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Tristan teaches dance, movement, somatics, dance a somatics history, embodiment philosophy, and dance theory. I am a passionate educator with a deep belief in process-oriented learning, and student-directed learning outcomes. With a deep sensitivity to multi-disciplinary and cross-cultural perspectives, Tristan leads workshops and master classes around the United States, including the Bates Dance Festival where he as served as Associate Director of the Young Dancers Workshop since 2016. Currently, he is pursuing his MFA in Dance at the University of Maryland, College Park, where he is instructor-of-record of several courses, including Contemporary Modern Technique and Introduction to Dance.

Videos of movement classes are available below, courtesy of the Bates Dance Festival.

Tristan Koepke
teaching philosophy
Tristan Koepke
My class builds a culture based on values as decided by conversation with the students. In all subjects, I briefly offer my own values in regards to education as a whole, and how these values distill to the subject matter at hand. Confidence, curiosity, boldness, and empathy, are at the root of my pedagogy. In addition, when teaching movement, I’ll offer specific values such as rhythmic specificity, tonal range, qualitative range, performative presence, groundedness, lift, and clarity.


Students have the opportunity to critique, change, erase, or replace my values in the classroom. Discussions, written assignments, and even collaborative improvisation with markers on mirrors or large sheets of papers all provide students agency for suggesting and implementing their own values. I encourage all students to share their own ideas and stances with cultural specificity, and speak up when moments of tension arise if values are in conflict or even direct opposition. Once defined and understood, the values we have proposed shape the students desires for their own educational outcomes.  


Overlapping dualities are at the crux of my personal pedagogy. Class exercises include many movement ideas, sometimes in support of each other, and often in opposition. I speak directly about a multiplicity of physicalities and options that allow for different approaches to become tonal frictions within the body intellect. Class material, such as movement phrase-work, is not just a top-down approach to depositing expert information into passive students, but more importantly a chance for the student to physically try on an idea, to put on someone else’s shoes, and get as intimate with a creative or technical principle as possible. My students’ engagement with the material is a radical act of deep and active empathetic listening leading to action.


My classes maintain an inclusive environment in which all students will feel equally invited to actively engage with course material. My statements, exercises, and phrase-work provoke, push against, and stretch the students specific capacity knowing for how they exist in relation to the material. I decentralize my own authority with this structure: between readings, physical exercises, experiential improvisations, or phrase-work, I always ask first for reports from the field and questions. I do this before I give notes or feedback, which offer insight based on what I see and questions I may have that can deepen and provoke thought and execution. The students’ experience working with the material is privileged over my own impulses.


Ultimately, I apply a holistic model to my teaching: the values, skills, and inquiries developed and appreciated in my class are relevant and applicable to students’ lives beyond the educational setting. Students leave my classes empowered and more fully-embodied, excited to create, perform, and engage in their multidisciplinary fields as thoughtful and intelligent citizens.


diversity and inclusion

I believe that all people can and should dance, and that movement is a path towards empowerment, healing, and fulfillment. I recognize there is much work to do to continue to address institutional and personal power structures limiting accessibility and equity. I am deeply committed to participating in the decolonization of academic and artistic spaces, increasing visibility, access, and opportunity for marginalized people. Holding awareness of  my privileges in academic spaces, I maintain a track record of commitment to diversity and inclusion within the classroom, culturally relevant teaching models, decolonizing history, and a commitment to educational access for all.

Dance is not, as it is often-stated, universal. Rather, dance is broad, dynamic, and always in flux. Dance is a collection of culturally specific embodied art forms of movement that are constantly evolving and in conversation with each other. My expertise is in American modern, post-modern, and contemporary dance forms and history, which have all been implicated in the erasing, appropriating, and silencing of non-Eurocentric artists and movement expressions. In my history and theory classes, I uphold a historiographic lens, encouraging students and myself to constantly question authoritative stances in writing, curation, and documentation. In dance and somatic movement classes, I acknowledge that the simple language I use in the classroom has the power to uphold or dismantle notions of authority. For example, dance training and somatic education have, for too long, relied on the concept of “neutral.” Contemporary dance tends assume “neutral” on some sort of parallel stance, always at the ready for an athletic movement, lunge, or jump. However, this is no more neutral that house dance’s jack, or ballet’s first position, and privileges contemporary dance’s “neutral” as universal and ideal. I resist using “neutral” from my teaching vocabulary, and alternatives such as “center” or “home.” This small but powerful adjustment exemplifies conscious use of vocabulary within the classroom.

As Associate Director of the Young Dancers Workshop at the Bates Dance Festival, a summer training intensive and performance series, I am directly responsible for hiring and curating our teams of faculty, mentors, and interns who that work with the teen students. Representation is extremely important to me, as is the substance and content of the courses we offer. I am committed to our students having access to a diverse range of classes and ideas. I have developed coursework that is specifically designed to ready students for a dance career in higher education, with broad awareness of deep-seated problems in dance history and education. I have implemented dance historiography and critical dance studies coursework into the our everyday class schedule, an extremely rare find in the teen training circuit. The Our curriculum puts equal weight and importance on training in street styles and party dances as it does on modern dance and ballet. I have loosened the western dance canon’s grip on improvisation, so that students develop keen insight into the Africanist roots of improvisation in many dance forms and its relation to rhythm and musicality.

I recognize there is much work to do to continue to address institutional and personal power structures limiting accessibility and equity. My work with Bates Dance Festival, as well as my undergraduate recruitment service at the University of Maryland, has given me amazing experience in connecting with students of many cultural backgrounds. In all my teaching there, as well as at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, I encourage all students to bring their full selves to the class with cultural specificity. I request that students withhold hesitation to speak up if and when moments of tension arise, as they often do when movement and artistic values are on the table. It is my priority to understand my students and their diverse backgrounds and influences, leading to a rich educational exchange and moving the field of dance a bit closer towards inclusion and equity.

Tristan Koepke

recent and upcoming


Ongoing teaching within the University of Maryland, College Park Department of Theater, Dance, and Performing Arts.

Ongoing - ongoing Saturday Morning Vinyasa Yoga on Zoom through Fusion Yoga at 8am CDT.

Tristan Koepke
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