Typhani Harris | April 2014

The Dance Credential: Where is it?

Visual Art and Music both have specialized credentials with specialized training programs…but Dance and Theatre do not.  This begs the question, are we valued in the world of education?  If you think about it, we are one of the oldest forms of communication,  yet we are not considered worthy of a specialized dance credential.  Presently, California, and many other states, categorize dance as physical education.  While I appreciate the gesture acknowledging that it does take kinesthetic integrity in order to be a dancer, the realm of physical education places the importance of dance on the physicality, not the creativity.  Is that where we want to be?

Before the Ryan Act of 1970, California had a dance credential.  However, the decline of performing arts patrons resulted in a decrease in arts exposure in schools  (Ng, No Dancer Left Behind ).   Here we are over 4 decades later, and still no dance credential.  Ironically, the 21st century skills request innovation and creativity…but how is that even possible with the removal of the arts in schools?

So where are we now?  The reinstatement of the dance and theater credentials have been a hot topic for California.  Assembly Bill AB 2254 has been introduced in the interest of enacting legislature to authorize the development of two additional single subject credentials, one in dance and one in theatre.  This is good news for California!  However, there is still much to do.

Shana Habel, Past President of CDEA (California Dance Education Association) and advocacy leader has presented the following:

The California Teacher’s Association (CTA) has long been opposed to the implementation of single subject credentials in dance and theatre. In December of 2012, CTA presented a formal letter of opposition to the implementation of the dance credential at a hearing of the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) in Sacramento. Several individuals representing both the dance and theatre education communities were present at this hearing to speak in support of the dance credential.

In contrast, the California Federation of Teachers (CFT) gave their support to a resolution submitted by Los Angles area union members calling for legislation to implement the two single subject credentials. The issue was brought to Assemblyman Calderon from CFT, and on February 21, 2014 he introduced AB 2254, a bill calling for the authorization of “two additional single subject teaching dance credential, one in dance and one in theatre, with grandfathering provisions.” Currently, AB 2254 is a “spot bill,” or place holder, and will require amendments before it is heard by a committee. While its content is in the process of being drafted, the bill as introduced reads as follows:


SECTION 1.  It is the intent of the Legislature to enact legislation that would authorize two additional single subject teaching credentials, one in dance and one in theatre, with grandfathering provisions.
The CREATE CA working group on credential issues is working closely with all involved to ensure that our voices are heard as the content of the bill is crafted. The progress of AB 2254 can be followed by going to http://legiscan.com/CA/bill/ AB2254/2013.

Let’s take a gander at what the lack of credentialing in dance is ultimately costing us:

Currently, California educators must acquire a Physical Education and dance credential in order to teach dance.  Does this mean a pick and roll is in the same vernacular as a piquè and pirouettè??
For the PE credential, dance educators are answering questions like:

All of the following are characteristics of a correct mature form for striking a ball with a racquet EXCEPT
(A)            taking a forward step with the foot opposite to the striking arm
(B)            coiling and rotating the body forward as the racquet is swung
(C)            putting weight on the back foot and then shifting to the front foot as the racquet is swung
(D)            stopping the racquet at the point of contact with the ball

When dribbling a soccer ball in a restricted space, the player should attempt to do all of the following EXCEPT
(A)            keep the ball close to the feet
(B)            stay in a slightly crouched position
(C)            use body feints and changes of speed
(D)            use only the dominant foot for better control

At what point will we be striking a ball with a racquet or dribbling a soccer ball, unless of course they are merely props in a performance?  Where is the artistic perception, creative expression, aesthetic valuing, or historical and cultural context of dance included?

It’s nice they offer the following question:

In which of the following locomotor skills does each foot have two tasks to complete before the weight is transferred to the other foot?
(A) Galloping (B) Running (C) Walking (D) Skipping

But there is so much more to creative movement.

This physical education mentality has fueled the competitive nature of dance.  If we look at the majority of our secondary dance education programs, in California…there is very little actual dance education occuring.  Our dance programs are no different than our football or basketball programs.  Practicing day in and day out on plays or steps in order to win a game or competition.  Where is the true revealing of oneself, the creative expression of our soul being placed on a stage, or the aesthetic value of criterion based artistic critique?

Unfortunately, California dance educators may be the worst proponents of comprehensive dance education, trust me I know, I have been there.   We claim to be the “Arts and Entertainment capital of the World” as depicted on a large mural when you enter LAX.  But who are we really?  We are soloists, we are individualists, and this is perpetuated by the marginalization of our subject within the schools.  Yes, we are artists, however, in the world of education we must be more.  We, as educators, must value the education more than we value the trophy.  Additionally, we must remove ourselves from the studio environment that we were raised in.  Academic dance is different than competitive or entertainment dance.

Although all are very valuable skills to obtain, in order to even be considered for a dance credential we must be the ones to change the perspective of dance.  Media is certainly not on our side, with shows like Dance Moms or So You Think You Can Dance where the focus is on performance and winning.  Even our collegiate institutions remain worshipers of the performance gods, but in traditional K-12 education we have to be more.   If we want the credential, we have to be the credential!


Next Week: Common Core; it’s a verb not a noun
Over the past few months I, as most of us, have been hard-core common core!  But what does that mean?  I have over heard many educators placing Common Core as a noun, the thing of “person, place or thing”.  But it isn’t.  It’s a method, it’s a practice, it’s a verb!   “Standard” is the noun,  Common Core is the verb!

About the Author

Dr. Typhani Harris, author of Putting the Performance in Performance Task and Stop Teaching, brings over 2 decades of educational experience to The Institute. Originally a high school English Language Arts teacher, Dr. Harris transitioned into a dance educator who cultivated an award-winning collegiate style dance education program at a public school in California. Prior to joining the Institute, she was an educational leader and instructional coach specializing in preparing new teachers in secondary urban schools.  As the Executive Director of Academic Affairs, Dr. Harris maintains courses, conferences, and the accredited certification program at The Institute.