Susan Lee on Crafting Compassionate Curricula

IMG_0449Susan Lee began her teaching career working with high school students, which led her to pursuing a PhD in developmental psychology as she sought to better understand her students’ struggles. Susan’s interest in combining dance and psychology drew the attention of Northwestern University and an offer to design its dance program. Her experience in both fields helped her relate dance to the conventions of academia and vice versa, a difficult task since “we [the dancers] had to learn to speak their language.”

At Northwestern, Susan sought to create an environment that rejected the stereotype of harsh, demanding dance teachers and instead fostered compassion and collaboration. Susan also emphasized the importance of offering many paths in dance study and work, providing resources to help compose satisfying dance-related careers beyond the stage. Outside the classroom, Susan began a tradition of conversational “coffees” at the Jazz Dance World Congress, which brought together teachers and studio owners for discussions on caring for and protecting dancers’ mental and physical health.

Susan remains an active part of the Northwestern dance department and continues to conduct creative research. After all, “once you’re a dancer, you’re a dancer for life.”

-Hélène Lupa

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