New school hopes to offer collaboration

By Rosemary Campbell

In keeping with its knack of creating beauty, the faculty of the departments of ballet and modern dance will unite and create a U School of Dance, which is predicted to transform them into one stronger and more substantial unit8212;but not without some student concern.
Brent Schneider, associate dean of the College of Fine Arts, said the proposal for this change comes at a time when other schools as nationally prominent as the U’s dance program have already made the change. To keep a national and international presence equal to the programs at schools such as the University of Arizona and the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, the creation of the School of Dance at the U is necessary, Schneider said.
The departments of ballet and modern dance are separate right now and as such, both have a lot on their plates.
“The School of Dance (will create) opportunities for broader collaboration between the two departments,” Schneider said.
But students have expressed concern that their majors or tracks will change and they will be forced to take classes that don’t interest them.
Dane Leary, a senior in modern dance, said he was worried that bringing both departments under one roof would mean students would have to take classes from another department, or that classes would be mixed, even though students enrolled and paid tuition for a particular program. Leary isn’t worried for himself since he’s graduating in May, two months before the combining process would take place, but for the fellow dance students he’s leaving behind.
However, classes will remain the same, but with a more diverse selection, said Raymond Tymas-Jones, dean of the College of Fine Arts. Schneider said both departments will remain intact, and students will still be able to pursue degrees for either ballet or modern dance.
“Your programs are sound and wonderful, and nothing will change about them,” Tymas-Jones said.
Students will still be offered a BFA in ballet and a BFA in modern dance, with the possibility of additional degree offerings, Schneider said.
Tymas-Jones hopes to see new degree offerings in areas such as dance history, jazz and tap.
“The school structure will offer the opportunity to use the talents of current faculty members in new programs, course offerings and degree tracks, which will engage a wider population of dance students and faculty alike,” Tymas-Jones said.
As far as funding goes, there will be no major changes. The College of Fine Arts forms a budget each semester based on the number of student credit hours taken and divides the money among the schools and departments within the college. The School of Dance will form its own budget, and the money received from the college will flow down through ballet and modern dance equally, as it always has.
Donna White, chairwoman of the department of modern dance, said she is not worried that the change will jeopardize the dance programs, the students or the faculty.
“I foresee the creation of the School of Dance maintaining the integrity of both of the majors,” she said.
The faculty members will remain in their respective departments, but they have a big say in what happens. If their proposal is approved, they will search for someone suitable to become the new director of the school next fall. White does not know exactly what her role will be, but hopes to work closely with the director in forming ideas and making decisions.
When she was a student at the U, White majored in ballet. Now a teacher of modern dance, she knows the importance of having a wealth of possibilities available. Students who want to dance professionally need to be proficient in many areas, not just their chosen field, she said. The expanded training available under the School of Dance enhance will not only students’ education but also career possibilities, she said.
“There are very few ballet studios that just do ballet anymore,” said Chelsea Rowe, a senior in modern dance. “You need versatility.”
White said she understands the hesitation students feel. Concerns are always present when there is change, because things get destabilized, she said. People seem more anxious about whether the process will happen in a positive way.
“It will increase visibility,” White said. “It will project dance at the U into the stratosphere. It’s fantastic.”
Erin Empey, a junior in modern dance, said this is the best move the school could have made.
“The departments are so good at what they do individually, it’s going to improve it all the more,” she said.