UNCA’s dance department strong despite budget cuts

By Emily Honeycutt – ehoneycu@unca.edu – Asst. A&F Editor

Photo by Harper Spires - Staff Photographer Leah Lekich and Julia Hays perform “Ways of the Waves” at the show last weekend.
Photo by Harper Spires – Staff Photographer
Leah Lekich and Julia Hays perform “Ways of the Waves” at the show last weekend.

Cuts in funding and the loss of adjunct instructors in the dance program at UNC Asheville did not deter faculty and students from continuing the program and putting on this spring’s performance last Friday and Saturday.

“For me personally, dancing makes me feel so powerful and so happy,” said senior women, gender and sexuality studies student Jessica Hill. “It is a way of aligning my mind and body and moving in an intentional way. It’s about pushing my body but also making my body feel supported and loved through movement. It is the best way for me to express myself and connect with others through dancing.”

Hill said she felt concerned when the existence of the dance program at UNCA came into question.

“I was really worried when it seemed like UNCA would have to discontinue its dance program, especially when some dance teachers were unable to teach anymore and some classes were cut,” Hill said.

According to Hill, the dance program is an important part of the curriculum at UNCA.

“My dance classes are some of my favorite classes at UNCA, and I think the dance program is just as important as any other area of study or extracurricular activity on our campus,” Hill said.

Health and wellness lecturer Connie Schrader said although the dance program faced problems, it still goes on strongly.

“A few years ago, the program lost several adjunct instructors due partly to budget cuts and partly to the administrative decision to eliminate positions that were staffed by adjuncts who lacked master’s level credentials specific to their area of instruction,” Schrader said. “Folks who were offering courses in which there is no master’s level credential such as African Dance,  Middle Eastern forms – in other words, most vernacular forms – were not renewed. We were tasked to revamp the minor in dance so that it could be completed within two years, given the courses we could now offer.”

With fewer instructors and less funding, Schrader said the program had to make some sacrifices.

“The program is much reduced both in content and in the breadth of student interest we are able to address, but we continue to attract students from across a wide range of disciplines, and are able to offer four classes each semester as well as a minor in dance,” Schrader said.

The program still put on a performance that attracted many members of the UNCA and Asheville communities, Schrader said.

“All three performances were sold out and dancers and patrons were very pleased. There was terrific variety and something for everyone,” Schrader said.

Hill also said the response from the community resonated with her.

“I think the community’s reaction to the dance program is that people always come out to support our concerts, whether they are on campus or somewhere else in the community,” Hill said. “I really appreciate students and other community members supporting us by coming to see everything we’ve been working hard on creating.”

Photo by Harper Spires - Staff Photographer Julia Hays performs in the Interstellar Dance Project show last weekend.
Photo by Harper Spires – Staff Photographer
Julia Hays performs in the Interstellar Dance Project show last weekend.

The spring performance, called “Interstellar Dance Project,” included original choreography from the dance program ranging from jazz to tap to modern to Middle Eastern styles.

Hill said working with other students was the most memorable part of the spring production.

“My favorite part about working on the production was learning and creating choreography with the other students,” Hill said. “I think collaborative dances are so powerful and it always feels amazing to create a piece that uses so many bodies. In those group dances, I can feel both the individual input of each person as well as the collective energy.”

The performances were enhanced using visuals such as aerial loops. Hill’s involvement with the production included these stunts.

“I was involved in the spring production in a number of different dances, both for classes and dances that students created on their own,” Hill said. “I choreographed a solo for the spring concert that involved some dancing on the floor as well as on the lyra, or aerial hoop.”

 

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