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Thomas and the year-round trainees of the Joffrey Ballet School

Photo by Angelica Stiskin

Thomas is an assistant professor of practice in contemporary dance at the University of Southern California Glorya Kaufman School of Dance (USC Kaufman). He travels nationally and abroad to lead workshops in a range of dance forms.

Teaching Statement

Dance education is a practice of inquiry—a way of learning by unknowing; an entry point to questioning; an instrument for pushing against systems that insist on linear or binary ways of thinking. As a dance artist and educator, I aim to move outside of the boxes those systems create, in the corporeal sense and cognitively—although, I’d argue, those two terms do not activate without the other. I tend to my teaching practice, and serve my students, with this understanding. 


As an instructor of both dance practice and theory, I’ve taken, what my students have termed, a “radical” path: Rather than merely speak about activating change, I’ve built structures of equity into my teaching. This endeavor is without end. For each course I teach, I consider how I might cause the least amount of harm to my students; how I might lead as a vessel and a peer to disrupt the traditional power dynamics of learner and teacher; how I might honor the experiences and knowledges with which each of my students walks into the classroom. I create a course outline once I meet my students, because this is what it actually means to center one’s students in their learning. I encourage my students to pose queries and lead discussions, because their agency is as important to me as my own.


My goal, always, is to guide students towards new or unfamiliar ways of embodying information, and allowing that journey to anchor them in a practice of questioning, instead of reinforcing conventions that prioritize a single answer. Our job—my job—is to lead them through ways of mining information through the body, in all its sensorial functions, and the mind. 


My commitment to equity and inclusion is embedded in this work. A member of anti-racism and curriculum committees—I believe the charges of these two committees fundamentally intersect—I center the voices of the students; I amplify non-Western, non-Eurocentric forms and traditions in my course materials and in my artistic practice and research; and I hold space for us to struggle and learn together, so that we might all more deeply understand the origins of racism, ableism, sexism and misogyny, homophobia, transphobia and xenophobia—and ultimately act to disrupt such oppressive systems. Perhaps most importantly, my presence in the academic space is a symbol of equity and inclusion; of the systemic pushbacks I’ve overcome and the empathy and understanding those experiences have grown within me.


I am committed to this profession because I believe the world needs the work of teachers, which can transform lives.


I am committed to empowering my students to believe in themselves as much as I believe in them. 

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