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Nov 10, 2020

This week on 5.6.7.EIGHT, Aleksandra interviews Jolanta Oko — Founder and Director at Canada’s National Academy of Dance Education, which offers immense amounts of resources to empower dance educators. Jolanta boasts an impressive dance resume, having been a dance teacher for 22 years, a studio owner for 8 years, and a school teacher for 12 years. She holds a BFA and an MA in dance from York University and is a graduate of the National Ballet School’s Teacher Training Program in Canada. For her work with dance educators, Oko was nominated for the Hamilton Arts Innovator Award in both 2017 and 2018. 

Jolanta’s journey is the classic tale of being unable to shake a passion that’s inside of you. From a young age, Jolanta discovered the joy and therapy of being in dance yet decided to explore an alternate career path after experiencing some rejection. However, after feeling genuine sorrow at having to hang up what once provided her happiness, she has returned to the dance world, now enabling teachers to teach methods that work best and, in turn, encouraging students to pursue dance-related passions, even if they manifest in off-stage roles.


Moving Quotes:

“Teachers are always taking courses; the curriculum is always changing. I really loved that about teaching. The children are changing, the world is changing, and our teaching methods have to change."

“Why are the cognitive and physical abilities of different age groups important? They’re important so that you know what you’re teaching, why you’re teaching it, and how you’re going to teach it. You can’t teach the same thing the same way to a five-year-old as you can to a seven-year-old."

“If you can’t get the job you want, create the job you want."

“Never let the word ’no’ deter you. Use it as fuel for your drive. Be bigger. Be better."

“By allowing the student to examine, explore, and experiment, they’re more likely to retain the information that you’re teaching them… And not only retain and remember but be inspired by this new learning process."

“I love meeting people face-to-face. If you’re trying to make a change or send a message or inspire others, there’s no better way than to do it face-to-face."

“Growing up, the reason why I loved dance so much was because dance was my therapy."


Bullet Points (w/ timestamps) - Highlighting key topics discussed:

3:04: Jolanta discusses the events that drove her away from dance and, ultimately, left her with a sorrow that could only be aided by a return to dance.

7:06: Jolanta retells the turning point in her life where she discovered the need for an organization like hers and why this type of company is important for educators.

11:31: Oko explains how her company’s structure helps provide education to all teachers and how this structure was uniquely suited to handle a pandemic.

13:00: Oko deep dives on the types of education that her organization offers.

23:24: Jolanta gets vulnerable on her personal motivations behind becoming an entrepreneur and creating this company from scratch.

29:05: Oko explains how she hopes her organization will help curb negative perceptions of dance teachers.

32:20: Jolanta shares some encouraging advice for any students looking to pursue a career in dance.


Bullet List of Resources – 

Jolanta Oko

Canada’s National Academy of Dance Education