Ria Julian | May 2018
Hometown: Koreatown, California
Minor: Visual and Performing Arts Education
Q: How did you discover your interest in the arts and how did you know that it was something that you wanted to pursue professionally, as an artist or as an artist teacher?
A: I discovered the arts, specifically dance, when I was a 2nd grader attending Hobart Elementary School located in Koreatown, Los Angeles. When I was younger, I was obsessed with the Disney cartoon - Kim Possible. I was so obsessed, I would always use my recess and lunch breaks to try and execute her cartwheels and splits on the playground! On one particular day, two teachers approached me in the playground and asked if I would like to join their after school Drill Team. Without knowing what I would be getting myself into, I said yes!
I wasn’t sure what I was doing at the time, but I knew that I loved doing it. I couldn’t define “it” until I was in 5th grade when my 5th grade teacher asked me “So, do you like to dance?” I didn’t realize it before, but on that day it finally confirmed that I loved dance. From that day on, I followed dance wherever I went, because I knew it made me the happiest. I decided to pursue dance as my career after I attended a summer dance intensive hosted by Contra-Tiempo. During that summer, I was exposed to the kind of impact dance can have on the general public and the dancers themselves. Not only does dance entertain, it can also educate and create communities. From that moment on I knew that dance was my way of creating a better world by communicating my ideas and aspirations through movement.
Q: Describe what the young artists in your VAPAE afterschool arts program are working on and the process they’re using.
A: I am currently teaching at Bancroft Middle School for 8 sessions through the VAPAE Arts Education Teaching Sequence. Since this is the last course of the sequence, I am teaching the unit plan that I created in class during winter quarter. In my unit plan, I am using Hip Hop dance as a means for students to create their own narratives. There are a few lessons where I integrate writing with choreography. For example, I ask students to free-write for 5 minutes without stopping (and without talking) to let them freely express what is on their mind without outside judgement. After writing, I ask the students to choose 5 words to use as the placeholder for 5 different movement vocabularies. With these lessons, students will be exposed to a way of creating work that will reflect their personal narratives.
Q: Why is an enrichment opportunity like this important for those participating? What do they gain?
A: I believe students in K-12 need time to explore their interests, passions, and themselves in general. Without these programs, students won’t have the time outside of the typical school day to sit down and process their experiences and emotions through art-making. Since public schools are undergoing budget cuts, the arts are being taken away from the students who benefit from these programs the most- students who come from low-income communities. Once students have the opportunity to participate in an arts-education program, they will experience a journey of self-understanding and self-growth that some may find difficult in a typical classroom environment.
Q: Did you have an opportunity like this when you were a younger artist? If yes, how did it help shape your love of art? If no, in what ways could a program like this have helped you?
A: To take from my past experiences, I would not have been exposed to dance if it were not for the dance after school program at my elementary school. If it were not for the Contra-Tiempo Summer Intensive, I would not have been exposed to the more meaningful arts-activism side of dance. I am grateful for those programs, because it allowed me to surround myself with others who loved dance just as much as I did. Being in those programs encouraged me to continue with my passion as I was exposed to adults who were successful in their dance careers.
Q: What has this experience as a teaching artist or arts facilitator taught you about yourself?
A: This experience as a teaching artist has taught me that my improvisational skills are very useful in the classroom. I am someone who tends to be very spontaneous, so if something does not go according to plan, it is very easy for me to adjust. I also learned that I have so much energy! I have a peppy and goofy personality that I use to present myself as an approachable teacher. Finally, I learned (actually reconfirmed) that I really, really, really love dance. If I am able to pursue dance through teaching, then I shall do it for the rest of my life if life allows.
Q: What do you personally gain as a teaching artist, arts facilitator?
A: As a teaching artist, I gain a newfound respect for all educators, especially arts educators all around the world. Teachers are constantly being underappreciated, but it is teachers that shape and influence the leaders of the future. I also have a new love for students in the middle school age range. They used to be intimidating to me, but after a few sessions I can see that all they want is for someone fun who isn’t that far in age but can set a good example.
Q: What are the benefits to you as a student/graduate in the UCLA VAPAE program? Was this program a good choice for you? If so, why?
A: The VAPAE program has been amazing to me as I felt supported through every step of the way on my road to becoming a teaching artist. I am the most grateful for the Arts Education Teaching Sequence course, because I feel that it has really prepared me for a career in arts education. I now know how to create lessons, a unit plan, and a teaching philosophy. My professor in the course, Jessica Bianchi, has answered every one of my questions about teaching while always reminding me that the stresses I feel about teaching are completely normal. She encourages me to continue teaching, because I could impact a student in a meaningful way through my dance lessons.
Q: Are there any anecdotes from your VAPAE Studio Sessions (or Arts Education Teaching Sequence) that stand out to you? Perhaps you had a break‐through with a student or saw some particularly noticeable growth in that student through this program, collaboration etc. Maybe something surprised you or made you think about art or teaching in a new way.
A: I personally haven’t heard any statements from the students themselves, but I heard positive statements from my guiding teacher, Ms. Lofton. During one of my lessons, I asked the students to close their eyes and listen to the music. I asked them to really feel the music and to incorporate that feeling into their bodies as they dance our newly-learned phrase. After the end of the session, Ms. Lofton came up to me and told me that I’m “… really opening up these kids”. She observed that some students who took the listening activity seriously, looked like they were experiencing bliss. I didn’t think I would be able to get students to be vulnerable during one of my lessons! Although it was just one positive comment, I feel like I am moving down the right path with arts education.
Q: What are your short-term and long‐term career goals?
A: After I graduate from UCLA, I hope to explore my options as a performer. Performing dance is my favorite thing to do, so I want to see how I can gain opportunities as a dancing teaching artist. It would be amazing if I could find a non-profit dance organization such as Contra Tiempo, Versa-Style, or CultureShock, where I can easily apply all of my experiences as a Dance major with a VAPAE minor. In joining a company like those, I can teach, perform, and continue to grow as an artist.