DEVOTED TO DANCE EDUCATION
Sandra Minton’s dance education career began in high school in the basement-cum-studio her father built where she taught the neighborhood kids ballet and tap, earning money that would partly fund her undergraduate degree from UCLA. Since then, she’s been hooked on the combination of dance and education – or perhaps more accurately the connection between body and mind – for the better part of forty years. Sandra has published four dance education books and is currently at work on a fifth, was the Dance Coordinator and Professor at the University of Northern Colorado where she now works as the co-coordinator for the Dance Education Masters Program, spoken internationally, sat on numerous boards including the Friends of the Carson Brierly Giffin Dance Library at the University of Denver and the Colorado Dance Education Organization (CoDEO), and earned a Fulbright Scholarship in Finland in 2001. Sandra is still going strong, finding new collaborations and opportunities to take dance education to the next level as a key factor in developing twenty-first-century skills – creative and critical thinking, collaboration, leadership – for today’s students and tomorrow’s leaders.
She credits Alma Hawkins, her mentor, for her passion and success as a dance educator, hailing Alma’s belief in creativity, improvisation and theory on stage and in the classroom. Being an educator, Sandra says, demands the juggling of performer, creator, and technical expert – a juggle she’s learned to master.
As a proponent of multiple intelligences (bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, verbal-linguistic, logical-mathmatical, naturalistic, intrapersonal, visual-spatial, musical), she tries to connect and expand learning through movement to other learning styles whenever possible. She sites the simple act of walking, for example, as an easy and effective way to unlock the unconscious and solve problems.
During her twenty-six year tenure at UNC, Sandra made key changes to the school’s position on dance, first transferring the dance department from physical education to the theatre department to emphasize the performance and artistic and not just physical aspects of dance. Secondly, she helped build a dance major for the school. Carrying five to six class course load kept her very busy and left little time for outside projects.
All that changed, however, when she accepted a buy-out package from the school in 1998. Sandra says that leaving the comfort of a secure job turned out to be an amazing opportunity instead of a potential setback. From UNC, she joined Denver Public Schools’ Arts Resource Council and worked to develop integrated arts programs that infused such disparate subjects as earth sciences, math, history, and the humanities with movement. Later on, she earned a residency at PlatteForum and worked with first, second, and third grade students who then later gave a performance. She worked with CoDEO (formerly the Colorado Dance Alliance) to develop a two-day teacher’s workshop program to train dance and non-dance teachers on dance integration in the classroom. She’s also worked at the Academy of Fine Arts Education, Littleton Public Schools, teaching everything from hip hop to Bollywood and creative movement/choreography. In 2001, she applied for a Fulbright and travelled to Finland, working with young people there for a semester.
In 2014, she worked with Karol Gates, Jane Slusarski-Harris, Danielle Heller, Judi Hofmeister and others to develop the Colorado Dance Endorsement, which designates an area of specialty training for a licensed teacher in the state. After a two year of effort, the State Board of Education adopted the endorsement in 2014. Soon after, Sandra and a former dean at UNC met to discuss the lack of dance education in Colorado schools, a conversation that would spawn the Dance Education Masters, which Sandra now co-coordinates, to increase the number of dance-trained instructors in the state. She maintains that out of all her education and teaching, the most important lesson Sandra’s learned over the years is the power of movement, which she sites as the source for a healthy life. You can bet Sandra will be moving Colorado’s dance education community forward for years to come.
Deanne Gertner: A Colorado native, Deanne Gertner is a graduate from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She works for Denver-based art consulting firm, NINE dot ARTS, where she helps companies tell their stories through art. She sits on the boards of Lighthouse Writer’s Workshop and CultureHaus, the Denver Art Museum’s young professionals’ group. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming from DailyServing and Quaint Magazine.