Insider Scoop: Press Corps Teaching Artist Melody Datz Hansen


Heard about the TeenTix Press Corps? It’s a program that allows teens to learn, practice, and publish arts criticism. For more information or to get involved, click here! For the insider scoop we chatted with Press Corps teaching artist Melody Datz Hansen about why this program is completely awesome and important!

Among many other things, Melody is a research ethics consultant - a fancy way of saying that she helps keep an eye on medical studies involving people - but she is also proud to be a writer, teaching artist, and full-time parent. Melody’s original foray into the art world was through dance, she’s a classically trained ballet dancer; in college she became a sociologist. In 2011, while working full-time for the University of Washington, she applied and was accepted for an internship at the Stranger. Her job description was to write book reviews, but at the time no one was doing dance writing and Melody asked if she could take those pieces on too. The rest is history! She’s also written for the Seattle Times, City Arts, and has a blog, plus various other freelancing endeavors. She says, “Dance writing is close to my heart because it something I understand and can communicate to people who don’t know anything about dance or who don’t care about it or who haven’t previously liked it or cared about it. Dance is not an accessible art form in many ways. It can seem very high brow or contemporary. Dance can seem very weird and inaccessible.” She is delighted to have found a kind of niche where she can write about dance and “People can think about it in simpler ways that maybe apply to their own lives and own interests a little better.”

Melody learned about the Press Corps through the MAGICAL Press Corps Manager, Mariko, and knows that, even among all the wonderful teaching experiences she’s had, teaching for TeenTix is special. As an active arts writer, she shared that sometimes it can be hard to not get jaded or discouraged about the current state of arts journalism, but that these young people give her hope! When Melody is leading a Press Corps session, first she makes sure to get a sense of her students, considering what their arts exposure has been like thus far. She’ll also look at the show they’re going to go see and come up with keywords and a framework to give her students a jumping off point. Finally, she makes sure to immerse all their conversations and teaching in “a good mix of critical writing and looking at it from a social justice perspective.” Teaching with this program fulfills Melody’s goal to make understanding and enjoying art more accessible. She says, “Writing and being able to talk to students about what art means and how to write about it in terms that they understand opens them up a little to make the dance a little more accessible too.” This process of taking art that seems super weird and applying it to one’s own life, in familiar terms, is marvelous to her. She loves getting the reaction of “Ohhhhh. Ok! That’s what this is.”

Melody loves teaching and says the Press Corps is amazing because it combines her two favorite things, youth and dance writing. It’s clear that she values young people: “Teaching young people, I love their honesty and point of view. It’s that point where personal opinion starts to get ignored and shot down. We need to elevate the teen and youth voice and teach them how to express themselves in a way so that it’s impossible to ignore. [These skills are] incredibly important for self esteem and direction.”

Melody has a mission as an educator! Not only does she want people to understand art, but she wants youth to clearly and firmly communicate their ideas about the world. When asked what the biggest takeaway she wants students to get from her classes is, she replied, “constructive criticism.” Essentially, how to write about negative things, how to make your point and argue, and, most importantly, how to argue constructively. Making your case, with respect and without backing down, is a skill she knows will serve every one of her students, no matter where life takes them. She emphasizes the importance of these skills for young women and femme folks - “the world doesn’t teach us how to argue.”

In short, Melody is an important supporter of TeenTix and the Press Corps. When asked to summarize why this program is so deserving of community support she replied, “People who are even halfway interested in TeenTix are interested in arts. And we all know that arts funding is dwindling. If we as grownup arts lovers want arts to flourish then we have to support younger people’s appreciation of the arts. They’re the ones who will carry this forwards. If we teach them not just to go to the ballet but how to look at it, how to think about it and how to write about it, we’re keeping and making future art supporters.”

Thanks Melody, we think you rock! If you believe in making free programs like the Press Corps available to any interested teen, DONATE TODAY!

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