Open Letter to Mills College President

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.

Sincerely,
Chantel

Sign the petition today here – https://www.change.org/p/mills-college-save-mills-dance-major

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Cliques at the Dance Studio

anti-bullyingEveryone deals with bullies at some point in their lives, but in a dance studio it is unacceptable.  When students have been dancing together from the time they are nine to eighteen years old there should be a sense of comradery among the dancers.  Of course, some students are going to have more in common with others, but students shouldn’t ever feel they are being left out or that there is favoritism in the classroom, at a performance, or at a competition.  As an instructors, it is our job to protect, encourage, and support students in their dance endeavors; and parents should be setting this example.

Unfortunately, we live in a world where their are mean girls and boys, and no matter what their age, bullying has a tendency to be inevitability.  Growing up at a studio the owners were a second family to me.  They always supported me in my desire to go to college for dance by allowing me to become an assistant dance teacher, giving me the opportunity to take more classes, as well as took some of my suggestions to heart by creating a competition team to give students the ability to be on stage more as well as developed opportunities for more classes.  I would love to say that the competition team was always a great experience, but their became this inner turmoil that was unnecessary during my senior year of high school.  The twenty-three year old competition team instructor still had a high school mentality and treated certain students like they were the stars and that the rest of the students didn’t deserve to be there.  It created small cliques within the eleven person dance team, put a wedge between students that had been together for years, ultimately ended the job of the instructor, and led to the disbanding of the Saturday competition team by the time I left for college.

So, how can you prevent this from happening in your own dance classroom or studio?  Firstly, know the instructors you hire.  Not everyone that comes through your dance school or studio as a student should be teaching.  Watch classes and see how the instructor interacts with the students.  View the student’s reaction to the instructor’s direction.  Second, create a team player mentality in the classroom as well as at performances.  Having a support system between the students is the key to a successful choreographed routine and harmony among the students.  And thirdly, have the parents understand and execute kindness and support between one another as well as the dancers.  As the old saying goes there is no I in team and you need everyone to be a team player if you are going to be successful in the dance world.