New York NY
“Having fun and connecting with each other are priorities.”
Irene has been a teaching artist for more than 20 years. Born and raised in Austria, she moved to New York City to follow her dream to become a tap dancer. Soon after, she founded Feraba-African Rhythm Tap Company, fusing tap with West African music and dance. In 2016, she created and instructed the show for Tap, Crackle and POP.
What led you to be a teaching artist?
When I moved to NY in the 90’s I worked as a performing artist in public schools. After experiencing the joy and fun the kids had at these programs, I became very interested in sharing the world of dance and music with them. Becoming a teaching artist had a big impact on my artistic life. I became a better performer, and was able to connect with audiences in a deeper way. I could read the audience and understand how to bring them with me on my journey through music and dance.
I try to create a safe space that includes expression, exploration, and connection with oneself and with the group. Very often students don’t realize they are learning new skills because we have so much fun “playing.” I use many different games, like follow the leader, call and response, mirroring.
I look at the child and figure out what the child wants to do. If someone can’t sit still, go move! Then come back to the drum. What do they need in the moment? The shy kids can run across the floor, and have fun doing it, not have to worry about specific choreography. Everyone is engaged, we are listening to each other. When we’re all together, it’s magic.
Learning goes both ways, in all aspects of life. You learn and are inspired, and create something new on the spot. The gift of trying new things. It makes you grow.