“The arts have opened doors to amazing experiences and have been an intricate part of my well-being,” says Shirel. “I want dance to open doors for each of my students as it has for me.”
The creator of Lil Dumplins, a program that explores the arts through play, Shirel teaches children ages one through seven. A dance artist since the age of eight, she stumbled upon a special talent and affection for teaching children after the birth of her daughter. “Dance deeply impacted my life early on,” she says. “It became a source of self-expression and solace unlike any other. And teaching became a way for me to tap into that connection to show children all the wonderful things that dance brings to life.”
“I believe that young children gain a love and deeper understanding for the art of dance if they are having fun and completely release themselves into the content. Through play, children enter a world where they feel safe and uninhibited. They express themselves in ways they would not otherwise in a more structured environment.”
How do you foster youth leadership?
“There is a lot of improvisation throughout the class. I believe this lays the groundwork for leadership skills, such as planning and delegating, in a way that requires confidence and creativity.”
How have you evolved as a teacher?
“By first recognizing, then accepting, how important adapting is, as well as the ability to be completely present. I have also incorporated other art forms into my classes. By combining voice, visual art, and theater into a ‘dance class,’ I have been able to connect with my students in ways I could not have predicted. I feel more in touch with myself and able to teach from a place that feels extremely authentic.”
What is an example of a good day?
“When all of the prepared materials and plans are completely transformed because the children feel free enough to take the initiative and create their own experiences. These are the best moments for me as a teaching artist because I get to see the magic of creativity and love of learning in real time. When this occurs, my work unfolds in ways I would not have been able to find myself. It is a huge learning opportunity, and a reminder to stay flexible and open even when I think I have the lesson-to-end-all-lessons prepared.”