the conversation is crucial in turning uncomfortable moments into opportunities for growth. Erin suggests starting by checking in with the students, asking how they are feeling, and acknowledging the potential discomfort surrounding the topic. Creating a safe space where students feel heard and respected is essential for fostering an open dialogue.

Encourage Student Reflection:

  • In these conversations, Erin advises educators to guide students toward self-reflection. Encourage them to consider the impact of their words, understand the perspectives of others, and recognize the importance of maintaining a respectful dialogue. By fostering this reflection, educators empower students to contribute positively to the conversation.

Reinforce Classroom Guidelines:

  • Erin emphasizes the significance of reinforcing the classroom guidelines established earlier. Remind students of the expectations for a loving and caring environment, and encourage them to express their thoughts within these parameters. Consistently reinforcing these guidelines helps create a culture where open conversations can occur without fear of judgment.

Navigate Awkward Moments:

  • Uncomfortable conversations may involve awkward moments, and Erin acknowledges the necessity of letting these moments happen. Educators should be comfortable with the awkwardness, allowing it to unfold naturally as students navigate the discussion. Over time, these conversations become smoother, contributing to a more inclusive and understanding classroom culture.

Learn and Adapt:

  • Every uncomfortable conversation is an opportunity for growth and learning. Erin encourages educators to view these moments as a chance to enhance their own understanding of different perspectives. Learning from each conversation and adapting teaching methods accordingly ensures continuous improvement in addressing sensitive topics in the future.

Encourage Empathy:

  • Throughout these conversations, Erin stresses the importance of empathy. Educators should foster a sense of empathy among students, helping them understand and connect with the experiences and emotions of their peers. By nurturing empathy, educators contribute to building a compassionate and supportive community within the dance studio.

Leaving Personal Opinions Aside:

Erin recommends that educators aim to create a space where diverse perspectives are nurtured. To achieve this, it's essential to leave personal opinions aside during discussions. Instead, focus on understanding and validating students' viewpoints, creating a healthy and open dialogue.

Preparing for Conversations with Parents:

Addressing race-related topics in the classroom may lead to conversations with parents. Erin advises educators to check their egos, remain calm, and seek to understand parents' concerns. By identifying the root of their fears, educators can find common ground and possibly make adjustments without compromising the studio's values.

The Continuous Journey of Education:

Erin highlights the importance of ongoing education for dance educators. This involves expanding one's knowledge of dance history, acknowledging the cultural layers within dance, and actively seeking resources on social and emotional learning. By staying informed, educators can confidently lead conversations on race and history in their classes.

Promoting Inclusivity Through Dance History:

One actionable step suggested by Erin is integrating dance history into technique classes. Educators can explore the historical and cultural aspects of different dance genres, fostering a deeper understanding among students. This continuous exposure to dance history helps create a comprehensive perspective on the art form.

Advertise Your Commitment to Inclusivity:

In the current landscape, where diversity and inclusivity are becoming increasingly important, Erin suggests that dance studios proudly showcase their commitment to education and inclusivity. By advertising their efforts to foster a culturally diverse environment, studios can attract like-minded parents and students who prioritize inclusivity.

Cultivating inclusivity in dance education is an ongoing journey that requires dedication, education, and proactive measures. Erin Pride's insights provide a roadmap for dance educators to create an environment where students feel valued, heard, and inspired. By embracing diversity and acknowledging the cultural roots of dance, educators can lead the way in shaping a more inclusive future for the dance community.

Continue your Education for yourself and your students with the StEPS Initiative Course!

About the StEPS Initiative Course

This course started in part with our charity event we created to save dance studios. Then we decided to keep it a free resource for the dance community. You can learn all about it below.

As part of our commitment to education and creating a safe space for all dancers, we are excited to introduce the StEPS Initiative Course. This has been curated by Apolla and donated from experts and professionals in each topic. 

Our goal in creating this course is to give dance teachers continuing education/professional development, give dancers the power of education, and provide parents the knowledge to see red flags. Each section has actionable items that can unite dance studios focused on equity and creating a safe space for every dancer. This course gives evidence-based information, some perspective & qualitative information, dance history, and further resources that can help you learn something new that helps progress and strengthen your studio OR solidify what you already have in place. There is something for everyone! 

This course is free for EVERYONE (Apolla has covered the cost and the presenters have donated the course content). These are meant to be introductions and actionable items for you. We know this is not a silver bullet to fix every issue or topic that needs to be addressed in dance. Each topic is deep and broad on its own. However, we aim for this to be the first step for some of us in these topics and even serves as a small catalyst for change in our industry. You will see there are also many resources that can allow you to expand your journey further in any of the subjects. With all that 2020 has thrown at all of us, we are determined to heal through listening, grow from adversity through action, and rise up by bringing everyone together. In the end, we will create a space open wide for the new generation of artists and athletes to ring in the new decade stronger and safer than ever!

Watch the full beyond the StEPS Episode with Erin Pride* Here!

*Erin teaches dancers how to make money using their gifts, embrace entrepreneurship, and build a sustainable online business. She is also the host of the Dance Boss Podcast. Erin is a Jersey girl all the way, graduated from Montclair State University with a B.F.A. in Dance and received her Masters in Dance Education from New York University. She began her coaching journey as a dance education coach, providing resources and training to help dance educators run more successful classrooms. Now, Erin helps dancers niche down, build an online business, and bring in additional revenue for them and their families.

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