|Dance major brings passion out of students|
|Written by Vanessa Nagel, Staff Writer|
|Tuesday, 22 January 2013 16:30|
Undergraduates attend Illinois State University with hopes of gaining the education needed to pursue teaching, nursing and accounting careers. But one competitive major calls for prior extensive training: dance performance.
Dance performance is a competitive field, and ISU’s audition process reflects that spirit of competition.
“Students take a full class to show us their abilities in ballet, jazz and modern dance,” Greg Merriman, instructional assistant professor of dance, said. “They then perform a brief solo and conclude the process with an interview.”
Interviews are a crucial element to the admission process. Dance careers require interpersonal skills in addition to well-rounded physical movement.
“Our graduates are real problem solvers, orally articulate, great team players, even better team leaders and can think outside the box,” Merriman said.
Students gain a versatile education in the fine arts industry by enrolling in lighting, costuming, dance history, acting and stage make-up courses. As far as performance training goes, students take ballet, modern and jazz techniques, choreography, improvisation and dance anatomy and kinesiology.
The dance faculty create an environment that nurtures the students by encouraging them to “think globally and act locally.” All faculty members emphasize the importance of students constantly learning and improving, and the intimacy in the dance program allows students to do so. In the program, dance students are not just a number among a sea of faces at ISU.
“In many dance programs underclassmen don’t even get to see the main stage until their junior or senior years,” Shelby Mitsdarffer, sophomore theatre major, said. “At ISU, I’ve had many opportunities to perform and be cast in guest pieces.”
Due to constant performance, many audiences have a pre-conceived notion that dancers can only build a successful career into his or her 30s. However, Assistant Professor Darby Wilde wants to set the record straight.
“Performing on a consistent basis can take a toll and cause wear-and-tear on a body,” Wilde said.
“It depends on the body and how the person maintains their technique, fitness and nutrition as she or he ages. There are dancers who continue after 50, but they are going to need to take the time to train and maintain their body,” she added.
The key to building successful dance careers after graduation is desire, discipline and artistry. Although dancers may not earn the highest paying salaries, they are some of the most passionate and driven professionals.
“Dancers are a very self-motivated bunch,” Merriman said.
“They don’t need much encouragement to do something with their degrees. They are going to make it happen on their own,” he added.
Dancers must develop a connection to the movement that will draw audiences’ attention. Students involved in the major often begin teaching, choreographing and pursuing advanced degrees after graduation.
“Obviously, the challenge is what is next?” Abbey Hanson, senior dance performance major, said. “Will I get in with a company? Chicago or L.A.? But, that is kind of the beauty of the challenge.”
Undergraduate dancers know that the future is filled with benefits in addition to uncertainty.
“The biggest benefit is that I get to dance, which is what I love,” Hanson said. “And I get to cartwheel everyday! You can’t do that in an office!”