Fall term next year will bring some big changes for Knox’s dance program. While in the past, the three main techniques of jazz, ballet and modern dance have always been somewhat separated in classes, Associate Professor of Dance Jenn Smith hopes that the new program will segregate them less.
“I’ve always taught with this approach to making a connection between mind and body,” Smith said. “Philosophically, the dance program isn’t changing as much as we’re realigning the technique classes.”
Instead of having, for example, Beginning Ballet followed by Intermediate Ballet, the dance program will now offer classes such as Contemporary Dance I, II and III.
“It might look really different on paper,” Smith said, but she also thinks it will not be too big of a change to deter students who enjoy the program now.
The new program will also include more anatomical principles of movement, which Smith hopes will become successfully integrated into every class.
Over the years, Smith has become increasingly interested in somatic practice and theory, which focuses on the relationship between the body and the mind. In the past, she believes teaching this theory has benefited her students.
“The students coming out of the Knox dance program are very thoughtful artists,” she said. Somatic practice also aligns with Knox’s mission as a liberal arts institution, she said.
Junior Jamie White, a Dance minor who has been involved in upper-level dance classes such as Choreography Workshop, said he is wary of the new program possibly being frustrating.
“It can be frustrating that you’re taking the same material every class,” he said.
As far as the Knox dance program offering a Dance major (it only currently offers a minor), Smith said it’s always an idea that she “toy[s] around with. If we were to go into that direction, I would envision something even more interdisciplinary.”
White thought that while a Dance major might be beneficial to have, the Dance minor alone is a rigorous one.
“[The dance department] is gaining attention, gaining numbers,” White said. “As a minor, I think I’m doing the right amount of work … more work for the Dance minor than my Creative Writing major.”
He also said that while he does not think a Dance major would make the department seem elitist, he thinks it would become more intimidating to people less experienced in dance who want to get involved.
While Smith said she would be excited about a Dance major in the future, she wants to examine how the changes within the department work out in the coming year. Since the dance program—which is technically a part of the Department of Theatre and Dance—currently only consists of two faculty members, Smith and Assistant Professor of Dance Kathleen Ridlon, if the program ever did offer a major, a new faculty member could possibly be in the future as well.
“I see it as being more of a dance studies program,” Smith said. Her vision of the dance department in the future is one that is not based on spending eight hours in a studio working on form, but one which would involve studying other areas such as acting, world music and the psychology of art.