Jan Duffy

Dance and Creative Movement Specialist at Woodward Academy

1662 RUGBY AVENUE, Atlanta, Georgia, United States
Woodward Academy
HQ Phone:
(404) 765-4000
Wrong Jan Duffy?

Last Updated 12/5/2016

General Information

Employment History

Co-Owner and Founder of LHAD Studio and Its Children's School and Children's and Teen's Dance Companies  - Lee Harper and Dancers Studio (now defunct)




President  - DancerKids , Inc.

Web References  

Goodwork Toolkit :: Blog

By Jan Duffy
Jan Duffy Jan Duffy is a lifelong educator and has been a teacher at Woodward Academy since 1991. A frequent poster on our GoodWork Toolkit Facebook page, one day Jan wrote about a recent dance performance: Name: Jan Duffy Out of my class of 17 students, 13 took dance with Jan Duffy. Because of all the benefits I saw from those 13, my hope is next year the whole class takes dance! Kudos to Ms. Duffy and the dancers! Comment: Jan Duffy is one of a kind! Not only is she creative, but she is secure enough to let the children participate in the choreography of their dances. She does not need to control the production of her recitals. Way to go Jan! Name: Jan Duffy Name: Jan Duffy Name: Jan Duffy

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Goodwork Toolkit :: Blog

In the previous installment of this series, teacher Jan Duffy introduced us to her incredible 2nd and 3rd graders.
Together, Jan and her students choreographed dances for the school’s spring recital. Jan was amazed not only at the intelligence, focus, and creativity of her 7 and 8 year old students, but also with the power of collaboration in inspiring and enhancing their excellence of their work. In this blog, Jan continues her story, focusing on she keeps her students engaged as dancers and as “thinkers.†                                                                                                         As I typed away, and cut and pasted and deleted countless versions of this blog, I kept coming back to what I wanted most to know myself-“Why was the “Beatles Fans†class different?† What was so special about them that gave them “an edge†over all the others? I’m not the kind of person who sits back and congratulates herself on a job well done; this wasn’t Me-this was US-together- but there’s no denying that this class overall developed a more advanced form of understanding almost right from the very beginning-Why??? Was it because several influential leaders in the class entered 3rd Grade with a full year of collaborating with constructivist 2nd Grade teachers Chris Andres and Tami Hurst, whose Whole Child philosophy of education is so much like mine and Roberta Taylor’s? Very possibly, since 3rd Grade is the year most children begin to focus more on being like their “cool†peers, but I’m also convinced that what makes dance “cool†is the fact that I try to teach for personal, interdisciplinary understanding in almost every single thing I do. That’s the main thing I do that’s different from a lot of dance teachers-I teach to make “Thinkers†out of my students, and possibly a few choreographers-not just dancers. Because of that, I don’t teach any part of class exactly the very same way, twice in a row, ever.  Not even in their warm-up sequence! This helps to engage the students immediately-they know they have to pay attention to follow the movements. The barre exercises in ballet may go in pretty much the same order, but we do usually do them center floor, and still, the patterns, and sequences, and number of repetitions are always a little different. I like to do the exercises in a different order each class, to avoid “boring†repetition. I also “get tricky†if I see that someone isn’t watching me closely enough! I lighten up all the brainwork and visual training by adding surprising improvisational moments too, right in the middle of technique, if I feel there’s just no energy coming back to me from the class, or their attention might be wandering. Even if my students are just following along closely because they’re hoping I’ll do something funny right in the middle of a “serious†exercise, they're still learning the importance of paying attention to pick up visual cues quickly -without me having to say a word!  From the children’s perspective, that makes paying attention a personal choice-one that has a positive pay-off.  If the dancers aren’t engaged and never see the point-if their learning isn't personal enough-we’ll never get anywhere!  I also use ‘real†music-and a wide variety of it- so the kids get exposed to more than what they hear on the radio on the way to school, or what they hearing in music class. In the same class period I may run through 5 to 6 types of music: classical, world music from various cultures, pop the kids like-though I have to check the lyrics and the intent of the lyrics too, or look for a Kids Bop or a super clean version from Wal-Mart. But I also use a lot of pop and rock they haven’t heard before too: oldies from the ‘50’s through the ‘90’s, musical theater show tunes, jazz, swing, electronic music-even sound effects sometimes-you name it. Keeping the dancers musically “on their toes†to where they seldom know exactly what's coming next helps maintain their interest and focus. I try to lay down the choreographer’s way of thinking in my students’ brains right at the beginning of the year, and keep that going throughout the year. Every time I teach a step, the students get 1-20 minutes to “experiment†with it-they have to add their own moves to whatever step or combination I’ve taught or reviewed that day.  That’s how I get them to drill the step into their own heads- imaginatively. Most of the kids have so much fun they never even notice they’re practicing-much less working up a sweat doing it! I always say my teaching style is more related to what I think Vaudeville must have been like: I’m the Performer and the students are the Audience-if I don’t keep them engaged by being ready to change my act at a moment’s notice, before my “audience†gets bored or restless, then the equivalent of rotten tomatoes is going to be thrown at me, and if that happens often enough-I might as well consider myself out of a job! And that’s why, as it unusual as it may sound, Improvisation, whether structured or free, with props or without, is an important part of every single one of my classes, whether I’m teaching ballet or modern or any other type of dance-from age 3 to age 18-it's not just the way I work with Primary School students.                                                                                                             I love dance, but what’s more important is that my students come to love dance too-as quickly as possible- each in their own individual way. It’s kind of a backwards thing to do-empowering mere children to feel and to act like choreographers and powerful creative thinkers before they’ve mastered the10 years worth of dance technique that it takes to make a professional dancer, but it works.   When I accomplish that, they have a personal basis of comparison with which to more closely identify with me, which is important-once we're "family", it's much easier to interest them in everything else I have to teach them. If we stay together long enough for them to figure out how to work for themselves, that is, to stay intrinsically motivated long enough to make through the 7-10 years they’ll still need to study technique, all of the rest really does, eventually, fall right into place-and they wind up with what it takes to start a career in dance.                                                                                                                                                                                                                Part 1 of 3: Collaboration in Elementary Schools: The Power of Many http://goodworktoolkit.org/blog/93-part_1_of_3_collaboration_in_elementary_schools_the_power_of_many Wed, 25 May 2011 00:00:00 EDT http://goodworktoolkit.org/blog/93-part_1_of_3_collaboration_in_elementary_schools_the_power_of_many Jan Duffy is a lifelong educator and has been a teacher at Woodward Academy since 1991. A frequent poster on our GoodWork Toolkit Facebook page, one day Jan wrote about a recent dance performance: “My Primary School Dance students, (Grades 1-3), recently presented their annual Spring Dance Concerts and of the 10 pieces of original choreography performed, no less than 7 pieces were co-choreographed by the students and me. Although those 7 pieces took a month longer to finish than the other dances, I think the empowerment the children felt when they performed those pieces was worth every extra minute!

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Goodwork Toolkit :: Blog

By Jan Duffy
Jan Duffy In teacher Jan Duffy's last two entries, she has detailed the story of her students' choreography of many dances this year, and how impressive the end result was. She wrote about the process of creating the dances and the significance of engagement in order to produce such an excellent result. Here, in the final installment, Jan reflects on how collaboration plays a part in her teaching. After attending Harvard's Project Zero last summer with Jan, teaching for understanding (in any way possible, including through the arts) became a priority. I left Project Zero with my eyes open. It was truly a life-changing experience. Collaborating with Jan has been a rewarding experience, not just for me, but most importantly, for my students. To help my students reach their full potential, "team teaching" with Jan was imperative. Her expertise are in areas that are undeveloped in me (dance, choreograph, and performing), and I'm not afraid to ask for help. At Woodward Academy, teachers and our students are very blessed to have such experts, like Jan in the dance department, to help us nurture all the different intelligences in the classroom. Thank you, Jan, for all your support this year and your kind words in the blog. I'm looking forward to continuing to collaborate and learn from each other. Name: Heather Posted at June 19, 2011 at 05:59:05 Comment: What a thrilling 3 years of dance it has been! My daughter will miss Ms. Duffy so much! She has enjoyed dance and the productions that they have done have just gotten better and better each year! Thank you Ms. Duffy! Comment: Thanks, again, Jan for this rich and provocative set of blogs. Name: Jan Duffy Comment: Jan, I finally got to this, having had trouble with email while traveling. (We're still in MN) I enjoyed this read and remembering how I fun it was to watch the kids absorb your your energy and respond with enthusiasm to your direction.

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