School analyzes first semester of dance, theater split

COLLEEN DOHERTY / The Journal Mandy Whaley, Amber Franek, and Amanda Gouvenia in the early stages of dance rehearsal Jan. 15, in the large dance studio.

By Megan Senseney

It has been one semester since the university’s Department of Theatre and Dance split into the Department of Dance and the Conservatory of Theatre Arts. Although confusing for some, the move was long overdue said School of Fine Arts Dean Peter Sargent.
“It makes sense to ensure the dance department has identification of its own,” Sargent said. “Students coming into the school should know it’s a major department.”
Though the two departments have been extremely supportive of one another, faculty and students are excited for their departments to have their own identities. Dance professor Beckah Reed said it was difficult to communicate that the two departments were separate, even though they were joined under one name.
“It was challenging from a public relations perspective,” Reed said. “New students would be confused when they came to us because they weren’t able to take both dance and theater classes, even though we were a theater and dance department. We felt like we weren’t who we were advertising ourselves to be.”
Though conservatory students are able to take dance classes, dance majors — and other majors throughout the university — are not allowed to take conservatory classes. Junior dance student Audrey Simes said this is because conservatory classes are used as rehearsals to prepare for productions.
Simes said she is happy to see each department have a chance to grow independently, but the separation has further isolated the conservatory and the dance department.
“The conservatory is notorious for not wanting to mingle, and the dance department does a good job at isolating themselves, too,” Simes said. “Neither of us advertise roles and parts outside of our own communities — if we were all to work together, our performances could be that much better.”
Simes also said that, while only dance students can try out for dance productions, the conservatory assists them with the technical aspects of the show, like lighting and sound.
“The conservatory students do their thing and the dance students do theirs, but the students still connect with each other, come to each other’s performances and help with productions in whatever way they can,” Reed said. “They’re the pep crew for us.”
Students and faculty of the Conservatory and dance department look forward to continued growth and development of both departments.
“The autonomy of the dance department has empowered it with new energy,” said Dottie Marshall Englis, Chair of the Conservatory. “And the theatre has been able to officially use the name conservatory in all of its profiles.”

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