Aiea dance teacher shares ‘what I miss’ about students during COVID-19

Desiree Cremer reflects on Aiea High’s dance program during the coronavirus pandemic

This post was originally published under Desiree Cremer's LinkedIn profile. We are reposting it here with her permission.

I miss the sounds that ballet shoes make when students brush the vinyl dance floor or the moment they jump into the air, suspend for a moment, only to land quietly. And I miss their heartwarming smiles after performing double pirouettes for the first time.

I miss the meditation and body conditioning that comes in the beginning or sometimes at the end of class. I say to my students, take slow breaths in and out, relax and sink into the floor, connect your mind and body as the class begins the floor warm-up that progresses to series of movement exercises that will increase their range of motion. I miss their exhausted groans and sighs after a series of abdominal exercises, especially the laughter of accomplishment.

I miss when students display their musicality in executing movement phrases across the floor, even my constant encouraging statements to the students such as listen to the rhythm, hear the downbeat, enjoy the rhythm. I miss seeing the determination of students at practice, exploring the nuances that go with movement complexity.

I miss seeing my students go through the choreographic process that requires crafting, molding, and reshaping of movement phrases into a dance piece. Some students say about the process, “I am almost there,” and others say, “I got it.” I tell my students to explore the movement elements of space, weight, time, and shape, and with practice, they will find their own movement voice.

I miss seeing my students dance. The last school days before the COVID-19 shut down, my students performed their individual site-specific choreography. Each student selected a site in the dance studio to perform their piece. The sites they used were doorways, walls, piano, chair, and a stool. After their performances, students shared the personal meaning behind their choreography, meaning that reflects their diverse movement voices.

I miss the creative moving bodies in the dance studio. For the studio symbolizes more than just a space, it is a safe place for students to create, innovate, and make mistakes. I miss my students at Aiea High School.

Desiree Cremer teaches ballet, modern dance, choreography, and social studies at Aiea High School. She founded the Aiea High Dance Program in 2005 to offer students access and equity to the performing arts for academic credit, and started the Aiea Repertory Dance Company in 2010 to offer opportunities for students to perform. The company presents annual productions in December and May. Cremer holds a doctorate in education from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, a Master of Arts in dance education from New York University, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in dance from UH Manoa. She is originally from Cape Town, South Africa, and currently lives in Kaneohe.

Photo of Aiea Repertory Dance Company courtesy Tanner Teruya. Photo of Desiree Cremer courtesy Julia Thurston.