Scholarly teachers. Teaching scholars. In the performing arts, scholarship is most clearly understood as active engagement as artists in the public arena. As artists who teach in a liberal arts college environment, our scholarship manifests itself in tandem with and in connection to our lives as teachers/learners. We teach through example, creating art in the classroom in collaboration with our students and each other; and our attention to teaching and learning informs the choices we make as artists as we clarify and refine our own ideas and intentions in our scholarly and personal work. As we continue to exercise our understanding within the performing arts discipline through personal study and reflection, explore this understanding through and within our artistry, and question and cultivate our scholarly pursuits through teaching, we remain fresh and vital in the classroom and in the performing arts arena.
Peter Brook calls theatre “the Empty Space”—a place of endless possibilities. What happens in this place is limited only by one's imagination. As a department in a liberal arts college of the church we believe this place of endless possibilities makes both imperative and feasible our keen and unencumbered exploration—as artists, teachers, and learners—of what it means to be human and how one connects with the world. The connection with the church offers a platform and foundation from which one can explore issues and ideas of the spirit—human and divine—in an open and accepting environment.
As students progress through the Dance and Theatre programs they are asked to move away from imitating and toward initiating personal artistic expression. At the heart of this process is the exploration, development, and formation of questions about the student’s art and technique. As artists we model for the students the integration of this technique into the classroom. Through this integration our teaching and scholarship informs how we make our art.
As performing artists, we look to each other and our audience for response to our work. The best forms of review are those that engage the artists and the audience-at-large in formal and informal dialogue. In addition, peer review by members of the profession, articulated in written form or live dialogue, provides invaluable information that connects our work as artists to the world beyond our department and college. As teachers, then, the feedback thus garnered feeds directly back into our work in the classroom as we prepare our students for similar experiences of exposure and review.
As a faculty member in the Dance and Theatre programs progresses through an academic career, it is expected that the depth and breadth of his or her understanding, appreciation, and experience in the art form will increase, and that his or her work as a teacher in the classroom will reflect that continued growth and learning. In our department we seek out colleagues who are committed to this kind of “life long learning” in the context of their desire to be excellent teachers and accomplished artists. Our constant scholarly pursuit of self-awareness, curiosity and appreciation allows us to model an accomplished understanding of our chosen art form for our students and each other.
Forms of scholarship in dance and theatre will be as diverse and varied as the interests of the artists. It would be reasonable to assume that at the beginning of a faculty member’s academic career, he or she will concentrate on artistic activities and scholarly pursuits that directly inform the development of courses that he or she may teach. As teaching experience develops, scholarship or artistic activity may likewise expand to include student/faculty collaboration and/or research, outreach and involvement of the local community, regional, national and international interdisciplinary exploration within the liberal arts. Any scholarly endeavor that makes connections between the individual’s scholarly or artistic interests and their teaching/learning objectives consistent with the goals of the department and college should be supported and encouraged.
Listed below are some examples of ways a dance and theatre faculty member might demonstrate his or her commitment to the personal artistic development that informs their teaching. The pathway will vary from faculty member to faculty member, as each shapes and acts upon a thoughtfully developed program of scholarship.
(Revised June 2012)