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Teachers College, Columbia University
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TC Student Wins National Dance Association Award Fourth Straight Year

Alison Oakes is the fourth TC student in four years who has won the Graduate Student Literary Award from the National Dance Association (NDA). The award is given based on the content and quality of a literary paper submitted by the student. Oakes, whose paper was based on her master's thesis, wrote about her belief in the transformative effect of dance and the role that dance, as a creative learning experience, can play in the educational environment of the classroom.

"In school, not all abilities are tapped into," Oakes explained. "Dance can bring about more learning in a different way. Getting up out of your chair and moving cooperatively brings in a different feeling and different type of learning."As someone who studied dance since she was 4 years old, Oakes experienced her dance education and public education separately. Today, as a teaching artist with the Creative Arts Laboratory, an interdisciplinary project whose mission is to integrate arts education into the core curricula of elementary and middle schools in New York City, she works to bring the two worlds together.

As a "teaching artist," Oakes visits an assigned school once a week and works with five classroom teachers and their students to help integrate dance into the curriculum. "First we work with students and build up their skill base so they know about movement qualities and learn ideas about the body, space and time," Oakes said. "Once they have learned the basic skills, we have them create movement sequences that relate to what they are learning." The students, she said, are not taught steps, rather, they are encouraged to make up their own movements instead of being taught to do something someone else has choreographed.

In March, Oakes received the letter that announced her as the winner of the NDA award. On April 23, she attended the NDA Conference in Boston to receive it. "I was excited," she said of hearing that she won. "They gave me a free one year membership to NDA along with their publications." Her winning submission will be published in the May journal of Spotlight on Dance.

Oakes received her undergraduate degree in anthropology from Bates College in Maine. She decided to pursue graduate studies in dance because she did not want to choose a career that would mean she could no longer dance. In May, Oakes will receive her master's in Dance and Dance Education. She expects to continue working at Iona College where she currently teaches courses about integrating dance in the classroom. As Oakes explained, "I'm looking to keep doing what I'm doing."previous page