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BACKGROUND

Emily Henwood is a performer, choreographer, and educator who has been in the performing arts for 21 years. She studied at Virginia Tanner Children's Dance in Salt Lake City for the first ten years of her life, which provided her with lifelong creativity and love of dance. After dancing for four years at Tooele High School, Emily studied Dance and Education at Snow College for two years. From there, she continued her education at Southern Utah University where she graduated in Dance Education, with a teaching license and a minor in Theatre.

Theatre has been a huge aspect of her life since she performed in her first community play at the age of 5. After securing lead and ensemble roles in many community and High School theatrical productions, Emily put her talents to use in multiple college and company productions. She particularly loves the intensity and skill required in Musical Theatre, an element of performing that she is most passionate about. The combining of theatre and dance has been a lifelong interest for her, and her unique and extensive background in both have provided many teaching, performance, and choreographic opportunities.

As an artist, Emily is drawn to the combining of art forms. She loves to find new ways to tell stories and stir emotions in her audience. As a choreographer, she will always take into account the skills and ability levels of her dancers in order to create the most cohesive and effective movement for it. This philosophy of hers is one she has carried through every one of the dozens of choreography projects she has taken on.

Emily graduated from SUU in May of 2019 and was offered a position at her Alma Mater in that same month. She is now in her second year as a full time dance teacher and coach at Tooele High School, and is starting a non-profit Theatre Company in town, with the help of her husband and two old friends from High School.

Image by Rainier Ridao

MY TEACHING PHILOSOPHY

           As a teacher, I work to create competent, capable, and happy people. My main goal is to share my knowledge, my inspiration, and my love with my students. I use my experience in dance to share these things. Dance is a way to encourage connection and communication. It encourages students to create, grow, and understand themselves better. On top of that, I teach with intentionality. That is to say, I put purpose and effort into everything I do with my students. Every moment in class is an opportunity for my students to grow as learners and individuals, and I take advantage of that.

            My classroom is one of authenticity. Dance is all about truth and fearlessness, so I work with my students to create an environment of family, where everyone can be who they are without fear. I do this by showing respect to my students and calling out disrespectful acts I see in my class. One of the best ways to teach your students life skills is to embody them yourself. By recognizing the individuality and worth of each of my students, they are encouraged to do the same. I also provide opportunities for students to showcase their recognition of one another.

            I teach my students about both the value of dance as it pertains to society and how they connect with it personally. We delve into the performance aspects, health benefits, cultural influences, historical timelines, creative aspects, recreation, and meaning of dance in my classroom. I give my students the opportunities to appreciate these performing arts more intensely and understand them on a deeper level. That being said, I believe that every student should have the chance to explore the arts, and so I give these opportunities out to all students, at every level of ability. I understand there can be many different levels even within the same class. I work one on one with my students to help them progress from where they are, rather than setting impossible goals for beginners.

            Dance is a subjective and expressive art form, and though I believe my students should have personal freedom in the art, I also believe in responsibility. I give out assignments regularly relating to research, choreography, technique, and terminology. I set high expectations for my students because I know they can reach them.  Every student I encounter is a unique and intelligent individual and I will treat them as such.

            Positive reinforcement is a huge part of my classroom. Something as simple as verbally praising a student for improving their focus or technique can do wonders for the student’s self-image. I point out what my students do right and what their strengths are so they may know they are capable. One of my favorite moments of teaching is when a student finally nails a combination they’ve been struggling with. I love watching their face light up when I express my excitement and seeing them absorb the praise they have earned.

            More than anything, I show my students the value of caring; caring about their education, caring about their classmates, caring about their teacher, and caring about themselves. When a student cares about what they are doing and who they are with, they become competent, capable, and happy. I aim to show my students the amount of meaning they can bring into their lives when they decide to care. As Todd Whitaker states in his book What Great Teachers Do Differently, “Once we create an environment where it is cool to care, there are no wrong decisions.”