Students Work to Bring Dance Program for Academic Credit

With the recent submission of a proposal for a global dance professor, the possibility of Colgate having a dance program for academic credit may become a reality. The proposal, which was submitted by Professor and Chair of the English Department Jane Pinchin and Professor of English and Director of University Theater Adrian Giurgea, is currently awaiting consideration from Provost and Dean of the Faculty Douglas Hicks. If approved, the University will begin accepting applications for a dance professor in the upcoming semester.

This proposal has largely been pushed by a group of dedicated students who have formed the Dance Initiative and have been working to create some sort of dance curriculum at Colgate. Seniors Emma Satchell and Michelle White, juniors Jill Goltzer and Chloe Holt and sophomore Danielle Iwata have been leading the charge and want to provide other students who are passionate about dance more opportunities to pursue it in the classroom. Their vision includes possibly creating a dance minor at Colgate and integrating it more into the University’s culture with an academic aspect.

“We aren’t looking for a conservatory … it would be great if we could have practice-based classes but it also would be good if we could incorporate dance into the CORE Curriculum or have it cross-listed with different disciplines, but we do want to carve out an actual dance curriculum,” Goltzer said.

These students are confident that dance could easily be incorporated into the classes currently offered at Colgate.

“We were thinking that dance could cross-list with film and media studies, and there could be a class in which students study how dancers are portrayed in film and in the media, such as in Bollywood,” Goltzer said. “There could be an alignment or kinesthetics class that could be cross-listed with biology and relate to health. There could be a History of Dance class or a religious studies class on the importance of dance to certain religions and cultures. The possibilities are really endless.”

The Dance Initiative, of which Goltzer, Holt, Satchell, White and Iwata are leaders, has been hard at work mounting a campaign in order to increase student and administrator support for an academic dance program. A movement to create a dance program has been in the works for several years but has made the most headway this year. Iwata has largely been spearheading the effort, starting a video and photo campaign online to help show that dance is a part of everyday life at Colgate. The group has also met several times with President Herbst, Dean Nelson and Dean Brown. In addition, the Initiative drafted a letter stating their goals and intentions and sent it out to professors and alumni. They have received largely positive results, getting supportive feedback from over 16 professors and

several alumni.”It is so important to be persistent about it because we don’t want to lose momentum … We have to show [the administration] that we are very passionate and believe in this and want to make it a reality,” Satchell said.

The student body has been supportive as well. The Senate of the Colgate Student Government Association (SGA) unanimously passed a resolution supporting the expansion of an interdisciplinary program that would allow students to minor in dance. In addition, the desire to create such a program was included in the platforms of both candidates for SGA President.

“This may not be something that people recognize, but I believe that the activity with the highest participation is dance,” Holt said. “I can’t think of another sort of broad extracurricular or volunteer organization at Colgate that involves as many students or with which there is as much student interest. Athletics is huge as well, but dance is different and often appeals to a different range of students. Dancefest is also the biggest, most popular event of the year. I think now the administration is starting to see that there is a lot of interest and support, hopefully that will factor into their decision.”

For White, the fact that there is so much extracurricular excitement and passion for dance factored into her decision to come to Colgate. She also said that it has been one of the most meaningful parts of her college experience.

“I think that what makes Colgate unique is that it is a small liberal arts school with so many resources and Division I Athletics and those are some of the reasons I came here,” White said. “You have that big-small school feeling. But at the end of the day, we are a liberal arts school and I know we turn [off] students who find out that we don’t have a dance program and have very little support. It’s embarrassing.”

In her research, Iwata came across a startling statistic. Of the 17 other liberal arts colleges ranked above Colgate by U.S. News and World Report, only three do not have a dance program. One of these schools is Navy, but the other two are part of College Consortiums and therefore have access to dance programs and extensive facilities.

“It is disappointing that Colgate doesn’t have a dance program,” Iwata said. “The fact that we have dance performance opportunities is pretty rare but it could be more academically based. The extracurricular student passion for it is something that we want to keep but we think that that will only grow stronger with an academic program as well.”

One issue in adding a dance program, and also a problem faced by current dancers, is the lack of space. The two studios in Ryan and in Huntington are always in demand and make it hard for students to find space to practice.

“We are often sharing space with the Theater Department and that can present some challenges … sometimes students in Theater will be sewing costumes and leave needles on the floor of the studio by accident which presents a problem as we dance in bare feet,” Satchell said.

White also stated that the recent announcement that the University is putting millions of dollars into building a new hockey rink is disappointing because of the work and improvements that are still desperately needed in the current dance studios.

 “It’s kind of a slap in the face when we could use just $10,000 for new spring floors in order to prevent injury and help absorb some of the shock to our legs from dancing,” White said. “It’s about safety … right now it’s dangerous. Spring floors prevent injury and shin splints. It’s not even that we are asking for a state-of-the-art facility, we are just asking for some safety precautions. We are in college doing what we love … it would be nice to have a little more support.”

Currently there are several extracurricular programs and groups for students who want to get involved with dance. There are several dance groups, including Groove, Dance Team, Shock, Fuse, Ballroom Dancing and Belly Dancing club. For these groups, Dancefest, which takes place each       semester, is the culmination of all their hard work and a way to perform and showcase their skills for the student body.   Dancefest has grown over the years and now includes over 24 acts with over 240 student participants. It usually fills the Memorial Chapel.

Last semester, there was also a beginner ballet gym class offered for physical education credit, but that was cancelled this semester due to a lack of student sign ups. In lieu of this, a group of students have marshaled together funds from parents and alumni to hire their own dance instructor from Hamilton to teach advanced classes twice a week. Although the class is very popular and has over 20 students, it is not sustainable because of its reliance on donations, according to Satchell.

The possibility of having a dance program has been met with support in the Theater Department.

“The Theater Program has worked hard this year to bring dance opportunities to campus,” Assistant Professor of English in the University Theater Christian DuComb said. “In the fall, with the support of the Colgate Arts Council, we presented a concert by Grupo Krapp, an Argentine dance troupe, in Brehmer Theater. This semester, we are offering a studio course in modern dance taught by Professor Elaine Heekin of Hamilton College. And next week, we are hosting two workshops with Amy Smith of Headlong Dance Theater, which are open to the entire community.”

For Goltzer, dance is something that has changed her life and defined her time at Colgate.

“There are some of us who have done [dance] for our entire lives and are really passionate about it and there are other people who have never tried it but who have gotten really into it from their experience here,” Goltzer said. “It’s something new to try, it’s another opportunity to expand and explore and that’s what’s college is about.”

Contact Sarah Chandler at

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