November Artist Spotlight: Alanna Morris-Van Tassel

So tell us, Alanna, what’s your art form?

My art form is dance and education.

I am a professional dancer, teaching artist and choreographer.

Why do you think arts education is needed in our community?

Arts education is needed in every community on the planet because art is fundamentally human. Especially in Minnesota because this state is so landlocked that we can forget to be trendsetters, to push the envelope, and to develop new things. Minnesota is an attractive place for artists and we should continue supporting arts education. From closing the achievement gap, to beautifying our streets, to reducing crime, art uplifts us all.

How does teaching your craft to youth affect your own art?

Teaching is my twin sister. I am a great artist because I teach and vice versa. The two feed each other.

I came to teaching youth along my artistic path, trying to understand myself and make peace with my own sense of limitations. I endeavor to give to youth what I could have used more of at times in my education: experience-driven, self-directed learning that focuses on one's strengths and encourages learning. Teaching the arts to youth has healed me on many levels, so it added a great deal to my art and my life. I am always reminded not to strive for perfection, but to be developmentally-minded (which has to involve play and joy) and to be gracious to myself.  Teaching teaches me that constantly.

Will you share a piece of advice for aspiring dancers or performers in general?

My advice for aspiring dancers is to commit completely to your vision. Educate yourself fully about the art form AND the business of the art form. Seek the best training with the best teachers so you are prepared to have the longest career possible. Learn about your body, its anatomy and how to care for it inside and out. And lastly, work hard, always go to class! Take advantage of your teachers, mentors and peers. Add to this a lot of faith in yourself and creativity. You will need both to overcome the challenges.

By the end of a week with you, what do you hope most students have learned?

I hope students have an appreciation for the craft. I hope they have learned some fundamental skills pertaining to the lesson and that they are challenged to believe that they can do anything if they use their creativity and are not afraid to try something new, look different and explore the unknown. I hope they learn that they are powerful, capable, and smart. Lastly, I hope they see value in learning about art, going to see art, and creating art.

What does being a COMPAS artist mean to you?

COMPAS is a supportive place that believes in teaching artists. A teaching artist has discipline in their field and has applied themselves to the duty of pedagogy because they are interested in how many ways their art supports our development as human beings. We may take a look at academic standards, moral standards, corporate practices, public policy or even look out our own front door; and in all these circumstances we will be looking through the lens of the Artist, saying, how can what I do affect change here? To be a COMPAS Roster Artist means I have finally found my match! There is no debate on why we should be going into a shelter or public school or elderly home.  I tell artists about this wonderful organization all the time!