Dance Teacher Retreat - Grand Jeté

Grand Jeté Teacher Retreat 2024

This year, K-12 dance teachers are invited to the Governor's
School campus for a FREE Teacher Retreat featuring clinicians Madia Cooper-Ashififi (Brenau University), André Megerdichian (University of South Carolina), Danah Bella (Peabody Conservatory, Johns Hopkins University), Jennifer Deckert (University of South Carolina), and Lauren Imhoff (Anderson University). Workshop sessions will cover relevant pedagogy for teaching young dancers and provide opportunities for dance educators to practice their art form.

All workshop materials, meals, and hotel accommodations are included for free with registration. Professional development credit certificates are also provided.

The Office of Outreach is excited to partner with the Dance Department during South Carolina's premier student ballet competition, Grand Jeté.

Workshop Sessions

Positive Leadership: A Counterintuitive Approach to Leading

Madia Cooper-Ashirifi, Brenau University

Bell hooks mentions that "engaged pedagogy " holistic education is more complex that conventional education where it is a progressive education that focuses on "well-being." Teachers must be committed to self-actualization promoting the teacher's well being if they are to teach in a manner that willF inspire students. Progressive teachers working to transform the room and program so that it does not reflect biases or reinforce systems of domination are most likely to take risks. With success comes failures and repeats of revised plans. Thus, the intention of this workshop is to showcase challenges and acknowledge wins in restructuring a dance program to a more robust program to meet the needs of every dance student and
teacher. The workshop shares a framework to transform ideas into actionable plans and implement them that aligns with the constantly changing atmosphere within performing arts.

Further, in this conversational presentation we will discuss anecdotally some approaches thus far and the questions we are steadily seeking to be more intentional about our students’ needs and understanding their perspectives as it relates to building equity and culture. Lastly the workshop centers on connecting our strengths as dancers, choreographers, and dance educators as a catalyst for approaching leadership. My aim is 1) share our experiences in varied education creative/administrative roles, 2) facilitate activities to recognize the connection of dance to leadership strengths, and 3) offer approaches to leadership challenges including conflict management, compassion fatigue, lack of support, and invisible labor.

Pedagogy of Limón Principles for Contemporary Classes

André Megerdichian, University of South Carolina

Pedagogy of Limón Technique for Contemporary Classes explores the integration of movement principles of the Limón technique with the aesthetics of contemporary dance practice. The purpose is to merge the underlying elements of Modern dance to  express the tensions and curiosities of today, allowing artists to speak in the context of their own time.

The Limón Technique is based on principles of weight, fall and recovery, and sequential initiation as established by José Limón and his mentors, Doris Humphrey and Charles Weidman. It focuses on the movement of breath through the body, the dynamic use of weight in each body part, and the fluid succession of one movement into the next. The class will explore these movement principles and how they can be integrated into contemporary class structures.

Functional Awareness: Anatomy in Action

Danah Bella, Peabody Conservatory, Johns Hopkins University

Part movement, part discussion— this workshop will explore principles of Functional Awareness® and incorporate these ideas into a practice class setting. Functional Awareness® is an approach to embodied anatomy through reflective practice to enhance our understanding of movement function, facilitate ease in body action, and improve movement skills.

Ballet and Breath

Jennifer Deckert, University of South Carolina

An exploration of how breath and the anatomy of breathing can be incorporated into the ballet classroom. We will explore a complete ballet technique class with a focus on anatomy and best practices for teaching students from a variety of perspectives.

Theater Jazz

Lauren Imhoff, Anderson University

Theater Jazz: grab your character heels and jazz hands- it’s show time! Join me for warm up, across the floor exercises and center combinations focusing on musical theater style movements culminating in a showstopper combo filled with pizazz!

For more information about Grand Jeté, click here.

**This event will follow state and local health recommendations for the mitigation of COVID-19.


This workshop is FREE to K-12 dance teachers who work in South Carolina public schools. Professional development credit certificates are also provided. 

Registration is limited to 10 participants.


March 1-2, 2024

Tentative Schedule:

March 1st
2:00 PM: Check In Begins
2:45 PM to 5:45 PM: Workshops
6:00 PM: Grand Jeté Competition Observation/Hotel Check-In/Dinner

March 2nd
8:30 AM to 11:45 AM: Workshops
12:00 PM: Lunch (provided)
1:00 PM to 3:00 PM: Workshops


SC Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities
15 University St.
Greenville, SC 29601

How to Register

Registration is closed for this Teacher Retreat


Madia Cooper-Ashirifi

MADIA COOPER-ASHIRIFI, Liberian dance educator, West African and performing artist, choreographer, and scholar. She received her Ed.D from Vanderbilt University and a Master of Fine Arts in Dance Performance and Choreography from The College at Brockport and a B.F.A. in Dance Education from Brenau University. Currently, she serves as the Chair and Associate Professor and Chair of Dance at Brenau University. As a Liberian-American, Madia shares her culture and knowledge of West African and social dances to all ages at various venues. She is a performer of the Ghanaian dance company Mawre African Dance and Drum, which travels throughout the Southeast performing and conducting residencies. Madia’s other company credits include the Bill Evans Dance Company and Sankofa African Dance Ensemble.

In addition, she has collaborated with various musicians, visual artists, and singers to produce multi-artistic works and performance art in the U.S. Her choreographic works and teaching credits include a variety of dance disciplines in genres of the African Diaspora, modern, afro-modern, West African, Afro-funk, and jazz. Additional teaching and choreographic credits include the American College Dance Association, University of Alabama, Darton College, Middle Tennessee State University, Amherst College, Dean College, The University of the South, The Atlanta Ballet Centre of Dance Education, The Dancers’ Studio, Vanderbilt Summer Dance Intensive, New York Summer School of the Arts, and the Gainesville Ballet Summer Intensive Residency as well as others. In addition to teaching, she has had the opportunity to work and perform works of Kofi Mawuko, Robert Battle, Carolyn Adams, Donald McKayle, Cleo Parker Robinson, Dianne McIntyre, Chet Walker, Darwin Prioleau, Habib Iddrisu, Bill Evans, Larry Keigwin, Telly Fowler, and Sherry Zunker.
More about Madia.

André Megerdichian

André is a Dancer, Choreographer, and Movement Specialist who danced professionally with such companies as Limón Dance Company, Janis Brenner and Dancers, Dance Kaleidoscope, The Mary Anthony Dance Theatre, Soundance Repertory Company, Reidel Dance Theatre, Daniel Charon, and Seán Curran.  An Assistant Professor at the University of South Carolina he has also served as a faculty member at the Duncan Center Conservatory in Prague Czech, Republic, The Limón Institute in New York City, and the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, among others. In addition, he regularly teaches workshops and master classes throughout the United States, Europe and China.

André’s work has been commissioned by numerous universities, festivals, and dance institutions throughout the United States, including the Cincinnati Ballet, Hollywood Ballet, Dance Kaleidoscope, Columbia City Ballet, Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival Daedalus Project, and the Palm Spring International Dance Festival. With composer Fahad Siadat, André co-founded The Resonance Collective, creating and presenting interdisciplinary works that explore themes of mystical transformation, while cross-pollinating the aesthetic, formalistic, creative, and performative aspects of multiple genres. There evening length works they have been presented by such institutions as the New York International Fringe Festival, The Broad Stage Santa Monica, The Getty Villa Museum, the Xing Hai Conservatory of Music Dance Ensemble, California Institute of the Arts, the Monmouth University Pollak Gallery, along with performances throughout the NYC and Los Angeles area.

André is a Functional Range Conditioning movement specialist (FRCms), certified yoga instructor, and CPT through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. He has presented research in dance science for the International Association for Dance Medicine and Science conferences (IADMS), and the Dance Science and Somatics Educators conference. He also serves on the IADMS Dance Educators Committee. Raised in Beirut Lebanon, Athens Greece, and Geneva Switzerland, André started dancing during his senior year at Fishburne Military School. He holds a BFA from Butler University, and an MFA in Choreography from the California Institute of the Arts.
More about André Megerdichian.

Danah Bella

Danah Bella is the founding chair of the Dance Department at the Peabody Conservatory. Since its launch in 2018, Bella has led the Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance program with an intentional focus on interdisciplinary studies, social justice, and a wide variety of movement, performance, and choreography opportunities for every student. She has worked in higher education since 2002, teaching modern dance practice, Functional Awareness® Movement practice, dance theory, and history.
bella has received many accolades for her arts and education work, including most recently the Baltimore Sun‘s 25 Women to Watch (2018), Maryland State Dance Educator of the Year Postsecondary Education (2021), and Musical America‘s Top 30 Professionals of the Year (2022). She holds an MFA in performance from the Ohio State University and a BA in Dance from the University of California in Santa Barbara.
More about Danah Bella.

Jennifer Deckert

Jennifer Deckert is currently an Associate Professor of Dance at the University of South Carolina, where she serves as director of the Betsy Blackmon Dance Program and Associate Chair for the Department of Theatre and Dance.  She has taught master classes and created works at numerous institutions and festivals throughout the world and seeks opportunities to connect, collaborate, and create, fusing her passions for dance science, performance, choreography, and pedagogy.  Jennifer holds an MFA from University of Utah, and she is also a Registered Yoga Teacher and Functional Range Conditioning movement specialist, FRCms.
More about Jennifer Deckert.

Lauren Imhoff 

Lauren Imhoff is a native of Black Mountain, NC. She holds a BFA in Music Theatre, Dance Minor from Elon University. Lauren has worked at Flat Rock Playhouse, NC where she performed in Kiss Me Kate, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Cinderella, and Joseph…Dreamcoat. Lauren then took to the road with the National Tour of The Wizard of Oz. She spent two years touring the nation as Understudy to Dorothy, Ensemble, Dance Captain, Internal Swing, and Munchkin Instructor. While touring, Lauren taught master classes through Broadway Connection in cities such as Tampa, Austin, Norfolk, West Palm Beach, Oklahoma City, and Nashville. She then worked at The Little Theatre on the Square located in Sullivan, IL where she performed, directed and choreographed various productions while holding the position of Education Director.

After moving to Greenville, SC, she became a guest artist for South Carolina Children's Theatre where she still enjoys directing, choreographing, and teaching musical theatre to all ages. She has taught dance at Anderson University for 10 years and is thrilled to now assume the role of Director of Dance as she continues teaching jazz, musical theatre, tap dance, audition techniques and choreography to the students of Anderson University’s South Carolina School of the Arts BA Dance program. 

About the Governor's School's Outreach Programs

As a part of the Governor’s School’s mission to serve as a resource to teachers across the state, the Office of Outreach provides professional learning opportunities to enrich arts education in South Carolina. Learn more.

About the Dance Department

Led by world-renowned instructors, the Dance program (grades 10-12) is based in classical ballet, with the opportunity at junior and senior levels to continue with a classical ballet focus or to choose a modern/contemporary concentration. Both options offer students a systematic and diverse curriculum that is physically demanding and rewarding. They are designed to educate and prepare students for entry into the post-secondary and professional dance world. Learn more.