Embracing Our Brains with Summer Templin Culp
I love meeting fellow dance teachers - online, in person, you name it. Connecting over our shared interests, passions, and problems feels empowering to me, so when I found Summer Templin Culp on Instagram and noticed her unique voice in offering tips and suggestions to teachers and students, I wanted to dive in and get to know her better!
Read on as Summer talks about her teaching experience and how she encourages students to ‘embrace their brains’…
KC: What's your earliest memory of dance?
STC: I remember creating music video style dances to Madonna in my childhood best friend’s front yard.
KC: What's your background with dance?
STC:I have always loved dance, but didn’t begin training until I was a teenager, was then accepted into a conservatory training program, apprenticed with a ballet company and then joined that company. After that, I went to college and earned my BFA in choreography and have been teaching and performing throughout.
KC: Was it love at first plie?
STC: Yes! I have always loved dance.
KC: How did you get into dance?
STC: I always loved dance in all its forms, but the town that I lived in didn’t really have a studio. I was lucky enough to be able to take lessons from some amazing teachers who happened to live in my town and then started driving to a town about an hour and a half away to take classes whenever I could.
KC: What's your favorite thing about it?
STC: I like that dance, in its essence, is about community. Even something as formal and disciplined as ballet is about connecting with others and having a shared experience. I also love that dance gives life to things that cannot be said with words.
KC: Who are your dance heroes, and why?
STC: There are many, and the list is constantly growing. Off the top of my head, my first dance hero is the woman who inspired me to begin formal training, Valerie Madonia. Besides having strong technical prowess, she’s the most generous, expressive performer. I am also lucky enough to be able to call her a mentor and friend. She has encouraged throughout my career to keep growing and learning and she is one of the people who inspired me to be a dance educator. Another, is my next teaching mentor, Ana Claire who is one of the most supportive and encouraging teachers I have ever met. And my students. They are heroic in their effort to work hard for me and their trust in my as their teacher. It’s hard opening yourself up to be a dancer. I am a very demanding teacher and luckily my students are willing to go along for the ride.
KC: Tell us about your teaching practice.
STC: Currently, I teach at three different studios in the Denver Metro area. I teach at Mountain Contemporary Dance Arts in Louisville, Denver Dance Starz in Thornton, and Mayama Movement Studio in Lyons. I teach all ages (2.5 - adult) in ballet, contemporary, choreography, creative movement and PBT. I also try to stay connected with all my past and present students via my instagram account
KC: What's one of your goals in your work?
STC: To cultivate a life-long love of curiosity and growth. Knowing that nothing in dance is ever perfect encourages me to constantly go deeper, get stronger and express more. I hope to instill a similar passion in my students, whether they are ten years old and keep dancing throughout their whole lives or fifty years old and just looking for a chance to be more in touch with their bodies.
KC: What's one of your favorite funny or heart-warming stories about dance/teaching/working with clients?
STC: Right before I had my daughter (four years ago), one of my students said, “Miss Summer, I sure am glad you’re having a baby, because people like babies and they’re cute. But do you have to have it right now? Do you think you could wait until after the recital so that we don’t have to switch teachers? It’s just that I love you and want to keep loving you and that will be hard if we have a different teacher.” It’s the best when they’re honest and in-the-moment.
KC: Are there any cliches or preconceptions about dance you try to correct in your work?
STC: I try to highlight that dancers are both artists and highly intelligent. This perception is changing, but until about five years ago, I think most people thought dancers weren’t very smart. When in reality, many dancers are some of the smartest people I know. I like to encourage my students to embrace their brains and use their intelligence to make their dancing even better.
KC: Is there one thing you think the dance community needs more of, less of, or to get better at?
STC: I would love to see the commercial dance world treat younger dancers as though they are not disposable. The idea that there’s always someone waiting in the wings to replace a dancer is incredibly unhealthy and there is an extreme lack of emphasis on taking long term care of their bodies. I don’t see enough somatic education in the competition dance world which funnels into the commercial dance world.
KC: What's next for you and your business? Do you have any exciting projects on the horizon?
STC: I am planning the next season for my studios. I am hoping to start performing again and continue professional development education for myself. At the moment, the horizon itself is unclear, but I’m holding myself open to new opportunities.
KC: And now, just for funsies…
Burritos or tacos?
STC: I like them both if they’re done well. Yum!
KC: Legwarmers or ballet skirts?
STC: Leg warmers
KC: Disco balls or rainbows?
KC: Center Stage or Flashdance?
STC: Flashdance - way better soundtrack!
KC One word to describe yourself?
Thank you Summer, for sharing your time and insights with us! Make sure you’re following Summer on Instagram to stay up to date with the awesome work she’s doing, or hit one of the share buttons below to send this to a friend or fellow dance educator who you think would like to read this!