AU proposes new dance major
The department looks to diversify its curriculum
A new and highly concentrated major in dance is currently under review by AU administration to be approved as a major. While dance is currently available as a minor, a major would expand the class offerings for students.
Britta J. Peterson, the director of the dance program at AU, said that the major was designed with the AU student in mind. The proposed program is structured so that students who enroll in the major may still double major, study abroad, have multiple minors and be able to intern while earning 43 credits toward their dance major.
The foundation of the program would be what Peterson calls “Embodied Knowledge,” or dance technique classes, which could include different types of dance, such as urban and Indian dance forms. Students will also be able to learn about other relevant topics including anatomy and the history, technology and business of dance.
“I know that when our students enter the field, they are going to have the hard skills to do their work,” Peterson said.
The program will be geared to the interests and career goals of the student, Peterson said.
“What we see is that the dance student is in the driver seat, and then me and my colleagues are hanging in the side car, making sure people don’t run off the road or hit a pothole,” she said. “And if you do, we’re there to help pick you up.”
The process of introducing a brand new major at AU is a long one, Peterson said. She has been working on developing the program for the past few months, and discussions about proposing and implementing a major have been happening for years. The wait could be over: the board will meet this spring, and if approved, the dance major may become a reality for students at AU this fall.
“We talked to students, we [did] all this past research, looked at what classes have been offered, which classes have worked, what other people are doing across the nation that’s working,” Peterson said.
She has also revamped the dance minor to be more diverse and fit into the schedules of students. The movement classes, based in different types of dance, are proposed to be two credits, giving students the opportunity to add dance into their schedules even if they are not a dance major or minor. The changes for the minor are included with the major proposal and will be implemented if it is approved by the board.
Emma Rawley, a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences, is taking an intermediate jazz course this semester with Britta Peterson. She is involved in AU in Motion, AU’s largest student-run dance organization, with a focus on jazz and modern dance. She is looking forward to the changes to the dance program.
“Maybe AU will start to seem like something more than just SIS,” Rawley said. “People can start to see it as more diverse.”
Jean Thompson, a sophomore in the School of Public Affairs, also spends a lot of her time on AU in Motion and wishes that the dance major was in place when she enrolled at AU as a freshman.
“I would have definitely tried to double major in dance,” Thompson said.
Thompson said she was hesitant about declaring the minor as she had always been classically trained in ballet, but is excited to see what the new major will incorporate with its diversity of dance forms.
“You don’t have to be a major to take these classes,” Peterson said. “Everyone is welcome.”
Peterson said that the dance department is invested in inclusion, and her colleagues’ different perspectives and expertise is what will give the program its depth.
Peterson encourages all students that are interested to come to the “Dance Works,” the annual spring dance concert featuring the American University Dance Company. This will give an opportunity for students to see the work of current dance students and experience the new perspective of the dance program, she said. The show is set for April 21-22 at the AU Greenberg Theatre at 8 p.m. Tickets are available here.