Melissa Van Wijk
“I had the honor of working with Melissa in the South Bronx. Her love of teaching dance knows no boundaries or limitations. She is patient and teaches a caring and understanding to the children. I truly appreciate her emphasis on not only the end product but the PROCESS that the students go through as she is teaching and they are learning.” - Heidi Bound, Special Ed Educator
She teaches dance as a field, not just a technique, emphasizing choreographic process. The overriding goal is to break down dance concepts such as time, space, and dynamics as well as technical elements. Students then use these concepts in creating their own movement and dances. This is to accomplish a sense of ownership over dance and movement concepts, which through their application lead to individual expression and performance.
Space and Technical Needs
- Empty room. Preferably not a class room, where furniture is moved aside. Gym rooms are fine
- Mirrored walls, if possible
- Bulletin board or dry erase board. If something is available where material can remain posted from class to class, even better (particularly if the dance classes take place in the class room)
- Boom box
- Piles of paper, markers, poster board etc, and the opportunity to make copies
Activities to Prepare Your Students
- Read and talk about the lesson’s theme to get the students thinking and engaged about the themes
- Have a discussion on what they think dance is, and what it is not. Write down their thoughts (this can be compared to a similar discussion after the unit is over)
- Watch a dance video of a performance, and talk about what they see. What do they hope to learn?
- Make collages of different kinds of dance from all over the world. And/or watch videos of dances from different cultures
- Read stories to your students and act them out
- Have your students participate in physical exercises and warm-ups
- Play music for the class and have the students dance
- Have the students practice moving vs. freezing (you can play freeze dance!)
Useful Vocabulary and Terms to Share
- Choreographic process: The process of creating new original movement and dance
- Body: The movement concepts that have to do with the body, such as isolating body parts, moving body parts sequentially or simultaneously, body parts, where a movement is initiated etc.
- Effort: The different ways in which movement is performed, for example fast, slow, smooth, abrupt, sharp etc.
- Space: The way in which you organize space by using formations (circle, line etc), ways to travel, level , pathways etc.
- Relationship: various was of dancers to dance together (duet, unison, partnering etc.)
- 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th positions: Positions of the feet in ballet, modern and jazz dance; the positions taught will depend on the age of the students and their previous dance experience
- Plie: To bend. This usually refers to the knees
- Tendue: To extend, this refers to a movement where the foot slides over the Floor away from the person, and then back to feet-together
(1st, 2nd and 3rd positions, plie and tendue, will be taught to almost any age, save kindergarten. Older children will be exposed to more basic dance terms that are used in Classical Ballet, Jazz Dance and Modern Dance alike).
Melissa van Wijk was born and raised in The Netherlands, where she started dancing at a young age and attended a dance conservatory. Since moving to New York ten years ago, she has acquired an M.A. in Dance Education from New York University, as well as a B.A. in dance and a B.F.A. in Theatre Arts from Hofstra University. She founded the not-for-profit dance organization Via Dance Corporation, and has produced evening length dance performances throughout New York with her dance company NOW Dance. Melissa has also worked in production, stage managing shows as well as managing Robin Becker Dance. As a teacher she has worked at New York City Ballet, the Children’s Aid Society, Dance in Education, York Avenue Pre-School, as well as abroad through World Servants as a volunteer. Melissa has a particular interest in working with children with special needs, particularly the deaf.
Melissa teaches dance to all ages and has a particular interest in working with special needs populations. She teaches Ballet, Jazz Dance, Modern Dance and can create curriculum to a school’s or populations’ needs to include historic and cultural context. Her work is thematically organized and often times a residency with conclude with in (informal) showing of student-created work.
She has recently founded Signing Up, LLC, a business dedicated to teaching (hearing) families how to use American Sign Language with infants so babies may communicate through signs before they can speak.