Dance classes remain popular while the minor goes unnoticed

Photograph by Hanna Merzbach

By Sydney Owada

I’m not really sure we have that much dance here.” This was the response I received from a guide while touring Lewis & Clark four years ago, before I became a performer, choreographer and minor within the dance program.  What I took from this statement is that there is no dance at LC, read: you have to choose pursuing academics over your passion.

Yes, the Dance minor exists. That being said, it exists as a Theatre minor with a Dance concentration, a subdivision of a subdivision. While I cannot list the names of all the Dance minors at LC, I would be surprised if there are more than ten of us; at times it seems that there are more football players enrolled in dance classes than there are total minors. This is not to say that Dance minors do not interact with each other — limited class availability and hours of rehearsal give us cause for daily encounters. Rather, the dance community at LC is so welcoming that it is impossible as well as unnecessary to separate dedicated dance participants from registered dance minors. Regardless of their status as a minor, most participants dance for the sake of dancing: for moving with other bodies, for creating, for laughing, for sweating, for learning; so, we do not ask who is a minor and who is not — we do not care, as long as you are willing to move. As those who identify purely as a dancer can have the same passion and opportunities to move as a minor, the only difference is that we minors are able to take the classes necessary to list the title on a diploma.

One such class is Fundamentals of Movement (affectionately known as Fundies), which functions as the gateway drug of the dance program — if you can manage to register for it. Like most minors, it was the first dance class I took at LC and it has significantly transformed the way in which I relate to movement, choreography and my own body. As suggested by its name, Fundies provides the knowledge base for the minor, as the course links anatomy to movement, presenting the body as a biological machine and dance as a means for exploring its potential. Not only do the other courses in the program draw from the bodily information gleaned from Fundies, but they also pull from its approach to thinking about movement as more than just a step.

Whether it be in Contemporary Dance Forms or Contact Improvisation, the view of movement as a source of inquiry, a method of self-discovery, and a culmination of impulsive and cerebral experiences is derived from the core of knowledge established in Fundamentals of Movement. This is the defining quality of the dance program: facilitating the opportunity to feel at home in your own body, to train your mind so that it is perfectly attuned to your bones, muscles and every fiber of fascia that stretches beneath the skin, and to extend this newfound sense of self outward. This is enlightening, for it places movement within the context of dance as well as within that of our existence as bodily beings.

Despite its exceptional qualities, the minor does not have much departmental heft, hence the tour guide’s uncertainty of its existence. This is mostly due to the dance program’s small size. The program features a whopping average of two professors and about three classes available at a time. Although this may contribute to the unique intimacy of the program, having limited resources creates scheduling conflicts and competition for classes that hinder many dance enthusiasts from completing the minor. For example, while taking Fundamentals of Movement is essential, the course has been known to have a waitlist of over 20 students. Minors are forced to compete with students seeking an “easy” class for credit fulfillment while the scarcity of other sections available does not leave room for alternative options.

Nevertheless, even if inclusiveness creates overcrowding, it demonstrates a campus-wide interest in dance, something that we as minors should support as it lets others experience our art and perhaps even develop a passion for it themselves. Dance at LC it thrives on this principle that anyone can and should be able to dance in a collegiate setting; minors just make up a smaller part of this larger whole.

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