The Joy of Dance
My name is Joy Voelker and I am an American Midwestern at heart, a New Yorker in attitude and ambition, and a Spaniard by choice of lifestyle. Having only lived in Spain for about two years I am still fresh and discovering new depths of what life here is for me.
I spent most of my childhood in Iowa and my adolescence in Michigan. Leaving home at the age of 15 for boarding school my concept of “home” is very fluid. Living and going to school with young artists from all over the world who came together to pursue their craft shaped my outlook to the extent that when I moved to New York City at 18 years old, its multicultural way of life was second nature to me. New York was and always will be an aspect of “home” to me, but after ten years, three of which were with my Madrileño husband, Madrid seemed the appropriate next step.
Having visited Spain many times and having a large family of in-laws here I knew it was the right decision, but there were many challenges. The biggest of course was moving to a new place when I had never studied the language. An inability to communicate makes any smaller problem or culture shock much larger. The second was finding the professional and social aspects that I needed in my life. Having left behind my professional dance performing and teaching career in New York I searched to find my way.
We moved to Spain for the lifestyle. Though I loved the ambition of the professional life in the US, that idea was in the way of our personal and family life. In some ways I am lucky that my passion and profession overlap, but in the end the personal lifestyle is what is more important. We wanted to be in a place that valued work-life balance, family time, and above all a healthy lifestyle.
I love that Madrid is metropolitan. At first, compared to New York it seemed a bit homogeneous, but when you look deeper you can find the diversity of people, art, and culture. This diversity is also growing. I like that there are increasingly more different types of restaurants (did I mention I love cooking and eating?), but I do hope that it doesn’t lose its Spanish charm. I would hate for everything to start looking like Brooklyn! I love going to proper Spanish places with tapas and sharing raciones! I have always wanted to try a bit of everything on the menu when I eat out, so this style was meant for me. I also love the ability to be outdoors, even in the city! I was always so envious of this when we would visit. A terrace in New York means a loud, dirty sidewalk. There are so many squares and terraces to enjoy the great weather and be with good company. The people may talk loudly, but it is better than loud trucks!
After starting my businesses Joy of Dance, Joy of English, and Joy of Wellness I have started to grow the kind of professional atmosphere that I desire and missed from New York. My great passions are early childhood education and physical wellness, both of which have stemmed from my dance training and career. I firmly believe that art should be ingrained in society through education, social gatherings, and leisure activities. It should reflect life, inspire creativity and bring happiness through integration in our daily lives. This is what I strive to be a part of with my work.
Joy of Dance offers dance classes in English. My classes are primarily for early childhood, but I offer all levels and ages. During the ten years that I lived in New York City I performed as a professional dancer as well as taught dance to all ages. When I moved to Madrid it only made sense to continue my teaching and develop a business to suit Madrid’s needs. As there is a big push for children to do activities in English for practice outside of school and do more experiential learning my skills were a great fit for the needs of families. Though I have experience with all ages and levels, my expertise is with early childhood and pre-professional dancers. Due to the structure of arts education/extracurriculars in Madrid as well as the limited after school schedule, coupled with the limited amount of activities for young children it felt right to focus the business on early childhood classes.
Fitness is extremely important for children. In addition to them needing to get exercise, movement is key in brain development. Dance classes give them an opportunity to learn about spacial awareness (their bodies, their body in space, and their bodies in relationship to other’s), work on new physical coordinations during specific dance steps, use creative thinking when doing structured improvisation (playing with speeds, qualities, concepts etc.) all the while getting proprioceptive input. In addition they learn how to listen and respond quickly, how to transition from playful to serious quickly and how to stop and go physically in quick response to their environment.
While the material is a progression and gets more difficult the older the student, different ages can also do the same movements or improvisational activities with great benefit working on different aspects, depths, or goals. The change in process as they grow is based on their focus and behavior. With any age (2 years to adult) there is an important ebb and flow of energy throughout the duration of the class. This roller coaster of energy coupled with the amount of call and response or child lead activities is what changes the most depending on the age.
With Toddlers it is best to have Parents present and participating. The more reinforcement and examples they have of what to copy the better. In a Toddler class there is a fine balance where there is constant engagement, but not overwhelming stimulation.
With 3-4 year olds the same sense of energy applies, but with the increase of more call and response and as well as learning to be responsible for yourself and your actions. Progress with this age often feels like two steps forward, one step back due to the fact that they are constantly finding and testing boundaries.
Teaching was a career that chose me. Though it can be a tiring job, the excitement and energy that the kids bring to class can not be matched in any other profession. It is so special to be part of their development and watch them grow and progress. The admiration and the wonderful hugs I get aren’t bad either!