The Holistic Dance Teacher

The Holistic Dance Teacher serves the dance community by providing resources and support to elevate our teaching practices, grow and keep our creative spark, and foster a positive dance culture – all while maintaining our own health and well being!

Throughout my career, I’ve had the privilege of working with students in universities, studios, K-12 schools, and community organizations. Many came into the studio with little or no previous dance training, or the desire to go beyond an introductory experience. With these students, I found myself prioritizing individual creativity and personal expression, collaboration and community engagement, emotional well being, and a personal understanding of technique, rather than an exact recreation of movement. My goal became helping them discover the potential impact that dance can have on their lives outside of the studio.

Over time, I realized that this approach could benefit everyone in my different dance communities, from professional-level dancers to competitive students to adults returning to class or the stage after a hiatus – and even myself. By shifting the focus away from mastery of technique through repetition and imitation, we make space for dancers to find themselves as artists and individuals in ways that will have a lasting impact on their lives in and out of the studio. The Holistic Dance Teacher was born from my desire to share this approach with other teachers and choreographers, so that they could pass it’s benefits on to students and collaborators.

The Holistic Dance Teacher Approach focuses on each dancer as an individual and an important part of their dance community. Equal emphasis is put on:

  • Technique, which refers to the skills required to perform the movement of any dance genre efficiently and with the preferred aesthetic of the style. It is important to note that technique will look different for every dance genre, and within each genre, every students’ technique will and should be a little different based on how they are able to understand and embody the expectations of the form. The Holistic Dance Teacher Approach recognizes that it is our job as educators to help each dancer find their own technique within the form.
  • Artistry, which refers to the creative and performance skills that are valued within any given dance genre. How does a dancer use their technique, combined with expression and imagination, to communicate with an audience? It is important to note that each dance genre will have its own approach to artistry, valuing a different set of creative and performance skills. Within each genre, every students’ artistry will and should be different based on their own experiences, preferences, and personality. The Holistic Dance Teacher Approach recognizes that it is our job as educators to help our students find their own artistic voices within the context of the genre.
  • Overall Well Being, which refers to the students’ physical, emotional, and mental health, as well as their social development and growth. The Holistic Dance Teacher Approach prioritizes safe and developmentally-appropriate practices for teaching technique and artistry, as well as social and emotional learning as a tool for individual empowerment and community engagement. Strong social and emotional skills positively impact students both in the studio and in their everyday lives, affecting areas such as self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making. The Holistic Dance Teacher Approach recognizes that it is our job as educators to help our students grow into well-rounded individuals in and out of the studio.
Core Tenants of The Holistic Dance Teacher Approach

  1. Honoring the Individual – Dancers are encouraged to develop their own understanding and performance of technique and artistry, and are supported in their social and emotional growth in and out of the studio.
  2. Honoring Community – Dancers and teachers work together to create supportive, inclusive communities in class and rehearsal through mutual respect, empathy, and understanding.
  3. Cultivating a Positive Dance Culture – Teachers work to keep dancers safe and healthy through appropriate teaching methods and choreography, responsive class management, and making space for creative exploration, reflection and discussion.
  4. Holding Space for Our Own Well Being – Teachers recognize their own needs as dancers, artists, and individuals, and prioritize their personal movement practices, creative explorations, and self-care.

The Holistic Dance Teacher Collection
As dance teachers, we often put the needs of our students, their families, and our community ahead of our own. That’s why a key component of The Holistic Dance Teacher Approach is holding space for our own well being. The Holistic Dance Teacher Collection is a line of resources that help you easily implement The Holistic Dance Teacher Approach in your classes and creative work – without sacrificing work-life balance. The collection includes ready-to-use worksheets, templates, and guides that:

  • Allow dance teachers to easily plan and deliver transformational lessons, so that they can help their students grow in technique, artistry, and overall well being through social-emotional learning;
  • Help studio owners and program directors set policies and communicate them effectively to students and staff, so that they can foster a positive, healthy culture in their programs;
  • Inspire choreographers to engage in a richer, more meaningful creative and reflective practice, so that they can impact their dancers and communities through the art of dance.

The resources are designed from my perspective as a dancer, teacher, and choreographer in the genres of modern, ballet, improvisation, jazz, and jazz-derived forms including lyrical and contemporary. I strive to make each resource inclusive for a wide range of dance genres, with a focus on those taught as a performing art.

Other services offered through The Holistic Dance Teacher include:

  • Consultation and coaching sessions for dance teachers
  • Feedback on choreographic work and coaching for choreographers
  • Consultation for studio owners and program directors
  • Online and in-person workshops for teachers and choreographers

What People Are Saying

I was a student of Shannon’s for several years as a young dancer in elementary and middle school. There was not a dance style that Shannon did not teach me at some point. In each and every class she always made me and my classmates feel comfortable in our bodies and excited to explore the worlds of ballet, modern, improvisation, and more. Now as a 20 year old, my time with Shannon has inspired me to study dance at the University of Maryland, after seeing her MFA thesis at UMD when I was her student. Most of all, Shannon has imparted a passion for teaching dance in me that has only grown over the years.
Elta Goldstein

Shannon Dooling-Cain is a rare combination of artist and educator. As a performer her study of ballet technique is evident in her beautifully executed modern and jazz performances. As an educator Shannon has thorough working knowledge of the history of dance that makes taking her classes a richer experience. I have studied jazz, modern and improv with her over the past decade. Her choreography reaches all levels of dancer and her teaching style makes even a mature novice like me feel comfortable and excited to learn.
Darelynn Fung