Portland State’s School of Fine and Performing Arts will be offering a dance minor in the fall, bringing back elements of a program that was eliminated in 1996 due to budget cuts.
Dance is back!
Portland State’s School of Fine and Performing Arts will be offering a dance minor in the fall, bringing back elements of a program that was eliminated in 1996 due to budget cuts. Classes students are currently taking can be applied to the minor.
Now students can have something to show for the time and expertise they have gained from a structured curriculum of dance classes at PSU. Some students have even decided to postpone their graduation to get the minor.
Lauren Richmond is a communications major who found the minor would add just one or two terms to her time in school. For her, it was an investment worth making.
“This is something that I am incredibly excited about,” Richmond said. “It’s a motion that completely changed the direction of my life.”
“You don’t have to be a dancer to want to take dance classes,” said Judy Patten, who is both associate dean of fine and performing arts and a dance instructor.
Patten came to the university in 1969, and traced the school’s offerings over the years. A certificate was available for students in those early years, giving a bit more than a minor could and yet less than a major. In 1990, a major was added but was cut two years later because of diminishing funds, leaving a smattering of dance classes across campus.
Patten largely credits Barbara Sestak, dean of the School of Fine and Performing Arts, for enabling the dance department’s revival.
“Barbara has had a new vision for the school,” Patten said. “She’s very energetic and forward-thinking and wants to move to a new level of professionalism and visibility.”
Sestak became dean this year after a year spent as acting dean. She encouraged Patten to work together with Sarah Andrews-Collier, chair of the theater arts department, to develop a dance minor proposal, which was formally approved by the faculty senate on March 5.
Students, Andrews-Collier said, have been asking for a more formal dance program for years.
“It’s not right to have a theater arts program without dance,” she said. “It doesn’t make sense that the major institution for this city wouldn’t have a more defined dance program.”
Being in touch with your own body, she said, is an essential part of training a multi-discipline theater artist, a need that had been filled over the years by a class called Movement for Actors.
Students have a range of studio technique classes to choose from, together with a core of dance appreciation, composition and history classes. A dance minor must take 28 credits, 14 of which must be completed at PSU.
There is only one small dance studio in Lincoln Hall, and Andrews-Collier has orchestrated a refurbishment of the room to better accommodate dancers. Close to $10,000 has been put into floors, mirrors and ballet barres, most of which will have to be moved when Lincoln Hall is renovated.
Only 12-14 students can use the room at a time for a class, Andrews-Collier said, which limits how many can enroll for each class. Having the dance theory core classes will allow for larger enrollment (up to 40), which will ultimately keep the program funded.
Classes offered include Stage Makeup, Modern, Ballet and Jazz Techniques, Dance Improvisation, and Choreography.