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Tristan Koepke is 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, he teaches dance, movement, somatics, dance and somatics history, embodiment philosophy, and dance theory. Koepke leads workshops and master classes around the United States, including the Bates Dance Festival where he has served as Associate Director of the Young Dancers Intensive since 2016. Currently, he is an Assistant Professor at Bates College, where he teaches a range of classes between theory and practice.

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

teaching philosophy

I am a passionate dance and movement educator with a deep belief in process-oriented learning and student-oriented learning outcomes. I teach dance, movement, composition, somatics, history, embodiment philosophy, and theory with a deep sensitivity to multi-disciplinary and cross-cultural perspectives. My courses, whether in the studio, the classroom, or virtual, build a culture based on valuing difference, experimentation, curiosity, rigor, and humor. I utilize discussion, dialogue, and experiential exercises as the primary methodologies to engage students in their own learning. Learning is at once challenging and playful, and my wide range of teaching methodologies support students’ abilities to light their own fire. Through exhaustive, thorough, and well-wrought approaches to practice and artistry, students are encouraged to develop rigor in all that they do.

My classes center equity and student-centered critical pedagogy. I continually audit my pedagogic practices for antiracist and equitable outcomes. Through my collaborative work at the Bates Dance Festival developing teaching and curricular objectives for the Young Dancers Workshop, I helped generate five primary questions to support adaptable and critical pedagogic concerns:

  • How can learning communities be most inclusive?

  • How do my teaching techniques and methodologies develop empathy in our students?

  • How can technique, composition, and theory classes utilize auto-ethnographic approaches to creative expression?

  • How can I build class structure and culture that pushes students while encouraging them to take authorship of their own stories, challenges and growth?

  • How do I utilize teaching dance as a means for students to not only become better dancers, but more fully embodied and empowered people?


As I engage with these questions, I demonstrate to my students an ongoing process of learning and developing systems of knowledge that grow and evolve with the contexts around them. I am transparent about naming the techniques and legacies that live on through my embodied sensibilities, specifically those of my teachers Kathleen Hermesdorf, Ananya Chatterjea, Tania Isaac, Nancy Stark Smith, Kendra Portier, Rennie Harris, Trisha Brown, Darrel Jones, Shakia Barron, Erin Thompson, Carl Flink, Toni Pierce-Sands, Chris Aiken, Angie Hauser, Paul Matteson, Joshua O’Keefe, and Karl Rogers.


I practice critical discourse in developing language that is in best support of the students. Through experimental teaching methodologies that reference traditional approaches, my statements, prompts, and compositional exercises, provoke, push against, and stretch the students’ specific capacities and broadening their approaches to process. This invites students to wonder, to question, and to bring a healthy dose of skepticism while maintaining a sense of courage and risk-taking as they move from creative ideation to development, and ultimately, performance.


While teaching composition, I build assignments that develop experimentation, performance, reading, and critical response. I build in structured research time, as well as facilitate building frameworks with the class to guide critical feedback. Additionally, as students make and present movement sketches and eventually larger-scale works, they are also asked to craft rich language to describe their process and its outcomes; engaging writing as supporting discourse is imperative for professional and creative agility.


Fostering connections between studio-based movement practices and somatic inquiry is particularly important to me in technique classes, as it builds healthy and mindful relationships to self and one’s body that I believe are imperative to sustainable careers in the arts. In the studio, my class exercises speak directly to a multiplicity of physicalities and options that allow for different approaches to become tonal frictions within the body intellect. Class material, which typically builds on a concept or theme, often culminates in a combination of improvisation and phrase-work. This is not a top-down approach to depositing expert information into passive students, but more importantly a chance for students 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.


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 makers, scholars, and citizens.

--Tristan Koepke, 2022



Bates College (2022-current)

Courses Taught: Contemporary Issues in Dance, Dance History, Improvisation, Dance Ensemble, Dance Repertory, Modern Dance Partnering, Building a Studio Practice

University of Maryland, College Park (2019-2022)

Instructor of Record: Contemporary Modern Technique, Introduction to Dance, Fundamentals of Ballet, Somatic Process

Teaching Assistant: Broadway Mashup: Remixing America Through Musical Theater, Race and Corporeality in Performance

University of Minnesota-Twin Cities (2017-2018)

Instructor of Record: Modern Dance Technique

Bates Dance Festival, Lewiston, ME (2016-current)

Courses Taught: Modern Technique, Contemporary Practices, Composition, Yoga

Zenon Dance Company and School, Minneapolis, MN (2011-2019)

Facilitated and taught 36 week-long creative residencies throughout the state of Minnesota in K-12 and

undergraduate settings. Residencies included three to six classes a day in improvisation, composition,

modern, jazz, and partnering techniques. Full list available upon request.

Additional Master Classes and Workshops

Colby College (Waterville, ME)

Bates College (Lewiston, ME)

Connecticut College (New London, CT)

Ohio State University (Columbus, OH)

SUNY-Brockport (Brockport, NY)

St. Olaf College (Northfield, MN)

Carleton College (Northfield, MN)

Minnesota State University, Mankato (Mankato, MN)

ACDA-Mid-Atlantic (University of Maryland, College Park)

National High School Dance Festival (Point Park University, Pittsburgh, PA)

Regional High School Dance Festival (Madison, WI)

Regional High School Dance Festival (Norfolk, VA)

YoungDance (Saint Paul, MN)

Point Dance Ensemble (Stevens Point, WI)

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