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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 344


although science cannot make art, it can make
for a more truthful art. Interest is being
increasingly directed, for example, to a scien-
tific examination of dance techniques and
their presumed efficacy in achieving the tech-
nical goals for which they were designed.
There has also been a burgeoning of
anthropological and historical inquiry.
Research efforts to interpret dance literature
and to unravel early forms of dance notation
are making possible the reconstruction of
dances from various historical periods. Other
areas that offer challenges for graduate study
are in such fields as education, ethnic dance,
film techniques, aesthetics, and criticism. The
imminent retirement of many of the dance
pioneers who have created and administered
many of the presently existing dance major
programs has pointed to a growing need for
doctoral programs that can prepare potential
department chairmen for their administrative
duties, in addition providing opportunity for
further research studies.
Although there has been a dramatic growth of
interest in dance research, by far the most
popular kind of graduate project or thesis is
the choreographic thesis. Performance and
choreography will always be of paramount
importance to those in the performing arts.
There have been a few courageous attempts
to establish professional repertory companies
in connection with dance departments to serve
as living laboratories for talented graduate
students, who in turn contribute a cultural
service to their states and communities. Such
companies, however, have proven to be far
too expensive for universities to maintain
without continuous outside subsidy. As a
result, most such experiments, in spite of their
obvious meirts, have been shortlived.
Except for minor set-backs, dance in educa-
tion is ceasing to be the Cinderella of the
arts. More and more colleges and univer-
sities are moving to include dance as a part
of their major offerings. Some of these pro-
grams are very good; others are less so.
Perhaps as a result of student pressures or
misguided ambition there is a temptation for
dance departments to proliferate programs
and to take on responsibilities for which there
are insufficient faculty, facilities and adminis-
trative funds. Marvels can sometimes be
accomplished in spite of poor facilities and
minimal finances, but a department can only
be as good as its faculty. Recent hiring prac-
tices by colleges of fine arts, deemphasizing
the importance of advanced degrees, dwelling
instead upon candidates' artistic talents and
experience, have done much to give dance
departments the freedom to employ the most
qualified people wherever they may be found.
Employment of visiting artists-in-residence
can supplement the special talents of a regu-
lar department faculty. But it is the com-
petence of the regular faculty, not of the visit-
ing guest artists, that ultimately determines
the quality and reputation of a department.
A wise plan for any department is to examine
its own human and physical resources before
deciding upon a course of action in establish-
ing or expanding a department curriculum.
Another important consideration is the
faculty-student ratio. Although a physics pro-
fessor can successfully deliver a lecture to
a class of four hundred, students in the arts
require a teacher's personal attention.
A department that allows itself to become too
large dilutes its ability to give service to
its students.
Finally, in order for a department faculty to
operate effectively, an educational philosophy
needs to be established to guide its mem-
bers and to enable them to work together
in mutual harmony. This is not to imply that
all teachers must think or teach alike but
rather that their various approaches to dance
and modes of operation must be mutually
supportive and contribute to the attainment of
identified department goals. Professional
dissension among a faculty is counterproduc-
tive to progress for all concerned.
As director of a dance major program over
a period of many years, my personal philoso-
phy of dance education has been based upon
a number of assumptions: 1) Both creative
and recreational dance are natural forms
of human activity and the birthright of every
individual. 2) Dance as a fine art provides
an important means of human expression and
communication. 3) In order for the dancer
to realize this expressive potential it is neces-
sary for him to master his art instrument,
which is his body, through awareness of its
movement capabilities, through creative
exploration in the discovery of movement
forms, and through acquisition of skill in the
performance of them. 4) Dance in education
should be approached in terms of movement
concepts rather than in terms of personalized


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