Jubilation Foundation Teaching Artist Fellow Celeta Hickman

Celeta Hickman

Pittsburgh PA
Fellowship: 2019

“Dancing collectively promotes social cohesion, well-being, and community renewal beyond the moment of expression.” 

Celeta is on the national teaching artist roster for Wolf Trap, focusing on creative movement, early childhood development, and arts integration. “For early childhood learning,” she says, “Wolf Trap is glitter dust and unicorns. They taught me to be humble, ‘you’re serving young children now. Go in with humility – you don’t know what type of school or environment you’re walking into.'”

Celeta is also the artistic director of a series of short films featuring her dense beadwork, choreography, and historical analysis of the Africana woman’s leadership aesthetic. She was a principal dancer for Nego Gato Capoeria de Angola of Bahia Brazil, Shades of Black Movement, and the Legacy Arts Project.  

What led you to be a teaching artist?
When I was in elementary school, professional dancers from an Afro-Modern troupe came and offered a free program for three years, four days a week! It made such an impact that I danced professionally and in community companies until I retired. I also remembered the historical connections, confidence, and social skills I learned from them, and wanted to offer the same experience to my students. I often find myself in economically-challenged communities that are rich in talent and drive. Seeing children interpret a song, poem, or picture book through dance brings light and freedom into spaces that can be quite stuffy or even violent.

Teaching philosophy:
I focus on group dancing to bring light and joy to everyone. I like to see some technique, I like to see some focus, but above all I like to see interest expressed through interpretation! Dancing collectively teaches cooperation and skill sharing. We can tackle math, difficult issues, and complex historical epics through dance.

I use the Lincoln Center model of aesthetic education to enter works of art. We do art making, unpacking of an age-appropriate book title, and observation to provoke questions about why we are dancing what we are dancing. Do our movements look thrilling, sad, heavy, or uplifting? How can we interpret a character, theme, or setting? We write student insights on chart paper and post them around the room as a reminder of the value of their voices. 

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