Saturday, October 30, 2010

Misty Copeland: an unlikely ballerina

This story reminds me of when I first started teaching in Newark. For our first production of The Nutcracker, I invited one of my former students from New York to play the Sugar Plum Fairy. When I told the cast about our guest dancers, one of my students replied, "Oh she must be white." When my former student, Jennifer, the Sugar Plum Fairy arrived that evening, my current student, Dajaita, who made the comment about Jennifer burst into tears. You see, Jennifer, was a dark skinned Dominican. Yes she was the same skin color as Dajaita. Through her tears, Dajaita blurted out - "OMG, she's beautiful and she looks like me!" Jennifer danced on pointe that evening and forever changed Dajaita's life.

Our students need more role models like Misty Copeland and Jennifer. Anything is possible if you just believe.

Misty Copeland: an unlikely ballerina, posted with vodpod

Saturday, October 16, 2010


DANCING MY PRAYERS with PraiseMoves! Its the perfect fit. Over a month ago I became a (CPI) certified PraiseMoves Instructor. PraiseMoves is the Christian Alternative to Yoga. I'll admit when I first started looking into getting certified I wasn't sure if this program was going to give me the results I used to get with yoga. Although I loved the yoga class I used to take, when we got to the chanting part I felt very uncomfortable. I used to say the Lords prayer or 23rd Psalm to myself but still something just didn't feel right. I began researching Christian yoga but still wasn't sold until I saw a post on Facebook one day about PraiseMoves. My life has been forever changed. I ordered the DVDs and began working out.

Dancing My Prayers with PraiseMoves has taken my morning devotional time to a whole new level. Not only are the postures physically challenging but the scripture references help me to memorize scripture and do bible study. My devotion time with God is even more intimate now. I've incorporated PraiseMoves into my daily prayers as a way to stay fit physically and spiritually. I now teach a class at my church and am loving every minute of it. It is amazing how I can read scripture over and over again to try and memorize it but as soon as I do it I remember. I will always glorify God in my body! I Corinthians 6:20

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Dance Day

National Dance Day - July 31, 2010 is an opportunity for all of us to celebrate. I'm excited about this dance day. Although dance educators have been celebrating National Dance Day for years - the world is now taking notice of the power of dance thanks to the hit show SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE. I credit this hit show for helping my students be able to take constructive criticism. During one class, as I was critiquing a group of students on their choreography, one students replied "Oh this is like being on SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE, so we have to listen to you so we can get better."

I dance because dance is my chosen weapon of warfare. When I am dancing I am experiencing my authentic self. I am one with God and I feel an intimacy with the Holy Spirit. Whether you dance to exercise, release stress, communicate, perform or worship - lets learn this dance and on July 31st we're gonna show the world - I DANCE BECAUSE...

Why do you dance?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Friends of Salsa

Who invented Salsa - Cubans or Puerto Ricans? Whoever invented it, whoever created it, we cannot ignore the fact that the rhythm, the beats come from Africa. We are all connected through this fiery Latin dance. So closely related to Mambo and Cha-Cha, some say it is the same dance. Latin communities throughout the United States and Latin America are responsible for shaping most of the steps we see today.

I loved dancing salsa so I decided to have a salsa party to celebrate my birthday and the launch of the I DANCE BECAUSE scholarship fund. Many of my friends came, learned basic salsa choreography and donated to the scholarship fund.

We were all blown away when the FRIENDS OF SALSA stepped on the floor. The Friends of Salsa are a group of dancers from Newark, all over the age of 60, (except for one) who dance smooth, old school salsa. I was mesmerized just watching these seasoned dancers spin, turn and shimmy with each other. I was amazed when the male dancers started dancing with 2 & 3 females to make up for the shortage of men.

It was a great night. We've decided to make it an annual event so if you missed it, catch us next year. Most of all consider donating to the I DANCE BECAUSE scholarship fund. Help send an inner city child to a dance school. Dance has changed many lives. Lets keep it going. What has dance done for you? Consider the gift of dance and how important it has been in your life.

Saturday, May 8, 2010


HAPPY MOTHERS DAY & Happy Birthday to ME! This year as I celebrate Mother's Day and my birthday, both on the same day I am so grateful to have my mom living with me.

I remember when I first started taking ballet at the age of 6 - I HATED IT!. My dance teacher was strict and I just wanted to have fun. I begged my mom to take me out of class but she wouldn't. I had asked to take ballet and she wasn't going to let me just stop because I didn't like it. I am so, so, so grateful today my mom did not take me out of that class. It taught me so much much than ballet. It taught me about commitment. You see even at 6 years old when I just wanted to play and have fun I had to learn that when you ask for something and then you get it - you don't just throw it back at the first sign of discomfort or dislike. Some things you have to see through for the gratification. I also learned to plan ahead and shift rather than just give up. You see, for 2 years as I begged not to take ballet, my mom asked me what I wanted to take instead and I replied "I don't know". I learned very quickly that was not an acceptable response in my house. Finally after 2 years, I got it!. I asked if I could take tap dance instead of ballet because it was fun. See, I had a plan and a reason. My mom obliged and thus my love affair with dance began. I eventually went back to taking ballet and eventually into modern, jazz and African. After a few years, I was hooked and knew this is what I was supposed to do with my life.

I can't imagine what my life would be like had I never been introduced to dance. So on this mother's day - I thank my mom for making me stick with it even when I didn't want to. I dance because God called me to dance and my mom wouldn't let me say no.

Friday, April 16, 2010

My class just won’t dance

As I approach the last cycle in the semester, most of my classes are preparing for their final presentation. My kindergarten students are dancing to SINGING IN THE RAIN. My 1st graders are dancing to FIREFLIES. We talked about how exciting it is to watch fireflies at night and then try to catch them. My 6th graders are doing a DANCE OF THE DECADE project. In groups they will research a specific decade and report on the music, major news headlines, famous personalities, fashion and create a dance which represents that decade. In my school it has become tradition that the 8th graders learn ballroom dance. Their final project involves them presenting at least one ballroom dance to an audience. So far collectively they have explored Swing, The Waltz and Salsa. Although the classes are challenging (which is an understatement) and I am drained at the end of each class, the majority of my students are engaged and learning – except for that one class that just won't dance!

I have one 8th grade class that just won't dance. It's not all the students but it is more than 50% of the class. Most of the students are very immature. They argue with each other and constantly call each other names. After 2 disruptive sessions in the dance studio I've resorted to teaching them in their classroom. It is so frustrating to teach this class. The few students that do want to dance are discouraged because they are being punished for others apathy. I don't know if a math teacher or language arts teacher has to face the same level of disregard for their subject matter but I feel offended when a student continually says "I don't dance, its not my thing." When I was in grade school I didn't want to do math but it wasn't an option. I didn't want to fail so I did my work. These students seem not to be concerned with failing a dance class or with me having a conversation with their parents. Administration says just fail them if they don't do the work but something inside me says there has got to be a way to reach these students.

We've started watching parts of TAKE THE LEAD, the story of the Ballroom dance teacher, Pierre Dulaine who went into a New York City school to teach Ballroom dance. Each class the students answer questions about the scene they saw. We don't watch the movie in its entirety because it is rated PG13 and there is much foul language. We've actually had some brief interesting conversations about Pierre's rationale for wanting to teach Ballroom to these students. They all agreed the dance classes could have a positive effect on the students. So why don't they believe it for themselves. Its only April and we've just started this discussion. I don't want to resort to just giving them busy work because then I fell like I've failed. My hope is that by June I will have convinced the reluctant, unwilling students to give dance a try. If not dance, at least be willing, respectful audience members as other students learn to TAKE THE LEAD.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Dancing My Prayers

Do you want to catapult your devotional life to a new level? Do you desire to worship in a more intimate way? Do you love to dance? If you answered, "yes' to any of these questions, then my latest book "Dancing My Prayers" is for you. Whether you are a novice dancer with no experience, an amateur who thinks they can dance; a liturgical dancer or a professional diva dancer – this book will guide you through a journey to meeting God on your dance floor. I'm grateful to all who have called, texted, emailed and contacted me via Facebook about how they have been blessed by the book. Below are just a few comments I've received.

"Dancing my Prayers" by, Susan Gaddy Pope is the ultimate prayer book for dancers and non-dancers alike...It teaches you how to dance your prayers in confidence and get RESULTS! Thank you Mrs. Pope for the blessing.Chapters 4, 5, and 6 were especially helpful for me!!! FACE BOOK FAMILY - buy it, you will be blessed tremendously." LaVerne Duncan

"This book is an answer to my prayer. I have desired to develop a greater prayer language. I started today and I experienced God in a new way. He honored my intentionality to reach Him, please Him, woo Him, love Him, praise Him, and trust Him with my embodied communication to Him. It made me stop to think about what I was saying to Him. He flowed out of me giving me movement. Aaaah and my name, Simone, means "God has heard". I have such joy today!!! Thank God, thank you and thank Susan." Simone Baitey

To quote from a book my friend Don Bell gave me: "Dance prayers are embodied representations of our conversations with God. When we dance our prayers, we give life to our petitions and thanksgivings... Dance is my chosen weapon of warfare..." Christine Miller

Everyone has a story to tell. This book is my story of how God has transformed my life through dance. As you can tell from other post, I see the world through a dancer's eyes. Life is just more interesting that way! Every dance God has ever choreographed through me is a result of a conversation we've had. I so enjoy my prayer time with God as He continues to write the story of my life. What's your story?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

A B C…Dance

"There's a reward in dancing that's indescribable…the mental and physical coming together. And when everything is right…there's no other feeling like it and you remember that and you'll do almost anything to feel that again." Robert Weiss

The upcoming "Educating the Creative Mind" Conference at Kean University, March 4-6, 2010 will heighten the public awareness of the significance of the arts in children's lives and education. During this conference, in my workshop ABC…Dance, I will have the opportunity to share with educators from all over the world how dance education can motivate learning in the regular classroom.

I believe educating a child through dance education not only fosters creativity, it awakens them from the inside out. It stirs up creative juices that have somehow dried up in the regular classroom. Teaching children to be creative thinkers requires teaching the whole child. In order to teach children, you must find a way to reach them. Dance is an excellent way to do this as long as it is done with a purpose in mind.

The creative arts are a child's first language. Children use dance, music, and art, to express thoughts, ideas and feelings. When working with young children and the arts, the end product is not as important as the journey it takes to get there. In early childhood education, most students excel through kinesthetic experiences. Many children enter kindergarten as kinesthetic and tactile learners. They want to touch everything. So how do we teach basic letter recognition, spelling, and phonics to early elementary school children? The way I taught my son in 2nd grade when he was diagnosed with dyslexia – we DANCE! We offer the student the opportunity to experience the lesson using their body. Letters, words and stories come to life and thus can be recalled and retold. Letters become more than lines and circles. They take on a whole new meaning as they are embodied and connected to actual words.

During the conference we'll get to hear from Howard Gardner, internationally renowned Professor of Cognition and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Saturday the children get to participate in the Children's Creative Arts Day. This promises to be a great conference for educators and parents.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

I Gotta Feeling

Last week, over 100 students at Dr. E. Alma Flagg School performed a choreographed dance to the Black eyed Peas "I Gotta Feeling" for our Dr. Martin Luther King birthday celebration. The choreography was similar to the flash mob dance used for The Oprah Show's 24th season kickoff party. I wanted to create an all inclusive atmosphere for the students to demonstrate the concepts and ideals Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. believed in. The objective goals of the lesson for the choreography were for the students to be able to:

  • Demonstrate respect for themselves and others
  • Respect space
  • Dance in unison
  • Show high levels of energy
  • Follow the leader

The experience was magical for the students and the audience. I even saw a few parents and teachers join the students on certain parts of the choreography. I used one student as the leader of the group whom they all had to take their cues from. Students were picked for the choreography not just based on their memorization and performance of the choreography but on their ability to demonstrate respect for their classmates. Students, who either; teased other students, spoke negatively, demonstrated apathy or were just plain disrespectful in class were not invited to be a part of this choreography. After we learned the dance I asked the students why they thought we were doing a dance titled "I Gotta Feeling" for a MLK birthday celebration. Some of the student's responses were:

  • "I've got a feeling is another way to say I Have a Dream"
  • "I've got a feeling that things are going to be better."
  • "MLK believed in blacks and whites living together. In this dance we have to get along because it is so many of us."
  • "When we all fell to the floor and got back up it was as it were dead and then got energized again from each other."
  • "My favorite part of the dance was the wave because it felt like we were passing the energy."

I am extremely proud of all the students who performed. I feel like they all stepped up a notch and decided to not just dance but dance with a purpose. I'm especially proud of the way they complemented each other after the performance and gave each other positive constructive criticism. I believe this is an experience they will not forget – I know I won't! I dance because I'm part of something big and I choose today to dance and live more abundantly.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Remembering the Dream

January 15, 1981; I was blessed to be a part of the rally to make Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.s birthday a holiday. It was freezing outside but I didn't care. As a student at the University of Maryland, College Park; a predominantly white campus, I felt a strong responsibility to do my part. I was so excited to be a part of something so big. At the time, I don't think any of us had any idea the impact of what we were doing that day. Of course we had no idea that 28 years later we would witness the inauguration of our first African American president.

Last week, Rev. Dr. Joseph E. Lowery spoke at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration at NJPAC. I was so honored to be in the presence of such wisdom. He charged everyone to do their part. He encouraged us all to be the best at what we do. "If you are a street sweeper, be the best street sweeper you can be." I'm encouraged today to just be better, to follow through and not forget that cold day, January 15, 1981. I'm encouraged to keep teaching, writing and dancing, even when I don't feel like it. I'm inspired by Arthur Mitchell who after hearing of the assassination of Dr. King, decided to start the Dance Theatre of Harlem to dispel the myth that African Americans can't dance classical ballet.

Now more than ever it is time to live the dream. What has Dr. King's dream inspired you to do? What is it you are supposed to be doing with your life? Are you on the path to that dream? Each day we should be chipping away at our dream until it manifest (made a reality). Is your dream part of a bigger dream or is it a selfish dream that only you benefit from? When we marched 29 years ago, I don't think any of us were thinking about ourselves. We just knew it was something we had to do. I dance because its helps me remember the dream. I dance because…