First some great pieces of news:
We have been working hard on recruiting for our new low-residency Master of Arts in Dance Studies and I am happy to report that we have a cohort of wonderful students starting with us online this summer. The Master of Arts in Dance Studies prepares both the dance educator and scholar, while investigating a range of disciplinary practice, including in-depth study of dance histories, arts advocacy, pedagogies, and critical reading and writing. This degree is an exciting new addition to the program. I am confident our first cohort will be challenged both creatively and intellectually.
We have also been recruiting for our new Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Dance and have a group of technically strong and creatively curious students in this first cohort joining us in the fall of 2020. This Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance with a concentration in Dance Performance and Choreography prepares young dancers to become independent creative artists by providing the skills, tools, and practice necessary to pursue a career in the professional world of dance. We are striving to support artists with unique creative perspectives, strong technique, and the ability to add their artistic voices to our field. This BFA provides conservatory-style training within a liberal arts environment, where young dancers are encouraged to take artistic risks, expand natural talent, think critically, and foster an interdisciplinary, collaborative approach to their work as dance practitioners.
With our strong BA in Dance in place to provide the foundation, it is exciting to see what these new additional degrees will contribute to the overall culture in the Dance program moving forward. I believe all three degrees will complement each other in profound ways. Students will not only learn from faculty and guest artists, but also from one another, striving to engage rigorously in their training and scholarly work. Our goal is to position all of our students well in the competitive and ever-changing field of dance and to prepare them to shape the art form as educators, performers, choreographers and/or as scholars.
As we are heading towards the end of this semester, it is important to reflect on what we have learned during this period of on-line teaching and learning. Most of us in dance have been using Zoom to teach during regular scheduled class time. This has provided both structure and community for our students which they appreciate. We as a faculty have tried to meet once a week to share insights and discoveries with each other, which has provided community and comfort. I have been impressed by how our faculty and students have risen to this challenge. Our students have been willing to play, be flexible, remain positive, be honest, share frustrations, be vulnerable and remain in the moment. It has been inspiring to see them be resilient and work with such focus and clarity in challenging circumstances. They are still excited to move and learn and share!
Here are some thoughts from some of our technique teachers this semester. The first voice is our guest artist Li-Chou Cheng, who, fortunately, has joined us for the entire semester. He has brought great depth of knowledge and experience of ballet to the program. Our students have been profoundly affected by his teaching and mentorship and I want to express my gratitude to Dean Noel Zahler for being instrumental in providing the funding for this semester long appointment.
Li-Chou Cheng: I never imagined I would be teaching like this! The students' spirit and effort have been really good! It's taught me to be more patient and understanding. For my age, I never thought I would be teaching with so much technology. On the good side, I have learned a lot of new technology! The students at TTU are smart and they are very quick to pick up and eager to learn.I am very impressed with the facilities here at TTU - everything is so beautiful. The faculty and the students welcomed me with open arms and anytime I needed help somebody was always there to help from the School Chair to the faculty and students.
Yvonne Racz-Key: Teaching technique is a huge challenge for both the students and for me. It is especially difficult with ballet technique. I love interacting with the dancers. I like to be in the room demonstrating and sharing the space. I do a lot of hands-on corrections and imagery and it is best conveyed in person. However, I would say teaching online makes us grateful; we won't take for granted our dance classes after this experience. The camaraderie of your fellow dancers, the learning, the sharing of space and breath will be wonderful to experience again, with new knowledge gained from this endeavor!
Kyla Olson: Teaching online has been both positive and negative. While I am so happy to see my students and interact with them online, I miss working with them in the studio, having that kinesthetic shared experience of dancing together. While I am not able to give them hands-on corrections, I'm discovering ways to communicate with my students about their progress in class. It's important to keep that safety and structure of our class environment while working individually. I'm also encouraging my students to use this turbulent time as an opportunity to grow and create in new ways that feel meaningful and powerful to them. My students are becoming more insightful about their experiences in and out of class, which is always rewarding. I'm proud of the work they have accomplished over the past few weeks online.