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Karla Florez on Teaching Movement

Karla Florez has been teaching dance for the last 40 years. Her work with Folk Colombia Escuela in particular has engaged the community with traditional Colombian dance as well as contemporary movement practices. One thing you can count on is her engagement with students. No matter their age, she finds a way to make everyone a participant.

She typically relies on the human voice, getting students to sing while they dance. This has the benefit of training students to keep time and rhythm with their own internal metronomes.

Even though her methods are unique to her teaching style, the main content of her classes is traditional Colombian folkloric dance and music. We asked Karla to enlighten us on her inspirations and how she chooses to represent Colombian traditions in a contemporary setting.

How would you describe your teaching style?

My teaching style is very open-minded. I work with people and their needs, their strengths, and emotions, and create joyful moments for everyone.

In the Tambora rhythm class, I notice there is a lot of emphasis on using language to guide the students. Is there a reason for this?

Language is an essential element to pass down traditions. The songs I use in class represent the place they come from. Acknowledging their lyrics is a matter of paying respect to their culture, allowing us to learn the song in its original form.

Is teaching in Spanish important to your goals as a traditional Colombian arts teacher?

Yes, it is part of my goal because it is a complement to our current moment of globalization and understanding of our common humanity.

What inspired you to teach the iguana dance? Is it a traditional dance?

The Iguana dance inspired my work in advocating for the Sustainable Development Goals of 2030. Dancing to this song is my contribution to growing awareness about some species that are in danger of extinction, the iguana being one of them.

What is the story behind the iguana dance?

In old times iguanas were chased and caught in order to use their skin and eggs for food or to create crafting materials. The song talks about how they were mistreated and shows how iguanas run away when they are in danger but sometimes when they hear a whistle they freeze, and that is when the people who protect them yell: “Run iguana!”

You are very good at engaging people of all ages, both children and their parents. Why is it essential for you to have both adults and children participate in your class?

Children follow what their parents do. Cultural programs are very good for kids to learn in a fun way from adults as well as their own parents, especially these traditional arts from Colombia. Even if they have never been, they can experience a cultural moment with the ones they love.

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