It is my goal as a dance educator to create a positive and stimulating environment for my students where creative choice, artistry and movement have value. I will serve as a guide but no one’s path is the same.

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National Education Week

This week is National Education Week and OCA (Office of Cultural Affairs Atlanta) is celebrating by highlighting some of Atlanta’s educational leaders and stars. Today we send our thanks to Tamara Irving, who teaches dance at North Atlanta High School.

” target=”_blank”>OCA Atlanta Shout Out

“Revolutionary Mama”

The definition of revolutionary is “involving or causing a complete or dramatic change”. When attached to the word mama, we can define it as a one who is dramatically changed in order to raise her child. “Revolutionary Mama” is a dance show concept that was created by my childhood friend Kikora Franklin. Kikora asked me and another dancing mom of three to collaborate with her on a piece in the show. We each thought of concepts that made us think about how we define ourselves or how we are able to survive as moms and began creating movement inspired by those word. We then used our spoken concepts as the soundtrack for our movement phrase and layered that with music from a djembe. Finally we used a poem that was written by Kikora and improvised movement to those words. This creative process took less than an hour and we produced over four minutes of choreography that was very meaningful to us. All of us are moms of three children who are dance educators and still have a desire to perform but sometimes feel guilty (and not too motivated) when we want to do so.

Instead of feeling guilty we decided to embrace our passion and work together to help Kikora start the process of creating “Revolutionary Mama”. Our first performance is this Friday and I can’t wait!

A Lion Sleeps Tonight

Last week I lost a friend named Jeremiah Tatum. I met Jeremiah when I returned to The Lion King from maternity leave several years ago and he was one of the most genuine young men I had ever met. I had never seen a more beautiful male dancer than him! One of the most fond memories of being in a Broadway show is the backstage show versus the onstage show. Jeremiah created his special backstage bunker show called “Runway in the Bunker”. This entailed him grabbing any material or props nearby, which he modeled right there in the tight bunker. The shows were quite hilarious.

So many friendships were cultivated backstage and every cast that I was a part of seemed to get in trouble with the stage managers and hushed nightly from our laughing. All this to say that even though I had not seen Jeremiah in years nor many of my other cast mates, the ‘love fest’ that was created on social media due to his loss was overwhelming. Check out a blog post, Jeremiah 1:8, written by his dear friend and mentor.

Who could have imagined that a job I had less than seven years would mean so much 14 years after I made the cut! My family grew much larger from the time I joined this show.

I wish my sweet lion Jeremiah sweet rest.

 

Remaining relevant in your calling

During the 2014-2015 school year I won ‘Teacher of the Year’!  (Teacher of the Year Article) I was ecstatic, yet having very low moments about teaching. I won this award during my fourth year of teaching and was at my wit’s end about everything. I felt my classroom management needed a renovation, I didn’t think I was making a difference at my school and I was missing dancing professionally. I really missed dancing professionally and getting that attention that comes with performance. You do not get that same feeling when teaching and I had not quite adjusted to that yet.

A little background on my journey to teaching…I left the national tour of Disney’s The Lion King after performing for almost 7 years. I had returned from maternity leave with my mother and my 9 month old daughter. I remember leaving Hawaii when my daughter was about 15 months and my husband was back in Atlanta trying to save his business. I needed and wanted to be home. I felt like I had given my all to “LK” and I wanted a change. There was no regret just a bit of sadness of leaving my friends behind.

Fast forward a year later when I returned as a master teacher to my high school alma mater and worked with the dance and theater students there. I worked in that capacity for 2 years before joining the faculty as the full-time dance teacher in 2010. Upon joining in a full-time capacity, I noticed that the classroom was not what I expected. The students were not the same ones that I worked with after school. I had 180 students who were NOT all interesting in the gift I was trying to bestow upon them. I was excited and many of them were not. I felt slowly drained day after day as I did not have as much time to perform and I was not becoming the teacher I hoped to be.

I thought I was called to teach but quickly this thought was fading away. I mean there were some students who adored me and were getting it! Others I just couldn’t reach and didn’t know how to.

boys dancing

Then in my third year of teaching, a light bulb went off. I was exactly where I was supposed to be at this time of my life, even if I didn’t think I was reaching anybody, I found out that it only takes one! Three students from our special education department joined my class Emma, Carry and Jose. This was to become one of the most memorable experience of my teaching career. Carry always wanted a solo, Jose wanted to be cool and Emma lit up on stage! But the three of them had never had a chance in a dance class because no one thought they would fit. Through their determination and my perseverance in collaborating with our special education department, they started the trend of inclusion in the dance department.

Now I am entering my 6th year of teaching and I am excited to teach all I have learned this summer in grad school yet I am nervous that many will not want to receive it. This is a battle within myself that I know I can win, I just have to remain dedicated to my calling.

 

 

Thanking my Dancestors

I cannot recall where I heard the term ‘dancestors’ but the word stuck with me and I love it. I learned from Martha Eddy that it is necessary to give thanks to those who have taught you when you are using movement they have created or that you are inspired from. Just like we cite our reference, we must also pay tribute to our dancestry by giving praise to themm even if it is just a mention of a name.

So I wish to give thanks to those who inspire me to move and to never want to give up.

Ms. Rhonda

Ms. Guest

Cubie Burke

Teri Axam

Gary Harrison

Michelle Powell

Roscoe Sales

Shen Wei

Kraig Bopi Patterson

Andrea Woods

Aubrey Lynch

Garth Fagan

Celise Hicks

Lonnie Davis

Dana Woodruff

Angela Harris

Janet Lilly

Robin Gee

Mila Parrish

Terri Winchell

Ann Law

Patricia Reedy

Martha Eddy

just to name a few….

Dancing Post Partum

Having my 3rd baby and trying to rush back to dancing was a shock to my system. I would say to any ‘dancing mama’…”Don’t rush back and don’t push yourself to be the same person you were before you left. Your priorities and drives may changed but you can still be a dedicated artist too.”

My first class back was baby wearing ballet! Check them out!

http://www.jitterbugperformingarts.com/babywearing-dance.html

I had just fed baby Kingston and was ready to break out in a sweat but I quickly discovered that he was a little heavy for my back even at 2 months old and the class did not make me sweat as I had hoped for. I was expecting full-out ballet class complete with barre and center, instead I got a fun class to connect with my baby that eased me back into dancing. I recommend baby wearing especially if you are trying to ease your way back in.

Now almost 4 months postpartum, I am back to teaching and dancing and feeling a little bit more like myself.

Check me out…

Tamara Irving choreography “Photograph” Ed Sheeran