Dear Mills College President,
It is with great sadness that I have come to hear about Mills College fading out their undergraduate dance program. I’m not writing this letter to yell, or cause a riot, but to make you consider a world where every major dance university decided to cut their dance programs to make their college “more contemporary and competitive.” As a past college student at College at Brockport in upstate New York, the importance of a liberal arts college that encompasses a dance curriculum of technique, composition, and critical engagement is a rarity. Many programs focus on technique, style, and performance as they are more conservatory based, and push their students in the direction of becoming a performer.
College at Brockport taught me to have a passion in my choreography, to critically evaluate and analyze my performances, and to be able to utilize theory based arguments in my writing. So, I have three questions for you. One, are you going to deprive the next generation the option to receive this kind of education from your distinguished dance professors? Two, are you ready to explain your decision of fading out the dance program to generations that you have deprived of the next Trisha Brown, Molissa Fenley, or Nora Chipaumire? And three, how do you expect to continue to grow your graduate program if there is no undergraduate program to inspire, collaborate, and drive one another?
We need to change education. To bring back the importance of the arts. Dance is in numerous basic subjects that are studied such as anatomy, math, and english. The impact dance has on individuals is more than just a class at a college, but prepares students to understand collaboration, creativity, and focus. I urge you to reconsider your decision and think about your children, grandchildren, and other young people who are important in your life. Would you deprive them of such a dance college program that has been around since 1938? Remember that our lives are full of choices, our actions affect more than just ourselves, and dance is the closest thing we have to magic.
Sign the petition today here – https://www.change.org/p/mills-college-save-mills-dance-major
Every dancer has a teacher that has inspired them to dance. From the time I was five years old to high school graduation at eighteen, I had gone to the same dance studio one town over. I had two teachers, who were mother and daughter that instilled my love of dance. Mary Carrow (daughter) and Joan Condlin’s (mother). Liverpool School of Dance was my second home. When I got into high school I was pretty much there every day of the week either taking class or helping as a teacher’s assistant.
Mary was the ballet, lyrical and jazz instructor. She had a grace to her that when she turned she could make it look easy and stop on a dime without any kind wobble. She had a knack for making dance patterns and phrases complicated, but they always looked beautiful on stage by intertwining dancers, developing levels and canons, and speed changes that brought in an audience. Joan had knowledge of tap that could rival anyone. She had been trained by the infamous Al Gilbert (professional tapper and choreographer). Lisa Henson was my lyrical solo instructor who believed I had a real talent and supported me where ever I was performing. We performed at dance competitions, traveled and participated in dance workshops, and developed a team orientated mentality with the other students I danced with in class.
So how do you know the studio you chose for your child is the right one? Firstly, I think a lot of parents push their kids into dance because they want a dream for them that they didn’t have as a child. At least these are a lot of the stories I hear from parents being a dance teacher. I think you as a parent need to first figure out if this is a commitment your child wants to make. Kids know what they like and have a lot more brain power then adults give them credit. Next comes the hard part – the research.
In small towns or big cities you would be surprised how many dance studios there are in thirty mile radius. I cannot stress this enough. Do your research. Check out the websites of the studios. See what kind of experience the instructors have that will be teaching your child not only currently, but as they get older. Go check out a class. In many cases studios will have open houses where instructors will be teaching classes throughout the day, you can meet and talk with the studios and faculty, and you have the ability to view the venue. These are all important aspects to consider when choosing a studio location.
Finally, every studio that you view is going to be expensive and it is a year commitment for not only the child but the parents. Unlike classes at a YMCA or a Boys and Girls Club where the sessions are ten or twelve weeks long, studio classes run from September until June. There are perks to being in a studio instead of a community facility, like consistency of the same children in class so the kids can form friendships, there is a recital at the end of the year along with various viewing days in class, and the student also begins to feel comfortable being with instructors they know and a facility that doesn’t change.
Finding a dance family that fits the needs of your family is important and that dance family can be a support system if your child decide to go to college for dance or make a decision to dance professionally. Also, know that if anything happens tragic or happy in your life that dance family will be there to help you pick up the pieces or join in the celebration. Either way it is important for you as a parent to do your research in the beginning.