New CDEA President Cherie Hill Interview

March 10, 2020

We got to chat with Cherie Hill, the new President of CDEA about the new dance standards for 2020.

Congratulations on the well-deserved new appointment as the new Co-President of CDEA! What is your vision for 2020/2021? 


Thank you. I have enjoyed this last year serving as President-elect, and the opportunity to work with our President team: Kim Hoj (Co-President), Nicole Robinson (now past President), and Myshia LeBoss (President-Elect). I notice a beautiful synergy occurs when we work together, which is very special. Part of my goals for the upcoming year is to contribute to the work the board has already begun. As we think about the future of CDEA, we must implement systems that will help sustain and strengthen the organization. We want to keep CDEA running as smooth and efficient as possible as board members change, and the membership grows.  

I am also thinking about advocacy, and ways to authentically connect our organization with other alliances working on behalf of arts and education within the state. I feel now is an essential time for all arts education disciplines to unify and advocate on behalf of our students and teachers in CA. As one of the most diverse states in the country, we continue to fall behind when it comes to arts education, equity, and access. I know that our students deserve more and that we need to do better. I envision bringing all the dance sectors we serve, including early childhood, teaching artists, K12, and higher education together to advocate for legislation and policy that will benefit our students and bring inclusive and equitable dance programming.  


Beyond the conferences, what is CDEA doing to promote high-quality dance education in California? 

 In addition to holding an annual state conference, CDEA hosts “Whatever You Need Workshops,” and the CA Dances Festival. “Whatever You Need Workshops” happen throughout the year and are professional development workshops for and by CDEA members. Last year CDEA helped host five different “Whatever You Need Workshops” featuring master dance classes by phenomenal teachers at an affordable rate. The workshops also provide opportunities for CDEA members to network and dance together, building our dance education communities. Applications are open twice a year for members to propose planning or to host a workshop. 

 Professional and student dance groups can apply to participate in the CA Dances festival. The festival brings students and choreographers together to perform and share artistic work on the same stage. This year’s CA Dances included 19 different groups and over 180 dancers. To witness so many teachers, students, and choreographers sharing their work in one night is extremely rare. The festival shows off the diverse talent we have within the state and gives our students a chance to view different choreography from outside of their hometown.  

 As a board, we continue to sit on the CA Alliance for Arts Education Policy Council and work with state organizations in theater, music, and visual art to advocate for more legislation and funding that supports dance education programs.     


The new California Dance Standards were a big talking point at the CDEA conference. What is your approach to bringing the standards to life in the classroom/studio? 

I like to begin creating my dance units thinking about the dance concepts or ideas I want to explore with my students, and asking them what dance topics or movements they want to learn. I then use this information to plot out a draft of what a 10-12 week unit may look like incorporating mine and their ideas, and the developmentally appropriate goals I have for the class. After, I can take a look at the standards to see which ones we are meeting, and where there are gaps. I get excited thinking about ways we can fill the gaps by expanding our curriculum. One thing I like about the new CA Dance standards is the emphasis on students using their ideas and creative skills to make and perform a dance. As a choreographer and performer, I am interested in innovation and the forming of new dance material. The standards allow for this type of creative processing.   


If you could give Dance Educators one piece of advice in implementing these new standards, what would it be? 

Start with what you know! Dance educators do not have to throw away their knowledge to meet the standards. Begin where you are. If there are standards that you have questions about, reach out to fellow dance education organizations or dance educators. Luna Dance Institute in Berkeley hosts professional learning workshops and free consultations for dance educators throughout the year. CDEA helps bring dance educators together to talk about relevant topics through “Whatever You Need” workshops and Coffee and Conversations gatherings. You can log onto the CDEA forum to post a question or seek advice. The CA Department of Education is also hosting special webinars on implementing the standardsTap into your dance education community. 


How can Dance Educators support CDEA? 

 CDEA exists because of people just like you! We are a volunteer board that is passionate about ensuring that high-quality dance education continues and grows within our state and communities. We appreciate members supporting us through attending our events, hosting an event, reading our emails, voting, and eventually joining our board. Our next board election is February 2021, and we need representatives. Please consider volunteering to be a greater or executive board member. Also, if your site can host a conference, CA Dances, or “Whatever You Need Workshop,” get in touch with us! 


In researching your impressive background, one of your focuses is on the body as a vessel for metaphysical transcendence. Can you talk a little bit more about that and how dancers can benefit from this philosophy?  

 I firmly believe that dance enables us to connect with not only our bodies and minds but also our soul. When I’m dancing and fully present, I feel as if anything is possible. This type of presence is something I aim for my students to experience and is how I approach improvisation and choreography. Day to day life is challenging, and the different factors that we experience can lower our sense of self. Dancing, for me, is a reminder of the power I behold and the strength that I have. This power is innate and extends beyond the material world.  


Can you talk about how students from various cultural backgrounds can benefit from the new standards?  

 I am happy that the new CA Dance standards broaden the definition of what makes a cultural dance. Instead of only teaching a folk dance or dance from outside the country, the standards emphasize that students should experience different dance styles, genres, and cultures. I feel this is an important distinction that gives permission and credibility for students to experience more diversity within the dance classroom.  



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