Dance Teacher Awards

Dance Teacher Award Honoree Patricia Dye Is Creating Leaders in Brooklyn

Courtesy Dye

Missed the 2020 Dance Teacher Awards? Watch them on-demand here.

If you were to walk into Patricia Dye's dance class, you might notice something unusual: the high number of young men dancing.

"Where I come from, men danced. My first teachers were men," she says. "To motivate and inspire men to dance, I show them the cultural relevance of dancing."

Almost 70 percent of the student body at Science Skills Center High School for Science Technology & the Creative Arts in downtown Brooklyn is Black, and more than half is male. With a curriculum rooted in the African diaspora, Dye, born in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, gets her students excited about dance by drawing connections to their cultural heritage. "Dances from the continent and dances from the Caribbean give them meaning," she says. "I also brought in Dr. Chuck Davis. They were hypnotized!"

Extremely humble with an infectious positivity, Dye built this high school dance department from the ground up and has been changing the lives of its students for 25 years. "Without my community, I would not be the educator that I am today," she says. "That support includes my elders, mentors, school administrations, community arts organizations and my many dance students."

Dye is one of four New York City educators whose work is featured in the Emmy-nominated documentary PS Dance! (2015). She designed her student-centered mentoring model to help students develop life and leadership skills by working with one another.

The high expectations she sets for her students are very much on display in the after-school dance company, Jow-Ile-Bailar Dance Company (JIB). Modeled after her own company, Passing Ancestral Knowledge Along Theatre Dance Company (PAKA), JIB is almost exclusively run by students. JIB dancers learn valuable life skills, taking on everything from budgeting, advertising and contracts to photography, music, video, sewing and more. "Kids already have that leadership quality," she says. "You just have to cultivate it."

A circle of students hold hands and look down with their eyes closed

Jow-Ile-Bailar Dance Company (JIB)

Courtesy Dye

Inside the classroom, students become leaders through two of the key components of her pedagogical approach: collaborating on the curriculum, and mentorship between upperclassmen and underclassmen. "I teach the kids that they have options, so I ask, 'What would you like to do this year?'" she says. "When they ask, 'Can we do hip hop?' I say, 'Not a problem! Which style would you like?' Yes, they're going to learn about Ted Shawn, Martha Graham, Petipa and Tchaikovsky, but they have to learn about themselves."

Dye has a special relationship with each of her students, staying in touch with most of them long past graduation day. "I have children and grandchildren all over the place!" she says, beaming. Hanan Hameen, a student from Dye's very first year at Science Skills, is now an educator herself and affectionately refers to Dye as "mom."

"She invested in me as a person to ensure that I was aligned with the correct people and made sound decisions," Hameen says. "She's always let Hanan be Hanan while cheering me on and picking me up when I need it." Hameen remembers that when she was living in the Bronx but teaching in Brooklyn, struggling with the commute due to undiagnosed lupus, Dye opened her home to Hameen so that she could be closer to work.

After 25 years at Science Skills, Dye considers it may be time for retirement. She's currently pursuing a doctoral degree in dance education at Teachers College, Columbia University, where her focus is to codify the teaching model she uses, so that anyone can adapt it to their classrooms. "It's a full circle," she says. "You have to give back."

Missed the 2020 Dance Teacher Awards? Watch them on-demand here.

Teachers Trending
Maks and Val Chmerkovskiy. Photo courtesy Dance With Me

Listening to Maks and Val Chmerkovskiy riff together makes it crystal-clear why each has mastered the art of partnering in the ballroom—they've long been doing this dance in real life as brothers and business partners.

Along with their "Dancing with the Stars" pedigree (and a combined three mirror-ball trophies between them), Maks and Val (and their father, Sasha) also run Dance With Me, a dance company hosting six ProAm Dancesport competitions annually and running 14 brick-and-mortar studio locations across the U.S.

Last year, the pair launched an online component, Dance & Co. The online video platform offers beginner through advanced instruction in not only ballroom but an array of other styles, as well as dance fitness classes from HIIT to yoga to strength training. "DWTS" fans will recognize such familiar faces as Peta Murgatroyd, Jenna Johnson, Sharna Burgess and Emma Slater, along with Maks and Val themselves.

Keep reading... Show less
Teaching Tips
@jayplayimagery, courtesy Kerollis

In the spring of 2012, Barry Kerollis was abruptly forced into treating his career as a small business. Having just moved cross-country to join BalletX, he got injured and was soon let go.

"I'd only ever danced with big companies before," the now-freelance dance-teacher-choreographer-podcaster recalls. "That desperation factor drove me to approach freelancing with a business model and a business plan."

As Kerollis acknowledges, getting the business of you off the ground ("you" as a freelance dance educator, that is) can be filled with unexpected challenges—even for the most seasoned of gigging dancers. But becoming your own CEO can make your work–life balance more sustainable, help you make more money, keep you organized, and get potential employers to offer you more respect and improved working conditions. Here's how to get smart now about branding, finances and other crucial ways to tell the dance world that you mean business.

Keep reading... Show less
Teachers Trending
Courtesy Oleson

American dance educator Shannon Oleson was teaching recreational ballet and street-dance classes in London when the pandemic hit. As she watched many of her fellow U.S. friends pack up and return home from their international adventures, she made the difficult choice to stick with her students (as well as her own training—she was midway through her MFA at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance).

Despite shutdowns and shelter-in-place orders, she was able to maintain a teaching schedule that kept her working with her dancers through Zoom, as well as lead some private, in-home acro classes following government guidelines. But keeping rec students interested in the face of pandemic fatigue hasn't been easy.

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.