“It [dance] was always what I wanted to do. I knew that I couldn’t stop.”
Written by Jennifer Tatum, Nonfiction MFA 2013
Photo by Woodnote Photography
Keesha Beckford has been dancing since the age of two. She says, “It [dance] was always what I wanted to do. I knew that I couldn’t stop.” Her love for dance as a small child, led her to career as a dancer, choreographer and teacher. She has worked as a dancer in New York with Steeledance and Amy Marshall Dance Companies, at the North Carolina Dance Theater, where she taught, jazz, modern and ballet, and continues to be a guest teacher at Dance Center Evanston and for Melissa Thodos Dance Chicago.
Since her arrival at Columbia in 2006, Beckford has taught Introduction to Dance Technique (IDT), with the exception of one year. The class meets four days a week during each semester, which allows her to build a “rapport with students,” which Beckford says has allowed her to “be brutally honest with them [students], but at the same time to nurture them [students].” Introduction to Dance Technique is a class for beginners, and Beckford realizes that she has the “responsibility of growing a dancer who is ready to participate in the major.” She says it is rewarding to have students return to her, after they have completed the course, to say that they learned the skills that they needed to advance in the major. She is especially excited when students tell her that they didn’t have to re-learn certain concepts or unlearn bad habits.
Beckford’s main goal as a teacher is this: “To provide a movement experience that gives a lot of information and is strengthening, but it is also joyful, and students feel connected to the moment.” She wants students to “leave sweating, and if they don’t leave sweating, they have had an epiphany or are on their way to a one.”
Beckford will be choreographing the Dance Department’s piece for Manifest 2013, “The Great Convergence,” a piece that will be performed by IDT Students, and she is re-choreographing the parade professional.
When she isn’t teaching at Columbia, Beckford spends time with her two children and maintains a blog, “Mom’s New Stage,” where she interviews mothers who remain vital forces in the arts, especially dance. In addition to finding the funny in motherhood, Mom’s New Stage aims to shed light on the humor in dance, a topic often overlooked in dance magazines. Beckford has found similarities between blogging and dancing and says that both are ways of “putting yourself out there,” and require fierce self-promotion. She says, “Both are a combination of talent, tenacity and plain good luck, and you must keep yourself open to learning from other people in both.”