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Dance Education Blog

NDEO's "Dance Education" Blog features articles written by NDEO members about dance and dance education topics as well as periodic updates on NDEO programs and services. This is a FREE resource available to ALL.

25Jun

A Message from NDEO President Regarding Dance Department Closures

Dear Members and Friends of NDEO,

The past few years have been tumultuous for dance in higher education. After an impressive shift to new models of teaching and learning dance during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, many schools now face struggles with decreased enrollment, budget cuts, and shifting institutional priorities impacting dance programs nationwide. These trends within higher education and elsewhere within our field have been happening for a while, notably with Mills College (2021-2022) and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (2021). However, the reality of their impact was demonstrated starkly in the abrupt closure of the University of the Arts in Philadelphia on June 7, 2024.

a male dancer in a studio in all black reaches forward with one arm and stands on one leg.

NDEO would like to share the heartfelt thoughts we all carry during this time of shock and uncertainty of the news regarding the abrupt closure of the UArts. We, and our field of dance education at large, are still stunned to hear this news. Our organization is dedicated to advancing dance education in every sector of the field, including higher education. We strive to offer programs, services, and resources that benefit dance educators and their students, advocate for policies that ensure the sustainability and growth of dance programs nationwide, and most of all foster a supportive community within the field. We are encouraged by the overwhelming response of other college dance programs, many of which are members of NDEO, who have stepped up to help and encourage UArts students and faculty through this crisis. Through the work of the organization and our members, we hope to strengthen the state of dance education within higher education, despite the current challenges being faced.

While we as a field know the great value of dance in higher education, we must recognize that the challenges to our sector are rooted in a shifting and uncertain economic and cultural landscape that will continue to affect the future of higher education, especially arts programs in higher education. We must continue to find innovative ways to support our students through these shifts and uncertainties to ensure that our programs provide the best possible educational experience.

The current economic reality is that many students will graduate from collegiate dance programs with limited options for full-time work as dance performers. Declining enrollment numbers may indicate that the economy is leading students away from pursuing a dance major or minor, because they and their families fear they will not find meaningful employment post graduation. We must take that reality and those fears seriously as we prepare students for their post-graduation journeys. The 21st-century dance career is one in which college graduates benefit greatly from a robust and diverse program of study, including a variety of dance techniques, pedagogy and teaching methods, research, and introduction to related fields like dance medicine, non-profit administration, dance therapy, technical theater, and writing for dance, to name a few.

This broad educational experience will prepare students for the range of potential career paths available to them within and outside the field of dance, outside of performing. We must also consider how the impact of social media and the gig economy continues to affect arts employment, and provide students with the financial literacy, marketing skills, and additional training they may need to ensure a strong and sustainable future.

a group of dancers perform a pack attitude with their arms in second position.

Moreover, we must loudly extol the benefits of dance for career readiness in fields beyond dance. Dance majors go on to careers in a range of other fields, using the knowledge and skills they learned through dance to find success outside the arts. We should continue to recognize and celebrate these alumni who transferred their skills to other professions, redefining the concept of “success” for graduates of dance collegiate programs. In doing so, we help potential students, parents, and employers understand how beneficial the study of dance education can be.

We know that dance can help students develop crucial workforce skills like collaboration, critical thinking, innovation, communication, problem-solving, leadership, and emotional intelligence. Through the process of learning dance techniques, creating choreography, rehearsing and performing, and dancing together, college students are developing the qualities, habits, and skills that will enable them to find meaningful careers, build happy lives, and make a difference in their communities and in the world. NDEO remains committed to helping students, parents, administrators, and leaders recognize that fact - and we hope that you will continue to join us in this effort.

We all recognize how small our dance community of artists, students, and educators is. The ripple effect of what has transpired at UArts affects us all in one way or another. Know that our community is here to support and help, guide and advise. Together we can and will endure such setbacks and find the strength to rebuild and continue the passion and belief that we have in the arts and especially dance education. Together, we can advocate for the continued pursuit of excellence in dance education, encouraging resilience and collective action to overcome setbacks and rebuild stronger. 

Thank you,

NDEO President, Yoav Kaddar

headshot of Yoav, a white man with short hair, wearing a black suit and blue tie against a dark backround.

Dr. Yoav Kaddar is a Professor of Dance, the director of the West Virginia University Dance Program, the WVU Summer Dance Academy, and founding member and immediate-past president of the WV Dance Education Organization. He received his BFA from The Juilliard School, MFA from University of Washington, Seattle, and his PhD in Educational Administration and Leadership from the University at Albany, NY. He has been a member of the Jose Limon, Paul Taylor and Pilobolus dance companies to name a few. Dr. Kaddar has choreographed over 70 works for dance and theatre, is a Fulbright Scholar and continues to teach and perform nationally and abroad. He has been a member of the American College Dance Association Board of Directors and has served on the US Fulbright Selection Committee for the Arts. He is honored to serve as the current president of NDEO.

Photo Credits (in order from top to bottom): Featured photo by Ainsley Meadows courtesy of West Virginia University, photo by Anna Clare Weske courtesy of University of Alabama, photo by Jennifer Zmuda courtesy of Kent State University School of Theatre and Dance

Comments

Yoav,Thank you for this excellent commentary on the state of dance in higher education. You made excellent points and provided sound guidance as to how programs can navigate this changing environment. For sure, the emphasis on "the benefits of dance for career readiness in fields beyond dance" is of critical importance. Thank you for your well stated perspectives and generous serivce to NDEO and the filed of dance.
7/3/2024 8:50:01 AM |
Thank you, Yoav, for your important and timely perspectives. The complexity of sustaining a career in dance and beyond dance is in tension with how to train at the undergraduate and possibly the graduate levels. The intensity of conservatory training requires hours that in my experience can't be equally devoted to academic studies. Survival in dance and beyond dance also might call for an entrepreneurial orientation since practitioners in noncommercial arenas need to create their own opportunities. You make a cogent case for the benefits and broadening that dance study in college provides. I look forward to this continuing conversation which is critical for the development and sustainability of our field within and beyond the academy and across perceived and actual boundaries and borders.
7/1/2024 9:10:42 AM |
Hello Yoav, I was heartened by your comments. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this topic. My colleagues at SUNY Potsdam and I have been lamenting the closing of the Department of Theatre and Dance. As I watched a rehearsal of guest artist, Hettie Barnhill’s dance last month, reveling at the students’ great work on stage, I felt a wave of pride and gratitude at how the Dance Program has served so many students over the years. As a rarity—not requiring an audition—our program has welcomed students with all levels of experience, with the knowledge that dance, as a discipline, has a vital place within a liberal arts education. Performing in that concert were not only dance majors, but students majoring in Theatre, Arts Management, Criminal Justice, Psychology, Anthropology, Speech Communications, Environmental Studies, History, Creative Writing, and Art Education. As a member of the faculty since 1998, I have found great joy in teaching, not only the art of dance, but all the gifts offered through dance training: skills in communication—both speaking and writing—collaboration, problem-solving, observation, discipline, improvision, cooperation, flexibility, personal responsibility, body awareness, and much more. The history of dance at SUNY Potsdam starts at least as far back as 1953 with the first modern dance performance by students on campus; a Dance Department was created in 1970. Next year will be the final year for the Dance Program, as well as my final year on the SUNY Potsdam faculty, and I will continue to relish my connections with students and colleagues as we escort young adults toward their inner passions and values so they may live rich lives in the world.
6/27/2024 2:47:29 PM |
Thanks for sharing. The ripple effect is real and felt each time an institutional member of the community goes dark. Your support and leadership are greatly appreciated, Yoav. - Liz
6/27/2024 12:20:08 PM |
Thank you for sharing, Yoav. You make crucial points for moving forward. One of my Barefoot alums graduated from UArts just before the news. What a shock and heartbreak for so many students and professors. It seems they have been tossed into unexpected rough water. I am glad to hear other universities are stepping up to help.xojessie
6/27/2024 11:28:46 AM |
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