“We Have a Dance Department?” And Other Stories of Dance in Higher Education

Posted on June 8, 2011


I am a dance minor at the University of Oregon, (UO) and although I’m not a major, I still try to stay very involved in the dance department at my school. When I’m not dancing, I’m usually around people who don’t know much about dance. After I’ve made comments about dance to these non-dancing folk, I have heard some of my peers respond with questions such as, “there is a dance department here?” Others simply immediately assume that the type of dance I participate in must be either hip hop or ballet. As a modern dancer who still has no idea how to adequately describe the form, this is frustrating.

It isn’t as if our department is filled with unqualified professors or unskilled dancers, there is a lot of talent and experience present within the UO dance program. And it isn’t as if we don’t have an audience in this city who is interested in watching dance. Actually, a great majority of our performances have been completely sold out over the course of the year.

I constantly ask myself what should be done to make dance a bigger part of the community? From there, I reach the question, “why is dance important?” The way I see it is that everyone dances, and historically we have been dancing for a long time. It is important to keep these ideals alive in our culture in a way that does not include women objectifying their bodies. There is a lot involved in the previous question that I’m still trying to figure out, but I know that it is something that I am passionate about so I will keep pushing to have it seen, experienced and respected.

The University of Oregon is a PAC 10 school so sports are a really, really big deal here. Most of the time it seems to me that football is the only thing that anyone thinks about around here. This makes it difficult for modern dancers, as it is often assumed that the only dancers at this school belong to the dance team that performs at every football game. No, we do not wear green and yellow cheerleading outfits when we perform. Sorry to break it to you!

I have recently been promoted to be Publicity Manager of Dance Oregon, a student group on campus, and I am still in the process of discovering what it is exactly that makes me so interested in modern dance, as well as what I can do to get others interested. It is my hope that within the coming year the student community at the University of Oregon will begin to learn more about the UO dance department and the awesome work that is coming out of it!

What is it that drew you to modern dance? What do you think draws newcomers to the form who may have been previously reluctant or ignorant to the idea?

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Posted in: Education