Palomar College Ballet Instructor Dr. Molly Faulkner has had a bit of play in her dance career, performing as a Muppet in a traveling Sesame Street traveling show and as a Disney dancer in Japan, and she wants ballet teachers and students to have that same sense of play.

Faulkner and her co-author, Julia K. Gleich, a ballet instructor in New York City, recently wrote an article, “Dancing in the Limen: Art and Play and Ballet Pedagogy” that appeares in the prestigious Oxford Handbook of Ballet Pedagogy to be published in early 2025.

She said the article addresses the question “Does play exist in the ballet studio?” looking at its long history of training.

“Ballet is traditionally top-down, and we are trying to get out of that mindset,” Faulkner said. “We want to open it up.”

A goal of the article is to encourage ballet instructors to offer more freedom and creativity to their students, she said. “We don’t want to give a list of musts to teachers,” Faulkner said. “All we want to do is present a framework that perhaps they can operate in to be free with experimentation and play.”

This is the third article Faulkner has written with Gleich and she said “we both enjoy gentle anarchy in our classes.”

Faulker said she has had a lifelong love of dance, taking lessons starting when she was eight and becoming a professional dancer with the Arizona Dance Theatre when she was 18. In the late 1980s, she spent 10 months as a dancing Grover, one of the Muppets in a Sesame Street Live tour. That was followed by seven months as a Disney dancer at Tokyo Disneyland, performing in five shows a day.

After a year in Sweden, Faulkner returned home and earned a bachelor’s degree in dance at the University of Arizona, a master’s degree in choreography at the University of Iowa and a doctorate in dance and related arts at Texas Women’s University. After working at the University of Northern Colorado, she came to Palomar College in 2002.

Faulkner said she loved seeing the diversity of students in her dance classes, from teenagers to senior citizens, and returning professional dancers to someone who wants to learn ballet.

“Every goal is different. You just try to get them where they live,” Faulkner said. “They may not be professional dancers by the end of my class, but I hope they are going to love ballet.”