Nov 16, 2022
Professor Erin LaSala Phillips says she tells her students, “We’re not teaching you to dance, we’re refining you and teaching you how to be an artist.”
That is what students who take DAN 1600 (Dance Appreciation), DAN 2661 (Choreography I), DAN 2681 (Teaching Dance), DAN 3653 (Dance Practicum), ART/DAN 3664 (Dance for the Camera), DAN 4990 (Senior Seminar), or DAN 4999 (Senior Project) should expect.
Much of the refining takes place in a dance studio that Professor LaSala Phillips can easily observe through a wall length window in her office in the Wynee Warden Dance Studio. She has been at FSC for eight years, and in her office in the Wynee Warden Dance Studio for seven.
She has an original black and white photo of Martha Graham and Erick Hawkins, two of the pioneers of modern dance, hanging on her office wall. The photo was given to the dance program by a FSC trustee member.
She also has a framed list from when she was in graduate school. It is a list announcing that one of her choreographed pieces was chosen for a large gala. The dancers who were in the piece took the list off the wall and framed it for her so she could remember the selection of her piece which was called, “Decline, Rise, Remain.”
“It just always means a lot to me,” she said. “It was the first time I was showcasing my work to a really large audience. You can see that it still has the tape at the top where it was on the wall.”
Hanging near the framed list is her name badge from the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival from three years ago. The Miami-based festival is one of the oldest dance festivals in the U.S. It was founded in 1931 by Ted Shawn, with the goal of legitimizing dance in America as an honorable career for men.
“We were one of eight dance programs invited from around the country,” Professor LaSala Phillips said. “So, this little name badge is just my little of token to remember the whole experience.”
The professor still has an unopened Wonder Woman action figure her students gave her nine years ago as a nod to a superhero dance that she choreographed. Her students have given her several items that she keeps in her office.
“I choreographed a dance where they had to wear socks, so they gave me a sock puppet,” Professor LaSala Phillips said, referring to the decade-old artifact. “During rehearsals I would bring it out, and the sock puppet gave them corrections.”
Among the other artwork on Professor LaSala Phillips’s office wall is a photo taken from the perspective of looking down at a tree. Her neighbor, who took photos and then enhanced them, gave it to her 13 years ago when she lived in Ohio. She has choreographed dances inspired by the photo.
Photos of her husband, Michael; Chloe, her dog who has crossed the Rainbow Bridge; and Livi, the dog she currently loves are displayed behind her desk. She also has an artificial flower sitting on a shelf. Professor LaSala Phillips kept the faux flower because it was a gift her mother gave to her when she was in college.
“It’s always just traveled around with me from place to place,” she said.
Professor LaSala Phillips worked as a teaching assistant prior to her time as a professional dancer. Her professors always thought she would be a good teacher. She has worked with students in several age categories in the past but enjoys working with college age students the best. She has a framed photo of the first group of graduates who graduated from her FSC dance program.
“I never saw myself as a performer for the long term,” she said. “I always knew I wanted to teach.”
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