Department of Theatre and Dance
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Dance Student Handbook
The dance program offers students opportunities to develop knowledge, skills, understanding and appreciation of dance as an art form that can enrich and inform the quality of life. The B.A./B.S. degrees in dance include academic courses, performance opportunities and choreographic experiences geared entirely for the undergraduate student seeking a career in dance or a dance related field.[endsection] [section=Dance Program Goals]
Graduates of the Dance Department at Western Oregon University are expected to achieve the following learning outcomes:
- Demonstrate a significant body of theoretical, cultural, and historical knowledge pertaining to the field of dance.
- Integrate and independently apply dance skills, abilities, theories and/or methodologies.
- Connect ideas, synthesize techniques, and transfer that knowledge into current dance practices.
The dance program provides the opportunity to develop creative, technical, pedagogical, and performance skills under the guidance of professional faculty in a supportive environment. The curriculum is structured to develop wellrounded dancers with a solid foundation for a career in performance, choreography, and teaching or advanced graduate study.
Emphasis is in modern dance with strong support classes in ballet. Course work includes improvisation, composition, jazz, tap, world dance, hip-hop, dance history, dance and technology, dance production, pedagogy, creative dance for children, kinesiology, wellness for dancers, notation, musical theatre and repertory.
Resources include two full-time studios, with one studio equipped for conversion to an informal performance space, a shared studio space in the Health and Wellness Center, a main stage theatre which seats 590 and houses a scene shop and lighting, sound, costuming and make-up areas. Western has two full-time, one cross-discipline and three adjunct dance faculty. Guest artists are invited to choreograph, offer workshops, performances and lectures throughout the year for the WOU Dance Theatre, and the campus community.[endsection]
[section=History of The Dance Program]
Maple Hall Built: 1913; Dedicated February 1914; Cost: $8,500 Functions: Built as the gymnasium for the campus from 1914-1936. It became the Student Center when the “new” gym, now known as Old PE, was completed in 1936. Maple Hall became a gym once again for the campus elementary school in the 1960’s. The dance program and the ROTC shared the space until 1996 Maple Hall became a full-time dance studio and performance space.
Dance has been a part of curriculum of the institution dating back to the turn of the 20th century and was originally part of the Physical Education Department at the Oregon State Normal School. In 1976 Rice Auditorium was completed and the first dance concert was produced and directed by Jamie L. Aiken, a P.E. instructor who taught dance classes and choreographed musicals for the theatre program. The husband and wife team of Ray Miller and Jessica Wood arrived in 1978 and dance became part of the Creative Arts Department. With a single dance studio (OPE 212), Ray and
Jessica began developing the dance program and added technique classes in ballet, jazz and tap, as well as theory courses in choreography, history and education. In 1980 the State Board of Higher Education approved the dance minor. OCE became Western Oregon State College (WOSC) in 1982 the same year that Ray and Jessica left and a second husband and wife team, Elaine Heekin and Bruce Walczyk arrived. Each of these husband-wife teams shared a single faculty position and the first full-time position in dance was filled when Jacky McCormick replaced Elaine and Bruce in 1985. Jacky continued alone until Sharon Stokes Oberst joined her in 1987. The program grew and more full-time faculty arrived with Deborah Jones in 1992 (retired 2015), and Darryl Thomas in 1997. With the new faculty came many new course offerings to the program including Creative Dance for Children, Dance and Technology, Creativity, Dance
Production, Dance Pedagogy, Partnering and many more. In 1997, WOSC became WOU, and dance no longer shared Maple Hall with the ROTC. A sprung floor was installed in Maple and the process of turning the studio into an informal performing space began. The dance major was approved for the 1999-2000 academic year. Susan McFadden came to WOU in 1999 (retired 2011). Dr. Marita Cardinal and Amy Rance McDonnell joined the dance faculty in the fall of 2008 and Cynthia Gutierrez-Garner joined the faculty in 2010. The much-needed new dance studio in the Health and Wellness Center opened in the spring of 2011. Les Watanabe joined the faculty in the fall of 2014.[endsection] [section=Guidelines and Requirements for Dance Majors and Minors]
Dance majors are expected to balance their academic responsibilities along with the rigor of a major in the performing arts as well as other personal responsibilities. All dance majors must be enrolled in technique classes in every term that they are a declared dance major. Dance majors are expected to participate in all auditions, master classes and dance concerts.[endsection] [section=Advising Procedures]
All majors and minors MUST have a dance faculty advisor. Each student should sign up for an appointment and see her/his advisor during the two weeks prior to registration each term. The student’s advisor must approve any adjustments to the department curriculum requirements. All open-ended course numbers (terms and hours to be arranged) must have signed approval of a supervising instructor as well as the Department Head and Division Chair before a student will be permitted to register for the course.[endsection] [section=Placement in Technique Classes]
It is the sole discretion of the dance faculty to place students in appropriate levels of technique classes. Placements are not based on class rank (freshman, sophomore, etc.) but on many factors, all of which include the best interests of the student. Determinations about appropriateness of level placement may be made by recommendation of current instructors, at the placement audition classes held on the Friday of New Student Week fall term or during the placement and scholarship audition class held each April. Students will be given a Technique Placement Form explaining which level the student should register for the following term or year.[endsection] [section=Mentorship Assignments]
Incoming freshman and transfer students will be assigned an upper class buddy. The buddies will:
- Contact their assigned buddies and introduce themselves
- Arrange a get together one on one or in small groups
- Meet casually to get to know each other
- Share some experiences here at WOU and offer advice and information
- Answer any questions that new students may have about the program or the school or about life in general.
- After this first contact, the buddies will check in periodically via email or phone or when you meet face-toface in classes or in passing.
- The main thing is to let new students know that there is someone here for them and who cares.
- Dance Technique Evaluation Form—a form used to measure the progress of a dancer’s individual technical skills.
- Dance Technique Placement Form – a form administered at the end of each academic year and at auditions for new students, which assess and place students into the appropriate technique level.
- Pre and Post Written Test—upon entering the program freshman and transfer students will take a written test to assess their knowledge of theoretical and historical aspects of dance. The same test will be re-taken during the student’s final term.
- Senior Project—each graduating senior with a BA/BS in Dance will be required to present a capstone project in one of the following areas: 1) Choreography, 2) Performance; 3) Research project or other creative projects.
- Annual Interviews and Written Forms—each freshman, sophomore and junior dance major will complete the Dance Major Progress Report form and bring it with them when they meet with the dance faculty each spring term. The purpose of these meetings is to establish a shared sense of progress between the faculty and student and to discuss any concerns either may have regarding a student’s ongoing progress within the program.
- Senior Exit Interviews and Written Forms—each senior or exiting student will complete an Exit Interview for Graduating Dance Majors form and bring it with them when they meet with the dance faculty during their final spring term.
- Annual Student Questionnaire—dance majors will receive a Questionnaire for Dance Students which rates the overall dance program will be filled out anonymously and collected each spring term.
- be a full time student at WOU
- be a declared dance major
- have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or better
- maintain a cumulative 3.0 or higher GPA to continue a renewable scholarship
- attend the spring audition class
- submit an essay stating why you are pursuing a Dance Major degree (Incoming students only)[endsection]
Within the department important information is communicated in various ways, it is the student’s responsibility to make sure they are kept abreast of any new announcements by checking the bulletin boards and e-mail accounts regularly. Please check the bulletin boards outside of the OPE 212 Dance Studio and inside Maple Hall on a regular basis. Failure to check the bulletin boards does not excuse one from missed meetings, master classes, rehearsals, and technical calls.[endsection] [section=Being Cast In a Production]
Being Cast in a Production Students who have been cast in a production, must understand and be willing to take on the responsibility of being a performer. This means taking technique classes each term, being realistic about schedules and making commitments that can be kept. Dancers are expected to attend all rehearsals, meetings, previews and showings, fittings, and performances as scheduled by the choreographer and by the director. Performers need to be at rehearsal on time, warmed up, and ready to work with a choreographer. Dancers need to make the rehearsal process and the performance a priority over and above other extra-curricular and social obligations. When a student is at a rehearsal, and the choreographer is working with someone else, students should take care of their bodies by doing stretching or strengthening exercises quietly on the side and by actively watching the rehearsal process as the piece develops.
[endsection][section=Use of Studio Space]
Use of Studios, Equipment Dance department classes and rehearsals will take precedence in all scheduling of dance studios. Students may contact Professor Gutierrez-Garner to reserve time in the dance studios. Students choreographing for dance concerts and dance majors and minors may be issued an electronic key allowing them access to the studios. Dancers may use the sound and video equipment provided in the studio. Be sure to close all windows, lock doors, turn off the power to the fans and sound equipment and return remote controls, chairs, curtains, knee pads etc. to their proper place.
At the end of the Informal Fall Concerts and Spring Dance Concert performances all performers are required to help with strike. Responsibilities include taking down the lights, rolling up and storing the dance floor, putting away props and costumes, etc. As they say, “Many hands make light work.” This is an important responsibility and everyone is expected to participate fully.
Each graduating senior with a BA/BS in Dance or a BA/BS in The Arts with a Dance Emphasis will be required to present a culminating project. Students will submit a formal proposal during their junior year outlining their project to the department faculty. Choreographic projects will be presented in the annual spring dance concert. Research or other creative projects will be presented on Academic Excellence Day, which is the last Thursday in May.
[endsection][section=Dance Major Progress Report]
During the spring term of each year, current and graduating dance majors will be required to schedule an interview appointment with the dance faculty. The purpose of these meetings is to establish a shared sense of progress between the faculty and student and to discuss any concerns either may have regarding a student’s ongoing progress within the program. Students are responsible for checking emails and watching bulletin boards announcing the reviews, and for signing up promptly when scheduling sheets are posted.
Dance Major Scholarship Auditions are held during spring term. Auditions are normally held the third Saturday in April. Scholarships are available for both new, incoming dance majors as well as continuing dance majors. Amounts of scholarship awards will vary from year to year and will be determined by the results of scholarship fund raising efforts. In order to be eligible for a dance scholarship you must:
Scholarships are awarded based on cumulative grade point average and technical ability. Students wishing to be considered for a dance scholarship must participate in the dance scholarship audition. The audition class is taught by WOU dance faculty and consists of a ballet barre, and an eclectic mix of modern, jazz, hip-hop and improvisation in the center. Students who receive renewable scholarships must participate in the audition class each year.
Dance Department Scholarship Established in 2000 by the Dance program for outstanding dance majors. One-year. Carla Anne Stokes Dance Scholarship established in 2001 by the Stokes family in memory of their daughter (Sharon’s sister). One-year.
WOU Laurels Scholarship Awarded to incoming and transfer undergraduate student with high academic merit. Renewable.[endsection] [section=Performance Opportunities]
Performance and choreographic opportunities include student choreography for both formal and informal productions, senior thesis projects, the WOU Dance Theatre’s repertory performing ensemble, and annual dance concerts. As part of the Department of Theatre and Dance and the Division of Creative Arts, dance students have opportunities for choreography and performance in plays, musicals and faculty and student projects. Students also have opportunities to learn and practice their art in collaboration with students and faculty from the other arts disciplines.
Informal Fall Dance Concert Each fall term the dance program presents an informal dance concert in Maple Hall. This dance concert is produced and crewed by the Dance Production class, choreographed by the Group Choreography class, and performed in by students in the dance program. This concert is the Friday of Dead Week.
Informal Spring Dance Concert Each spring term the dance students present an informal dance concert in Maple Hall. This dance concert is produced and crewed by WOU students in the dance program who are interested in choreographing and performing by the Group Choreography class, and performed in by students in the dance program. This “anything goes” dance concert typically the last Friday of May.
WOU Dance Theatre is the performing company of the Theatre/Dance Department. Guest artist, student and facultychoreographed works are presented in the annual spring dance concert. Cast auditions take place in January. All dance students are encouraged to participate.
In order to be eligible to choreograph for the annual Spring Dance Concert students must:
- be a dance major
- have senior class standing
- have A GPA of 2.5 or better
- have completed D 260 Improvisation, D 351 Composition I, D 352 Composition II, and be enrolled or have completed D 455 Group Choreography with a grade of B or better in each course
- have consent of dance faculty
Student works will go through the process of two previews. After the second preview, pieces will be selected to be performed in either the main stage concert in Rice Auditorium or in the informal spring dance concert in Maple Hall.
In addition to the main stage production, WOU Dance Theatre participates in campus-wide events, sponsors workshops and master classes, and regularly participates in the American College Dance Association. Members of the company may receive credit for performing and choreographing. Membership is open to all Western students.[endsection] [section=Other Performance Opportunities]
In addition to the main stage production, WOU Dance Theatre participates in campus-wide events, sponsors workshops and master classes, and regularly participates in the American College Dance Association. Members of the company may receive credit for performing and choreographing. Membership is open to all Western students.
Each year, the WOU dance program invites regionally and/or nationally renowned guest artists to set repertory works, historical works or create a new work on WOU dance students. Students have an opportunity to audition for the guest artist and to be cast in the work. The piece will be performed in the annual dance concert at WOU and is often performed and adjudicated at the regional American College Dance Festival. By audition only.
Rainbow Dance Theatre (RDT) is a professional modern dance touring company associated with Western Oregon University. Directed by Professor Darryl Thomas and Valerie Bergman, the Company tours internationally as well as regionally, presenting 10-15 concert performances and more than 40 in-the-schools performances each year. RDT’s ensemble is comprised of both professional dancers and outstanding WOU dance students. Company members train and rehearse 16 hours per week in addition to performances. Annual auditions for RDT are held each fall to fill open Company positions and for apprenticeships. Students with a minimum of one year of intermediate level or higher dance technique may register for Rainbow Dance Theatre for credit by arrangement with Professor Thomas.
Men’s Dance is a course that Professor Thomas offers for male dancers of all abilities and dance experience. This course culminates in an all male dance work that is performed in the spring dance concert.
Student Concerts Students interested in producing their own concert, should contact their faculty advisor to discuss the possibilities.
[endsection][section=Dance Classroom Ettiquette]
Excerpted from Classical Ballet Technique by Gretchen Ward Warren; Ballet Basics by Sandra Noll Hammond; Teaching Beginning Ballet Technique by Gayle Kassing, and Sharon’s brain.
An aspect of training that should never be neglected is the practice of proper classroom etiquette. The traditional, prescribed modes of dress and behavior for dance class are important preparation for the discipline and demeanor expected of all professional dancers. Alert observation is crucial for learning in a movement discipline such as dance, where exercises and patterns are typically demonstrated by the instructor for the students to follow. The ability to quickly and correctly imitate a movement phrase is important in the highly competitive professional dance world. That world is virtually closed to those who do not have that ability.
For some courses, students could read a book and learn how to do some things on their own, without attending the class. This is not true for dance. Students cannot learn to dance without attending class regularly and practicing the exercises and steps over and over again.
Students should arrive early to class so that they are ready to promptly begin class. (e.g. be at the barre for ballet or in the centre for other techniques.) Instructors should not have to call students to their places at the barre or center. Students who arrive late for class usually should not be permitted to participate. In the professional ballet world, if you miss the first count of the first exercise you are not allowed to take class. Although some teachers may occasionally make exceptions to this rule, it should be remembered that the barre exercises are designed to be done in a carefully regulated progression in order to warm up the body safely and slowly. A student who misses the initial pliés and tendus risks discomfort and injury by starting barre work faster and more strenuous exercises are being performed.
Clothing should be comfortable, neat, clean, and close-fitting. A teacher cannot accurately correct a student without seeing all parts of the student’s silhouette. Given the sweaty nature of dancing and the fact that dancers work in close proximity to each other in class, cleanliness is imperative. Dancers should use deodorant and wear clean dance clothes. We have a shower room designated just the dance program. Please use the facilities. JJ
Listen and Ask Questions
Always take every correction given in class as though it was directed specifically to you. Correct execution cannot always be achieved simply by unthinkingly copying another’s movement pattern. Be open to suggestions; be willing to try new ways of learning; and don’t be afraid to ask questions or to make mistakes. In general students should ask the teacher for clarification of a count or movement rather than asking a fellow dancer. Listen to the answer when a classmate asks a question. You may benefit from the answer as well.
Formations and Spacing
It is important for students to remain in their assigned places or formations—at the barre, in lines in the centre, and in groups moving across the floor. In this way they do not crowd each other and can avoid accidental and potentially dangerous collisions. Keeping in line or formation is also excellent practice for the challenge of corps de ballet or ensemble work.
In classes containing students of several levels of technique, common protocol is for the more advanced dancers to stand in the front line or to lead off in a combination. Right of way is always given to the dancer in motion. So students waiting off to the sides must give way to dancing individuals and groups.
While one group performs, the other group or groups wait at the back or side of the studio so that they can take their places as soon as possible when it is their turn. During the performance of the combinations, the waiting dancers should stand quietly and attentively. Students may mark or dance in unused spaces while they wait as long as they are not in the way.
Please Do Not Please Do
*chew gum *turn your cell phone off
*eat *arrive to class early
*drink (other than water) *
*talk (personal chit chat)
*wander in and out of the room
*lean against the barre or wall
*open windows or doors without asking the professor[endsection] [section=How to File a Complaint in the Dance Department:]
If a student wishes to file a complaint/grievance about another student, an earned grade, an instructor’s behavior, etc. they are to follow the chain of command listed below:
- First, approach the teacher about the problem/issue (if you feel they would be receptive to the conversation)
- If the issue is not resolved after talking to the instructor, a student should talk to the current Dance dept. head.
- If the dept. head is unable to resolve the issue, a student should talk to the current Creative Arts Division Chair (office located in the box office of Rice Auditorium).
- If the issue is not resolved after talking to the Division Chair, a student should talk to the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (Bellamy Hall 234)
- If the issue remains, make an appointment with the Provost
- If the concern is still not resolved, make an appointment with the University President.