NDEO Conference: A First Experience

By: Dana Woodruff (Professional Programs Coordinator, Dance Canvas)

I have been teaching dance for over 20 years. Through the years, I had heard of National Dance Education Organization (NDEO), but never acted on learning more about the organization, until recently.

Dana & Daniel Gwirtzman at the
NDEO Conference

A few years ago, I met Daniel Gwirtzman, a choreographer and professor of dance. Daniel and I taught together at Kennesaw State University and developed a fast friendship. He has served on the NDEO board for years and would often talk about the conferences with a gleam in his eye. He would mention how exciting it was to partake in all that the conference can offer and encouraged me to experience it for myself. I decided to go to this year’s conference. The conference theme included choreography, and since so much of my time is spent creating, digesting and discussing dance work, I felt it would make sense to attend. It didn’t hurt that the host city was Miami this year! 

The sense of community and camaraderie was palpable.

Dana with Atlanta based dance educators, Tamara Irving (North Atlanta High School), Patrice Bryant (Hickory Hills Elementary),
& Lara Davis who recently relocated to Ballet Lubbock in Texas
Dana with McCree O’Kelley (Interim Director of Dance at KSU)

The over-arching theme of the NDEO conference was: “The Creative Process: Choreography, Choice-Making and Communication.” Certainly, the workshops, movement classes, lectures and functions were each insightful and thoughtfully planned, but what was happening outside in the hallways and lounges was just as valuable. The sense of community and camaraderie was palpable. I connected to colleagues and friends I had not seen in years, spent time with fellow teachers from Atlanta, made new friends and shared in rich conversations with other educators and students from around the country.  I had never experienced anything like it before. It was incredible to be around so many dedicated teaching artists. To me, that sense of connection is vital. This past year, I had been feeling hungry for a recharge in professional development and this opportunity was the perfect outlet to do just that- recharge, connect and reflect. From new lesson ideas, teaching approaches, choreographic viewpoints and discussions, I was filled each day with new ideas and possibilities. 

I feel deeply grateful to have had the opportunity to attend this year’s conference. Through the support of Dance Canvas and my family, I was able to experience my first NDEO conference and I am already thinking about next year’s conference in Denver. What a gift it is to share our love of dance and dance education with one another. For anyone who is considering attending in the future, I would highly recommend it. I wish I hadn’t waited so long, but feel thankful to Daniel for introducing me into and guiding me through my first experience and look forward to my second one next year.

Patrice & Lara are former Dance Canvas Interns and Administrative Assistants.
Patrice is now the Director of Dance at Hickory Hills Elementary School in Marietta,
and Lara is the Director of Community Outreach at Ballet Lubbock

Dana Woodruff is Dance Canvas’ Professional Programs Coordinator. Dana, originally from Norwich, VT , began her dance training with Joseph and Victoria DeChiazza, professors of Dance at Dartmouth College. After eleven years of studying Ballet (French Technique), Modern (Limon Based) and Jazz (Jack Cole Based), Dana went on to Adelphi University to receive her B.F.A. in Dance. She trained with Norman Walker, Carmen de Lavallade, Loren Hightower, Rochelle Zide-Booth and Regina Larkin. After graduation, she attended NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts to earn an M.F.A. in Dance. She performed works by Gus Solomons Jr., Mark Morris, and Ann Carlson and trained with Jenny Way (Twyla Tharp), Gwen Welliver (Doug Varone), Jim Martin, Phyllis Lamhut (Nikolais), Mark Haim, Jackie Villamil, Deborah Jowitt and Kaye Cummings. During her second year at NYU, Dana joined the Joyce Trisler Danscompany, performing Trisler works in NYC and multiple venues in the Northeast. After graduating, she performed with Cherylyn Lavagnino, Imago Dance Theatre, and formed her own collaborative company called Ground Floor Dance. Since moving to Atlanta, Dana has taught Ballet and Modern technique to dancers of all ages. She has taught at the Georgia Academy of Dance, The Studio Atlanta Dance, Academy of Ballet in Norcross and Bravo Dance Centre and was a part time professor of dance at Kennesaw State University since 2011. During Dance Canvas’ Summer Intensive, Dana teaches Ballet and Modern technique and Choreography. She has produced her own choreography in the Atlanta area since 2003.

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