Belle Ritter

category: Actor, Ballet, Dance, Music,

Contact & Info

Website: http://bellesdancenetwork.com

Phone: 914 772 3727

  • belleritter@aol.com
  • http://facebook.com/Bell Ritter
  • http://linkedin.com/Belle Ritter
  • Living Arts Westchester Interview

Artist Statement

Dance education involves a myriad of interrelated factors within the wider scope of national standards and teaching individual students. Theoretical understanding of how dance education can contribute to artistic, cultural and social development for students, provides a foundation with which to frame well-rounded pedagogical decisions. In addition, teaching students of diverse backgrounds adds another dimension important to making conducive pedagogical choices. Relevant to an effective philosophical approach can guide expectations appropriate for particular developmental stages, provide mindfulness in planning curriculum and identify specific strategies working within an educational institution setting. My overall aim is to develop understanding dance as artistic, individual and universal expressions of culture with connection to inclusive and valued experiences, good citizenship and lifelong learning for all students. Adopting educational framework that includes multicultural perspectives and inclusion is pertinent to developing cohesive dance teaching practices for diverse school populations. Educational ideology and theory has evolved from traditional top down approach to seeing students as a whole person with varied differences in how they learn (Dewey, 1938; Freire, 1998; Gardner, 1999; Vygotsky, 1978). In the past, limitations of the authoritarian approach revealed the potential to create an environment of anxiety, fear and stress for students producing learners full of intimidation less willing to question, explore, and take risks (Lakes, 2005). However, literature supports more ethical grounding from repressive to more emancipatory education to foster and nurture curiosity (Freire, 1998). This ‘transformative ideology’ views student freedom within the pedagogical scope as universal, with a foundation in valuing human curiosity (Freire, 1998). Students engaged in continuous transformation becoming ‘authentic learners’ of construction and reconstruction, with teachers equally subjected to the same process, is how education can evolve and empower students (hooks, 1994; Shor, 1992; Freire, 1998). Moving students toward ‘empowering education’ is a critical-democratic approach toward using ‘holistic pedagogy’ that sees individual growth as an active social process and students as whole human beings willing to explore and in engage in relevant and meaningful learning opportunities (Shor, 1992).

I am grateful to be among artists who can wholeheartedly say, "I love what I do!"  As a Teaching Artist for numerous years, I take pride in developing programs suitable to a myriad of clients of diverse cultural , social and economic backgrounds.  I have always sought opportunities to merge my passion for dance, percussion and arts education with my strong commitment to social and community activism.  Teaching for over 30 years coupled with my background in stage performance, radio, film and television has provided the practical experience needed to deliver successful and diversified programs. I bring that experience into my classrooms yet am always open to learning from my students as we explore the possibilities of our engagement in creating dance together. 


Educational Background

I have studied in many of the highly competitive conservatories and schools in New York.  The moment I knew I wanted to dance was as an elementary school student in the Bronx where I furthered my training at the Bronx Dance Theater.  Later, I graduated from LaGuardia High School of Music and Performing Arts in NYC.  As a high school student, I sought additional pre-professional opportunities to continue training as a merit scholarship recipient with Alvin Ailey American Dance Center, Dance Theater of Harlem, Baile Hispanico, Broadway Dance Center and Herbert Bergof Studios.  I continued to train intensively and was later accepted into a number of universities, choosing to study and eventually work at Purchase College, SUNY.  As I continued my graduate education at CUNY Baruch in Higher Education Administration, I also found it was necessary to include study toward acquiring NYS license for teaching. I  graduated from New York University with a 4.0, setting high standards for myself as I do for my students. I also thought it was of great importance to continue my own education to offer students valuable dance education based in new research, pedagogical practices of the 21st century and relevant to today's technologically savvy student. 


Teaching Artist Experience

I am grateful to be both a performer and an educator.  Teaching helps me stay connected to the best part of myself which is to give and share for the betterment of building strong communities and good citizenship. Working at so many different schools and organizations offers the invaluable opportunity to spread the incomparable joy of music and dance/movement for all.  Among them are school districts in Westchester such as Tarrytown, Yonkers, Mt. Vernon and Peekskill.  In addition, I have taught classes and workshops at the university level. I am also committed to working with non-profit organizations in health and rehabilitation as well as a number of  youth centers and group homes.  Senior citizens and "at risk youth" are also important members of the fabric of all socially responsible communities.  I have worked with senior programs and youth through YMCAs in Westchester, city nutrition programs and mental health facilities.  I have also worked in private school environments. Among the schools are Harvey and Hackley Schools and several in NYC.  Every group provides a new opportunity to widen the circle of dance education, its importance in our society and shares the joy dance and music dance for all.