Instructor Spotlight: Betsy Miller

Instructor Spotlight: Betsy Miller

Betsy Miller is a dancer, a teacher, and an administrator. She works as a freelance choreographer and co-founder of the Propel-her Dance Collective, and she also lectures at Providence College. The Dance Coordinator at AS220 and leader of the Intermediate/Advanced Modern Dance class taught there on Mondays, she uses her classes to share her passion for dance with her students.

We interviewed Betsy to find out more about her background in dance and why she can’t go more than a few days without it.

Can you give a brief description of your history as a dancer and an educator? When did you start dancing?
I started dance classes at a very young age—before 3, I think. So it’s really been an integral part of my life and identity. I grew up studying dance, particularly ballet, somewhat intensively. But my early training lacked an understanding of functional anatomy. I picked up a lot of destructive habits in my dancing and got injured a lot. As an adult, I’ve had the fortune to study with quite a few brilliant teachers who work from an anatomical base. I think my interest in teaching has primarily stemmed from wanting to share that information and help others understand how their joints and muscles really function to create motion.

I think the best dancers and teachers are life-long learners. I have two degrees in dance: a BA from Connecticut College and an MFA from the Ohio State University. I am always taking classes, attending dance workshops and training programs, and then folding that information into my own teaching. In addition to teaching at 95 Empire, I am currently on faculty at Providence College and Providence Ballet.

Where do you find inspiration for choreography?
For me, inspiration comes from living life. Life is a complex mess of experience and emotion, and my choreography is an attempt to sift through, to examine, to distill, to make some sense of that mess for myself.

What do you like best about teaching dance?
Teaching is sharing. Anyone who has taken my class will probably tell you that I’m extremely passionate about dance. Sharing that passion, and the information I’ve acquired from so many incredible teachers in the field, is absolutely thrilling.

What can students expect to learn in your Modern Dance class at AS220?
I teach the Intermediate/Advanced level Modern Dance class that’s currently being offered on Monday nights. Students can expect an eclectic contemporary release technique with a solid base in ballet. My class emphasizes flow, breath, risk taking, and joy.  I am dedicated to cultivating a safe environment in which we can explore movement, take risks, and ask questions.

How do you think being a dancer has impacted or shaped your life?
Dancing has probably saved my life—it is a very necessary outlet. I know how I feel when I haven’t danced for several days, and it’s not good. The Cartesian split—the idea of mind over matter—is a myth. Brain is body. Movement and expression are essential for wellbeing. In a world that is constantly becoming more frenetic, more superficial, and less embodied, we all need to practice something that grounds us, that brings us into the present moment, and allows our hearts to sing.

Don’t miss the Intermediate/Advanced Modern Dance class, co-taught with Katie McNamara, at 95 Empire Street, Mondays at 7pm.