The U’s departments for ballet and modern dance may have entered stage left separately, but they will likely debut as one entity, the School of Dance, come Fall Semester 2016.
The Board of Trustees, a committee of administrators that oversees the university, voted unanimously Tuesday to combine the two departments. The change will not affect any of the majors or classes offered, but will alter the structure of the program’s leadership.
The proposal, submitted to the trustees by the dance programs, calls the current model of administration — one chairperson for each department — a “stumbling block in the way of future progress.” The School of Dance will instead have one director, who will be recruited in a national search.
The consolidation of the departments is pending approval from the State Board of Regents and it is unknown when that group will rule on the measure.
To qualify as a school, according to university policy, uniting departments should coalesce into a “large unit of instruction and should incorporate multiple areas of specialization.” There are currently about 225 students studying ballet and modern dance, with the U offering a combined nine majors, minors and certificates in the field.
The proposed School of Dance, which will remain under the College of Fine Arts, is modeled after the School of Music, which includes majors in jazz performance, composition and music history. But there is no comparable dance school in the intermountain region; the closest are the programs at the University of Southern California or Texas Christian University.
Stephen Koester, current chair of the Department of Modern Dance, wrote in a letter to the trustees that the connection between the two disciplines will make the U a “true leader and powerhouse of dance in academia,” and foster more interdisciplinary collaboration.
Ballet and modern dance students recently worked together on the Department of Ballet’s opening show Utah Ballet One (which started Nov. 5). Brent Schneider, acting chair of the Department of Ballet, believes the School of Dance could “provide even more opportunities for student success.”
Nineteen modern dance and ballet professors voted in favor of the change in March 2015 (one faculty member on sabbatical abstained). When presented to students in the two departments in April, the idea met no voiced opposition.
The proposed merger has no cost, but will streamline funding for dance programming at the U, which is currently a series of “ineffective” money transfers, according to the proposal presented to the trustees. It will also cut duplicate courses, such as kinesiology for ballet majors and kinesiology for modern dance majors. There will be no changes in advising.