This year, TAG’s theme is Creative Resilience! Throughout the year, we want to share stories of teaching artists across the country who have embraced creative resiliency in different ways. If you have a story, photo, or want to highlight another teaching artist in your community, please let us know. Check out these stories teaching artists have already shared with us!
Meet teaching artist Anna Mayta!
“Growing up in Chile I was always dancing. At 14 years old my family and I moved to Beacon NY, a town in the Hudson Valley NY area. I started taking Ballet and Modern classes for many years at a local dance studio. At the same time I started dance improvising and found such a love for it that dance improvisation is my forte. I got my BA in dance education from Empire State College in New York City.
In my college years I studied West African dance, Flamenco (Spain) Bharatanatyam, (India) Latin Caribbean dance styles and modern (USA). I traveled to Zimbabwe Africa to work with the National Ballet of Zimbabwe, I studied yoga at an ashram in Bangalore India, been to Spain to study Flamenco. Upon graduating college in 2001 I started teaching. This stays as my major way of making a living. I have developed two major programs in my educational work. One is teaching the Spanish language through movement, the other is what I call Fusion dance West African, Flamenco, Bharatanatyam, Modern, and latin Caribbean dance styles coming together as one. Since I was a teenager I have been choreographing solo works, working on dance improvisation and exploring dancing to different styles of music like Jazz. Dance is also an art form that brings people together. My goal in creating my dance company Mayta Fusion Dance is with the aim of developing my group choreographies in collaboration, with other artists. Plus making my solos into group dances. Inspiring the audiences by performing new choreographies that have meaning, joy, beauty and a story.
In my early 20’s I was very shy and I struggled with questioning my career. I also worked as a classroom assistant, substitute teacher and caregiver. While I had these extra jobs I also was teaching dance and Spanish through movement. I kept choreographing and performing inspiring my students and audiences. As the years went by as a teacher I found my way of teaching what works and doesn’t work by the experiences I have had and teachers I have collaborated with. Same as a choreographer and performer learning by all the experiences and many years of keeping it up. When I turned 40 I have been teaching for 15+ years be then and I was done with all the extra work like classroom assistant and caregiving that wasn’t in line with my passion of teaching and as a dance artist. Now in my late 40’s I am finding my groove with many successful opportunities in my life and one success is that I got a position as an adjunct professor of dance at Columbia Green Community College in Hudson NY where I live. But still many challenges with some months being financially very good in my freelance work and other months more challenging financially. But I love my teaching work that is fulfilling and I keep fighting on making it work through the challenges. And I haven’t gone back to being a caregiver or classroom assistant though I have been tempted but keeping my strength up in only focusing on my teaching and artistic career. As I groove forward my vision is of having that world embracing view, to witness the unity in diversity surrounding us.
This quote drives and is the basis for all I do “ Let your vision be world embracing rather than confined to your own self” Baha’i“
Meet Teaching Artist Asuka Morinaga Derfler!
“I am a teaching artist at Ping Chong + Company (documentary theater) and I have been working on developing theater education between NY and Japan. We had a theater camp with students who have different background. It is still hard to be different in Japan and art (theater) education is not common like NY. I have seen that they feel that it is ok to be who you are and it is fun to get to know people who are different thought art (theater and dance) and actually, when the differences get together, we get stronger to move forward.” (in Japanese but there is a video. We did I AM FROM) https://buff.ly/3GsCI0n”
Meet teaching artist Tova Halpern who shares the story of her youth theatre company:
“Our youth theatre company was shut down during the pandemic. We quickly needed to figure out how to offer light into our students lives by shifting to online musicals. Steam ran out on that platform after a while and when our supervisor at the recreation center continued to say we could not meet our students in person, we negotiated for a new musical theatre program. We called it “Parking Lot Theatre.” We asked the town to close off a public parking lot once a week so we could meet with our students to produce “Annie, Kids.” After 8 weeks together, the students were finally able to perform outdoors for their families and friends. Although we could not be together, inside out sacred theatre space, we were able to be together in a parking singing “The sun will come out tomorrow.”
Tova Halpern has been a professional Director and theatre arts educator for the past 12 years. Tova graduated with her B.A. in theatre arts from Rutgers University in 2006. While at Rutgers, she revitalized the Hillel Theatre Company, directing and producing for the company four shows in two years. After graduating from Rutgers, Tova went to work on Broadway at Richard Frankel Productions, producers for “Hairspray,” “Stomp” and “Young Frankenstein.” After gaining a true Broadway experience, Tova went back to school and received her Masters in Educational Theater from NYU. With her enthusiasm and love for theater and education, Tova founded “Fresh Theatre Arts.
Thank you for your continued support of TAG! We’re so close to our end of the year goal. There is no small amount and every little bit helps us get closer to our goal. All funds go directly to the teaching artists who make TAG run!
Meet Teaching Artist Dóra Halas!
“I have been working with choirs for the past 25 years. I started with a traditional choir where I learnt the techniques of conducting and musical leadership, then I moved to a more experimental direction, founding several choirs revolving around choral improvisation and something I call “collective composing”. In our choir history we have done really special performances and big musical theatre shows in Budapest (https://buff.ly/3uANoHx), invented a special genre called “catwalk concerts” (https://buff.ly/3RavOSB) and won many awards.
In the meantime I had been trying to use all my special choral techniques in teachings, workshops and also in music therapy (we are in a special Erasmus+ project called “Weaving Voices as Threads of Community”, where we have been working with refugees, neurological patients and addicts – https://buff.ly/48k7ZPd). The term “creative resilience” came for me now, after all these years of very hard work and also burning out – I realised that the only way to keep creating and flourishing, feeding the community and being able to teach in a fresh and energetic way is not with hard work, but by allowing myself the time and money and energy to also grow and learn new things, not just in my own field, but also outside my field. With myself becoming a student again, going back to the beginning as if I was a child again, in any area, is a must if I want to continue to work as an artist and a teacher. So for instance, I had always concentrated on the creativity and spontaneity of a choir and the community, which worked in many ways, but I always felt there was something lacking. I have now found a very special voice coach, who is teaching me the absolute basics of singing, the anatomical and healthy way of using our voice and body, as opposed to the many “wrong” and stressed ways of singing that so many amateurs are using (and professionals too). This is something I feel I need to learn over the course of many years, because my firm belief is that everyone can truly sing, but many of us have learnt an unhealthy way of using our voice, let alone all the psychological barriers. This gives me the liberty to work with any group of people and be able to bring out the best in their voice and body usage.
I am also growing in fields outside my expertise, learning Qi Gong and MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) techniques, which I plan to include in my new set of teaching methods. So suddenly – now that I have temporarily stepped back from all my hard work as artist and teacher – I am again full of motivation and dreams to help our society with new ways I am learning and that I can implement in my own personal way of giving and sharing and teaching. For me, this is resilience: not giving up at the lowest point, but going back to the beginning and starting to build (myself) again.”