Kelli Edwards, Performing Arts

kelli_edwardsNatural light pours across the hardwood floor of Kelli Edwards’s spacious dance studio. Floor-to-ceiling mirrors line the sides of the room opposite the sides lined by windows. Students put down their heavy book bags here, take off their shoes, and focus on a physical side of learning.

“Students spend much of their day sitting and thinking; when they come into this room, we move.”

Kelli teaches the dance classes offered in the performing arts program. Many students start with the basic Dance course, which is for students new to dance, or those who have experience but want to learn the fundamentals of ballet, modern and jazz technique, along with some dance history and choreography skills.

“My approach to teaching is to start with movement—just movement. I want my students to find their own way of moving. I don’t want them to repeat movement that they’ve learned in the past. For example, I may ask them to make a phrase, just using their hands.”

Advanced dance classes include Ballet, Modern and Choreography. However, previous formal dance training is not a prerequisite in Kelli’s classes, and she welcomes every student interested in learning from her.

“Students who have never had formal dance training, but who like to move and are creative, do very well in the class, and these students offer a different perspective. My classes are often mixed level, mixed ages; the group dynamic has a lot to do with how we tackle the material. It’s great to have a combination of students.”

Kelli began dancing when she was six years old. She earned her bachelor’s of fine arts at the University of Missouri and spent a year in New York City studying and auditioning. She continued to study and perform after moving to Boston, while teaching at a Cambridge high school. She earned a master’s of fine arts in choreography at Smith College with the idea of teaching at the college level. A chance to fill in at Milton led to a full-time opportunity.

“I was surprised to find a place where I could teach high school students in what feels like a college environment. The students are still very much teenagers, but they’re motivated and self-selecting. They come to me because they want to dance, or want to learn how. Not every student chooses that, so the students who come my way are usually highly motivated and excited about movement.

“Teaching at Milton, you’re able to teach what you want to teach. You’re also teaching a lot more than your subject—you’re helping students learn life skills. You’re given the flexibility to teach the way you think will most benefit the students in front of you.”

Kelli sponsors the student Dance Club and the recently formed Dance Team, which performs at assemblies. She also directs both the winter and spring dance concerts, and choreographs for the School’s musical productions. A mother of two young boys, Kelli also choreographs musicals for the New Repertory Theatre in Watertown, Massachusetts.