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Kamarck, Edward (ed.) / Arts in society: growth of dance in America
(Summer-Fall, 1976)

Hayes, Elizabeth
Dance in academe: [dance in the universities: yesterday, today and tomorrow],   pp. 340-[345] PDF (6.1 MB)


Page 343


Returning again to the university scene, once
a sound and fully developed dance education
program has been put into operation it is an
easy step to establish a curriculum for the
preparation of professional dancers and
choreographers (provided the right faculty are
available) since the core of dance knowledge
and experience is the same for everyone. The
extended program for professional dancers
requires that students be exposed to many
kinds of dance based upon an extensive
foundation in both ballet and modern tech-
niques. These diverse experiences may
include jazz, tap and various forms of ethnic
dance as well as dance styles characteristic
of various historical periods. It is not the role
of universities, however, to imprint upon stu-
dents the stylistic characteristics of any one
professional dancer. Dance in universities
should provide the broad base of movement
experience from which the dancer himself can
later evolve his own technical style. A univer-
sity program purporting to develop dance
choreographers must be equipped to provide
not only ample opportunity for these students
to choreograph and show their works to the
public, but also dance faculty members who
are themselves choreographers of excellence,
able to guide these students and to help them
to evaluate the results of their artistic
endeavors.
There are still critics in dance education and
especially in the professional dance world
who hold that the appropriate role for univer-
sities is not one of preparing professional
dancers; they are convinced that such accom-
plishments are not possible in an academic
atmosphere where various faculties compete
for the time and energies of the students.
Their voices, however, are growing fewer.
How many young aspiring dancers today who
go to New York are able to afford even two
daily classes in their professional studies or
to find the studio space and professional guid-
ance to try their hand at choreography?
In universities across the nation the fact is
that the roles of all the arts have become
more professionally oriented in recent years
as administrators have begun to give recogni-
tion to the fine arts in the total educational
scheme. Through their expanded functions,
Synapse and Earth, Utah Repertory Dance
Theatre. Photos by Leon Reese and Doug
Bernstein.
colleges and departments of fine arts are in a
sense replacing the old music conservatories,
dramatic schools, and dance and art acade-
mies with their narrowly focused curriculums.
The best of the fine arts departments in uni-
versities are providing their students with the
facilities and faculty expertise that they need
to complete their basic professional studies
but with the added advantage of being able to
make available resources and course offer-
ings in a multitude of other disciplines to
stimulate the potential artist. No matter what
the technical skill of the artist, he cannot con-
tribute much to his art if his mind is a vacuum.
Although at present, the number of univer-
sities are few that have dance programs of
adequate scope and quality to offer success-
ful performing or choreographic major pro-
grams, there are enough to prove that such
educational endeavors can be successful. It is
the professional dancers and choreographers
from such programs as these who are provid-
ing the talent for community repertory dance
companies that are emerging today. These
young artists are thereby helping to decentral-
ize the arts, making them available to every
corner of the nation. From today's young
repertory companies-which are the proving
grounds for talent-hopefully will come some
of the great artists of tomorrow. Some univer-
sity dance departments have also moved into
directions of specialized performance such as
that of musical theatre-an enterprise that
depends for its success upon the equal col-
laboration of departments of theatre, music
and dance.
At the graduate level there are numerous
opportunities for professional specialization.
A growing interest and belief in the values of
dance as therapy have created a need for
trained therapists. The Dance Therapy Asso-
ciation which has set standards for accredita-
tion of therapists has advised that at the
undergraduate level the best preparation for
this profession is a broadly based dance
major. Specialized study, including clinical
apprenticeships, should begin at the graduate
level.
Perhaps because dancers, generally speaking,
tend to be performers and creators rather than
researchers, the whole area of dance research
is still more or less in its infancy. But as
dancers begin to pursue their art with
increased understanding, they are realizing
that as Margaret H'Doubler has often said,
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