K-State dance program continues to grow
By Natalie Rolfe
Kansas State University's dance program is making improvements.
David Ollington, K-State dance instructor, is a 1983 graduate of K-State's theater program. He's had the opportunity to see the arts at K-State grow, including new developments within the dance program.
"Experimentation is becoming popular," Ollington said. "Dance is getting more experimental because people are taking risks and it's becoming more than just dance. There's more of an experimental edge."
Ollington has been part of K-State's dance program since fall 2001. He said the dance department is very welcoming.
"I have had the opportunity to groom dancers and see them grow," Ollington said. "We have only 15 to 20 dance majors, but what's unique about our program is that we are very open-armed to minors."
K-State's dance program offers both bachelor of art and bachelor of science degrees in theater with a dance emphasis, unlike a conservatory's bachelor of fine arts degree in dance.
"Our program allows students to receive dance training infused into a strong liberal arts curriculum," Ollington said. "A conservatory's bachelor of fine arts degree in dance would be ideal for students interested in a more intensive competitive program. We offer technique class twice a week, while a conservatory would offer technique class five days a week."
Even with these differences, Ollington believes K-State dance students receive quality training.
"Our best dancers are as good as the best dancers at a conservatory," Ollington said. "Dancers make themselves good dancers, not the program."
K-State's dance faculty is growing, which Ollington sees as a plus. K-State has five dance instructors -- three full time and two adjunct. Instructors at K-State specialize in everything from jazz and tap dancing to ballet and modern dance.
A wide variety of post-graduate opportunities are available to dance students in the K-State program.
"We've had students go on to dance professionally, teach dance courses, continue on to graduate school or even open their own school," Ollington said. "The ideal job would be to dance in an internationally recognized dance company."
Along with the changes and improvements happening in the dance program, students are preparing for the annual production of SpringDance, April 2 and 3, at McCain Auditorium. Dance students also work on SpringDance's fall counterpart, WinterDance. These events include pieces choreographed and performed by students, faculty and guest artists.
Students are judged by the three full-time faculty. Ollington said that while he looks for theatrical dancers, associate professor Joyce Yagerline looks for dancers on pointe and instructor Mary Chase looks for physically daring dancers who have great movement qualities. The guest artists also choose students to dance in their pieces for the performances.
"Students were selected by being expressive dancers," Ollington said. "They needed to be people who move well and act well." Once students are chosen to dance in SpringDance, they spend months practicing and perfecting their pieces.
Although Ollington has witnessed much growth and change in the K-State dance program, he looks to even more improvements in the future.
"I'd like to see increased technical skills of the dancers as well as a larger audience," he said.
Photos: K-State students rehearse the piece "Done" for SpringDance. Hayley Cherveny, senior in psychology, and Whitney Boomer, senior in theater, choreographed the piece.
(Top right) The performers of "Done" work on how they want to position their hands for a certain sequence. From left to right are Cherveny; Amy D. Hurrelbrink, a senior in theater; Boomer; and Laura Parkhurst, a senior in theater.
(Middle left) From left to right: Hurrelbrink; Cherveny; Lacey D. Beamon, a junior in medical technology; Parkhurst; and Boomer run through "Done."
(Bottom right) Although the students work hard in practice, they also have a lot of fun. At a rehearsal for "Done," Hurrelbrink, Boomer and Parkhurst, share a laugh.