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‘You can dance if you want to:’ Five things you might not know about dance at Rochester

January 8, 2018

1. You can major in dance.

single dancer on stage

(University of Rochester photo: Keith Walters)

Rochester’s Program of Dance and Movement offers students the chance to earn a bachelor of arts in dance with the option to choose from two different tracks. One track focuses on form, creative expression, and performance. Another is interdisciplinary, allowing students to combine their research interests and non-dance major with a second major in dance. Students have connected dance to everything from architecture to mental illness.

2. You can study hip hop.

University of Rochester photo: Chi Huang ’18)

In addition to taking courses in hip hop, you can watch some of the finest hip hop dancers from all across the New York state and Canada, who travel to Rochester’s River Campus to compete in the annual inspireDance Festival’s hip hop battle. “Dancers are top notch,” says Missy Pfohl Smith, director of the dance and movement program. The dance crew 7Sessions, who trek in from Binghamton, New York and Pennsylvania areas, won at inspireJAM in 2017 and 2016. No Wings Attached—a crew led by Jon Kraus, a Rochester faculty member who teaches Hip Hop Culture and Breaking, won in 2015. “They [dancers] spin on their heads. They flip standing on one hand and they spin on one hand with their bodies up in the air. Many achieve that level of skill by practicing and learning authentically on the street,” she says.

3. Beginners are welcome (and they come).

(University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster)

More than half of the students who have taken a course in the University’s dance program had never taken a course in dance before, according to Pfohl Smith. Many students start out at the inspireDance Festival, where the program offers a taste of almost all the courses—including several at beginner level—offered by the program. It’s a great time to try something new,” Pfohl Smith says. “We have students that would never have considered themselves a dancer.”

4. You can learn how to advance social causes through dance.

(Photo of New York City-based dance artist Maria Bauman by Scott Shaw)

Courses in dance and social activism include Arts and Activism and Choreographic Voice: Dance and Social Justice. Students and faculty regularly choreograph pieces that engage their audiences in sociopolitical issues or in conversations about highly charged topics.  “It’s why we’re bringing special guest artist Maria Bauman to the inspireDance Festival in 2018,” says Pfohl Smith. Bauman, a New York City-based dance artist and one of today’s leading dancers of color, will bring her community action-led choreography and company MBDance to the River Campus for a special live performance.

5. You can use dance to help out in the community.

(University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster)

Dance and movement students regularly engage with senior communities and children in the Rochester City School District. Several courses in the program help students achieve a citation in community engagement studies. Students have the chance to visit senior communities where they choreograph movements for seniors with limited mobility by using chairs. They can also visit City of Rochester high schools where they use dance and movement to help students understand lessons on such topics as the circulatory system, geometry, and world cultures.

inspireDance Festival 2018: Things to know

  • The eighth annual inspireDance Festival takes place January 20–26 and is open to all students, faculty, staff, and the general public.
  • The event consists of more than 25 classes and workshops taught by professional guest dance educators and faculty of the University’s Program of Dance and Movement. The festival also includes both student and professional performances.
  • Festival passes can be purchased in advance for $18, from December 8 through January 20, at the Common Market at Wilson Commons or online. The cost for a festival pass is $25 starting January 21, and will be available at the door only. Passes include all classes, workshops, MBDance Performance, Salsa Night, and inspireJAM. Registration is required for participation in classes and workshops. Read more.
  • The inspireDance Festival kick-off concert is free and takes place from 7 to 8:30 p.m., Saturday, January 20.
  • The festival was launched in 2011 by Arielle Friedlander ’11 (KEY).
  • This year’s festival features a Salsa Night on Thursday, January 25.
  • The popular inspireJAM boy/girl battle on Sunday, January 21, from 1:30 to 5 p.m., attracts competitors from the region including hip hop dancers from Buffalo, Rochester, Ithaca, and Toronto. The cost is $5 to watch competition and $10 to participate.
  • The Program of Dance and Movement will host approximately 100 high school students from the School of the Arts, Wilson High School, and Aquinas, at the River Campus for dance classes during “High School Day” on January 29.
  • The festival will include performances by the University student groups Ballet Performance Group, Indulgence Dance Team, Celtic, Louvre, Ma’frissa, Radiance Dance Theater, Rochester Bhangra, Rochester TundRAAS, Sihir Belly Dance Ensemble, and Swing Dance Club. 
  • The contemporary dance company MBDance will perform “dying and dying and dying” on Friday, January 26. The work was originally commissioned by Gibney Dance—a New York City-based community action-led dance company—and choreographed by Maria Bauman.


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Category: The Arts