Today we’d like to introduce you to Courtney Kalaher.
Courtney, we’d love to hear your story and how you got to where you are today both personally and as an artist.
Dance struck a chord with me early on. I was a very shy child but a very expressive person. At first, dance was fun, and then it became a comfortable way for me, and fitting for my personality, to express so many feelings while leaving things open to interpretation and free of confrontation. As a kid, I felt alive when I danced whether on a stage or in my room. When it was time to look at options for college, I couldn’t imagine pursuing anything other than dance. I watched all of the friends I had danced with for years pick a multitude of majors and career paths in different directions, but I never understood how one just stopped dancing after high school and then moved on to something else. So my parents had the distinct honor of telling their friends that their daughter was pursuing a dance major in college – every parents’ dream. I’m forever grateful for parents that let me follow my path even when they didn’t know where it would lead. I ended up transferring schools and moving across the country, changing majors and meeting my future husband at West Point three weeks before 9/11. You know, college things. We married quickly, and then the deployments and moves began. Dance took a backseat, to say the least. In a nutshell, he completed his time safely after four deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, we saw and lived in many parts of the country, we were grateful for our adventure and excited for the next chapter.
We moved to Texas, my home state, where I was fortunate enough to find dance again with a job teaching high school dance and drill team while my husband completed his Master’s Degree. I come from a long line of educators, and I naturally fell in love with teaching. I particularly loved teaching kids that had never been exposed to dance and movement and seeing what they would create or just watching them find joy in movement! My husband then got a job that took us to New York City, and I had the opportunity to pursue my Master’s Degree in Dance Education at New York University. It was a complete dream come true, and I finished knowing that my time there would become one of the biggest influences in my life. I had the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues from around the world, teach students from all five NYC boroughs and study dance in Uganda; an experience that gave me a true grasp on the healing powers of the arts. It was there that I learned of all the amazing ways that dance and movement could play a role in a child’s education and directed me down a path that has brought me so much joy.
We’d love to hear more about your art. What do you do you do and why and what do you hope others will take away from your work?
I have a nonprofit organization called Out Loud Dance that provides students with the opportunity to learn, share and create while forming a sense of community. The organization currently has two programs, in-school and after school.
Our in-school program provides classes that integrate movement into core curriculum subjects with customized lessons that align with what students are learning in their classrooms. Classes are taught through a creative movement lens to reinforce what is being taught in the classroom as an additional way for students to absorb information. After a semester of learning about early American colonization up to the Revolutionary War through movement, one fifth grader described it as being able to really understand what they were learning about because they would read and discuss the events in their classroom and then jump into the stories and experience them in a different way in movement class. By incorporating movement into the core curriculum, we hope to reach every kind of learner while enhancing creative problem solving and communication skills.
Our after-school program was formed with the desire to provide a place where students with and without disabilities can create, collaborate and share in the joy of movement. Our students range in a variety of ages and ability levels and are paired up with our patient and energetic volunteers, most of which come to us from nearby high schools. Classes are donation based with no set tuition for our participants, and together we explore multiple dance genres and musical instruments, create movement and perform for our friends, family, and community. Through dance, the students and volunteers create a community that promotes creativity, inclusion, and kindness.
Do current events, local or global, affect your work and what you are focused on?
Movement is one way that we all naturally communicate with one another. When students work in groups to create movement with a purpose they are deciding together how they will best communicate their message. In our current environment, I think that the earlier we learn to problem solve, think outside of the box and effectively communicate in a group setting, the better. Group work and a sense of community are central themes in our programs, and I hope that when our students graduate from our programs they are able to carry those experiences into the world and share them in a positive way with others.
Do you have any events or exhibitions coming up? Where would one go to see more of your work? How can people support you and your artwork?
People can follow what we do on our social media as well as our website. Our after-school program has a show at the end of each school year so that the students can show off what we have been working on in our classes. We actually call it our “Show Offs” and hold it during our regular class time so that it feels familiar to our students.
We began as an LLC but Hurricane Harvey impacted many of our students, and the last thing I wanted was for our dance classes to become a financial burden. We are now a 501(c)3 organization with our after-school classes being solely donation based. We accept donations on our website at outlouddance.org.
- Website: outlouddance.org
- Phone: 979-492-2550
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: @outlouddance_
- Facebook: @outlouddance
Photographed Events by Jema