Faculty Features: Youth Classes with Hayley Cutler

(Photo Credit: Travis Curry)

Hayley Cutler is a critically acclaimed choreographer based in Washington, DC. She holds a BA in Postmodern Dance from the George Washington University, where she studied under Maida Withers, Dana Tai Soon Burgess, Juliette Mapp and Jen Clark Stone. In 2009, she received her postgraduate degree in Dance Studies from the Laban Conservatoire in London, England. Cutler founded darlingdance company in 2010, was a selected Artistic Blind Date artist for the Source Festival’s 2012 season, and was named a finalist in the Emerging Choreographer category for the 2011 MetroDC Dance Awards. Cutler has been an Artist in Residence at the Northfield Mount Hermon School, and has taught in DC at Ballet Teatro Internacional and Sitar Arts Center. She currently teaches youth classes at Joy of Motion Dance Center.

What is your teaching philosophy and/or teaching style?

I’d like to think that I’m the right mix of discipline and fun, but I know that really I am still trying to find that balance. As a young teacher, I think I have a long way to go before I can really define my teaching philosophy. Over the past few years I’ve learned so much, and I continue to hone my skills and take notes on my successes and missteps with every new class I teach. What I can say about my style is that I try to be fluid with my students – the most important thing is not to strictly follow the syllabus I’ve prepared, but to really look at the needs of the class as it is unfolding, and be flexible enough to accommodate the atmosphere and energy of that day. At the end of the day, the most important thing for me when I teach young students is to instill in them the discipline and flow of a dance class, and sort of mask that discipline with fun so that they always have positive associations with dance.

What is your favorite part about teaching class?

My favorite part about teaching, especially when I’m teaching youth classes, is that moment when my students grasp something new and I can see that they’ve really internalized that new concept and are excited about it. With the little ones, you can almost see the light bulb go off. It’s always a really exciting moment. In one of my Toddlers in Motion classes last week, we had a collective “Eureka!” moment, and you could just feel how energized we all (the kids, the parents, and I) were that we had experienced this little breakthrough. Another favorite part – this one more selfish – is the look on my students’ faces when they are back in the studio after a week away. Nothing melts my heart more than hearing an excited “Miss Hayley!” from a student who can’t wait to show me what she’s been practicing at home.

What do you hope your students will take away from your class?

From a professional viewpoint, I obviously hope for the usual – that my students will come away from class with an awareness of their bodies in space, a sense of time, and, of course, proper alignment and a solid turn-out. But really, on a personal level, as someone for whom dance has been the single most beloved and driving force in my life since I can remember, there is nothing more important to me than instilling in my students the same passion and love for dance that was instilled in me when I was that age. If even one of my students ends up a lifer like me and my dance-making peers, I’ll consider that a win!