Tracy Martin, Warren, is one of three Community College of Vermont (CCV) faculty members who is offering remote learning. She is one of three CCV faculty members who is opening up a new world of opportunity for students by taking their performing and visual arts classes online.
Martin is careful about setting the tone in her online Body Awareness class. “Right off the bat I’ll say ‘if you are having fun I’m succeeding. If I am terrifying you, I am failing. Nothing about this should be scary. This should all be exciting and interesting and curious; we’re going to be in an environment of exploration, there’s no right or wrong.’”
Martin is a dancer, actor and educator who recently completed her MFA in dance. She first came to Vermont in the 1980s to perform at Phantom Theater, an arts venue in Warren, that now features dance, music, theater and storytelling, and today she is the theater’s artistic director. She has taught dance to a variety of age groups in a variety of settings. “I mostly love to teach people who say, ‘Oh I’m not a dancer,’” she said. “That’s what’s really rewarding for me as a dance teacher. I love technique, and I love helping a dancer hone their craft, but more than anything I love watching someone think that they have two left feet and then realize that they’ve got feet just like anybody else, and they’ve got something to say and do with it…that surprises them.”
Martin joined the CCV faculty last year just before COVID hit, and she taught her first section of Body Awareness last fall as a synchronous online class, meaning students meet on Zoom each week. The class followed the same format this spring, and she’ll once again be offering it in fall 2021. The class is grounded in dance, but also draws from many other disciplines. “I introduce them to a few different modes of being in your body,” she says, including improvisation, meditation, breath work, modern dance, hip hop and jazz. Students are asked to incorporate a regular practice of their choosing into their life -- reflection, better nutrition, walking, you name it -- and keep a log about their experience throughout the semester. “It’s called body awareness, but I almost feel like it’s almost like life awareness,” Martin says.
She says the online format of the class is more comfortable for some students. “I could imagine in person some of these people would be a little more self-conscious than what the safety of their home and screen gave them,” she said. “I could imagine that that was a positive aspect for those who are a little bit more inhibited; it was a little less scary in some ways.”
Martin says the class offers a chance for students to inhabit their bodies in new ways. “A huge goal of mine is to have an ease of movement and awareness and comfort of being in your body and watching that improve and develop over the course of the course…and if you’re somebody who thinks you can’t, or don’t, or it’s not for you, you might be pleasantly surprised.”