I was eager to talk to Teaching Artist Mica Miro after observing and being absolutely inspired by her dance class at the Hamilton Family Center. That day, she had students expressing power verbs with their bodies and dancing at different heights. My favorite part of class was when students dance-acted episodes from a book which featured a friendly robot.
Tracy Wu: Can you tell me about a recent moment when one of your students surprised you in one of your classes?
Mica Miro: I was doing a class about emotions, and I had a young boy taking the class. On the last day, I let the kids take turns putting on a mask, then performing a dance on a certain emotion. The audience had to guess the emotion. Performers couldn’t use facial expressions so they had to show it in their body. I had about four or five kids in class that day and the older kids went first. It was really hard for them.
But then this little boy came up, and he nailed it. His emotion was ‘sleepy.’ He crept around, melted to the floor, and then he got up and did it again. I find that completely amazing because a lot of times kids will just lie on the floor. But he kept getting up and doing more, and he just completely embodied it in his body. He was the youngest kid in the class, probably four.
TW: How did arts education help you become the person you are today? Were you involved in arts education in elementary school?
MM: I was hugely involved in arts education because my mom was a drama teacher and directed high school plays. I was around theatre my entire life and I’ve always been in a dance class. Dance was a huge part of my childhood and it was definitely something I loved most. From the time I was a little girl, I went to dance class at least once or twice a week throughout elementary school. It really gave me self-confidence, body confidence, and a feeling that I was alive.
TW: How can you tell that what you are doing is making a difference in the lives of your students?
MM: Here at the Hamilton Family Center I feel like this class has a lot of challenges because of the nature of the setting. But I’ve actually gotten a lot of cues that there seems to be social emotional development happening from taking dance class.
I do a lot of games where a student can pick a card. All of the students want a turn to pick a card, which totally makes sense. A little girl got really upset because she hadn’t gotten a turn that day. We talked after class and I said to her, “Sometimes in dance class you get a turn and sometimes you don’t. But you can always have fun. You get to choose whether you have fun.”
She was still pretty upset when she left. But in the next class, she came up to me and said, “I remember! Sometimes you can have a turn, and sometimes you can’t!” At the end of class she came up to me again and said, “I got a turn today. But sometimes you don’t get a turn and that’s okay.”
I feel like this kind of thing has happened here more than at any other sites. Maybe because there’s not as many kids and I’ve had more time to talk to each of them.
“It really gave me self-confidence, body confidence, and a feeling that I was alive.”
TW: How do you define success for yourself as a teaching artist?
MM: I think that personally, this class felt very successful. There’s a lot of energy and a lot of different kinds of creative movement happening. On the other a hand, a class can be less successful when kids are simply copying their classmates’ movements.
TW: So you see success as independence, self-expression, creativity?
MM: Yeah and the engagement level of the kids is important too. If the kids seem excited by the music, the challenge, or the game—and are just going for it—then the class is successful.
TW: What kind of support do you receive from the Workshop as a teaching artist?
MM: The Workshop has been really good for me as a teacher because I’ve learned to focus my lesson plans and create more specific learning objectives. It’s also helped me to get the kids to think critically about their artistic choices and to learn from their classmates.
We do a lot of professional development through the monthly cohort meetings and once a year we have training days. I also learned a lot through an eight-week internship at the start of my teaching with the Workshop. In addition to understanding the Workshop’s core values, I learned how to craft my class so that it is the kind of class I want to teach and that fulfills these higher and more in-depth goals that the Workshop sets.
Mica Miro earned her B.A. in Modern Dance from Mills College and has since had the pleasure of dancing with many local companies, including Scott Wells & Company, Kelly Kemp & Company, Leyya Tawil's Dance Elixer, ArtFace, and Abigail Hosein's ahdanco. She has also co-produced and choreographed several shows with her fellow alumna under Barely Complete Productions. As a child, dance was Mica's first love. Now she loves sharing the thrill and joy of dance with the next generation.