Dancing through your Agnes Scott journey
Do you know what a dance major actually does when in college? While performance and dance ability are definitely skills that students learn, the Agnes Scott dance major is very academically well-rounded with a focus on the historical context of dance. “Students learn Labanotation (the language of dance) in addition to technique, drawing parallels between the technical material they experience today with the codified techniques of the past,” says Professor Bridget Roosa, Professor of Dance and Chair of Theatre and Dance.
Dance at Agnes Scott is often combined with other major and minor programs, and it’s easy to understand why. Dance, as a performing art, places human experience before an audience. It promotes self-examination and self-discipline, all skills that connect well with psychology, education, theatre, sociology, physical therapy and many other fields. In other words, learning to dance is one thing; learning what dance means is the true liberal arts experience.
Want to learn more about what it’s like to be a dance major? Here’s a few facts about the major from dance major Cecilia Rodriguez ‘23.
What do you learn with a dance major?
The dance major focuses on blending studio technique work with theoretical study of dance history, labanotation and critical thought. You’ll learn dance techniques, concepts and artistry and how to apply them in performance, dance literacy and the command of choreographic tools necessary for creating your own work. And most importantly, students learn to listen to their own bodies, as Cecilia says: “In dance technique classes, we focus on mastering the skills for specific styles of dance while understanding the best and safest practices for keeping our minds and bodies well. We do not study specific methods of each dance style, instead we pull from multiple different teachings so we have a well-rounded dance education that sets us up for success wherever we go.”
What kinds of classes will you take as a dance major?
On the dance technique side of things, you’ll achieve advanced proficiency in two techniques with the ability to choose between ballet, modern dance and jazz dance. You’ll also focus on performance and development skills in Acting I, Dance Performance, Choreography I and II and Labanotation. You’ll learn about the history of dance and advanced theatre technique, and you will complete your own senior-designed project. Cecilia’s favorite courses were on Choreography and Labanotation. “I love choreographing and being able to express myself through movement, and the choreography classes helped me to better understand the processes that make choreography successful and how to more effectively work. I also enjoyed labanotation a lot because it is a tool used to write down and preserve dance. I found it fascinating to be able to read the movement language and transcribe it on my body.”
What skills could I learn?
Beyond just dance technique and knowledge, you are really learning valuable skills for a performer and for life. “I have learned a lot about time management, communication, and resilience,” says Cecilia. “Time management is very important in staying on top of all of my school work in addition to rehearsals for the performances we have throughout the year. Communication is extremely important in dance. When choreographing, it’s important to clearly communicate the movement to dancers. In classes, it is important to be able to communicate feedback to peers as well as ask questions of the instructor. I’ve also learned a lot about resilience. Dance is not an easy art form, so it requires some persistence and strength to pursue it. Especially since dance is often full of personal exploration and expression, it takes vulnerability to share it with people, and it takes resilience to move forward and process criticism and feedback. Criticism is a part of any art form, and luckily at Agnes Scott we spend a lot of time focusing on constructive and positive feedback, but it takes resilience no matter what.”
What professional success opportunities are available for dance majors?
Dance majors have completed internships, research and found work both inside and outside of the dance and performance field. Within the arts, students find themselves as performers, intrustors, program coordinators and arts administrators at locations like Off Broadway, Inc., Hope Mohr Dance and Alliance Theatre. Outside of the arts, students have interned at such companies as Fidelity Investments, Forrest Johnson and Goldman Sachs, and they go into fields from marketing to human resources to business to therapy.
Cecilia has taken the opportunity to strengthen her abilities as an educator. “This summer, I was the Art and Music Program Director at Camp Twin Lakes. In this position, I facilitated camp activities for summer campers as well as planned and hosted weekly training sessions for the Arts and Music Staff. I led some dance sessions throughout the summer, but I also used a lot of the skills I learned as a dance major more regularly.”
What are the benefits of studying dance at Agnes Scott College?
There are no better words than Cecilia’s own experience: “Dance at Agnes Scott is an incredibly positive and uplifting experience. I have made some of my best friends as a dance major. Especially since Agnes Scott is a smaller institution, I know I am getting more specific feedback that helps me to better myself in my dance education, and I know my faculty are looking out for me. Since we do not study a specific method for each style of dance, I know I will be prepared for any experience I may have in the future. Also, being in Decatur, there are plenty of opportunities to attend local performances and even volunteer and work within the local dance scene. In addition to our labanotation course, we also stage historical reconstructions of dance works, which is not something you see regularly in dance curriculum at other colleges and universities.“