Monday, September 18, 2017

The History of Dance on Campus

Student Dancer, 1928

Dance has always been a very important part of the history of The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG). When the college opened in 1892 as the State Normal and Industrial School, “movement” was taught as part of the Physiology and Hygiene curriculum under the direction of resident physician Dr. Anna Gove. The program stressed posture, calisthenics, gymnastics, and walking. This cutting edge curriculum was a product of several important conferences held during the mid-nineteenth century, which attempted to refine different physical education ideologies prevalent in the United States and Europe.

Only a decade after the school opened, Physical Culture had broken away from Physiology and Hygiene, concentrating on “the development of grace, precision, alertness, agility, and endurance.” This plan of study also included sports such as tennis, field hockey, and basketball. Physical education was stressed so that the students could both keep in shape and learn basic athletic skills that would prepare them for their career as teachers. By 1911, the school’s “Physical Training” program included rhythmical movements and folk dancing, as well as singing and games. These areas remained an important part of teacher training through the 1920s.

Folk Dancers

During these years, dance also emerged as an important part of school pageants and productions. Park Night, May Day, Field Day, and school clubs provided opportunities to bring both music and dance to campus events. Park Night festivities began with the “Dance to the Past,” followed by a large procession of students carrying torches. The event continued with lyrical poetry, presentations, and a solo dance, ending with the “Dance to the Future.”  The elaborate May Day celebrations included students dancing around colorful, ribboned poles, as well as group dances performed as part of smaller productions held around the campus. Even Field Day, primarily an athletic event, incorporated a “dance drama” performed by the Orchesus Club. This exclusive campus group was founded for students interested in interpretive dance.

Mary Channing Coleman

In 1920, college president Julius Foust lured Mary Channing Coleman away from her position at Columbia University to be the director of the school’s Physical Education Department, and the wheels were in motion to move the program into one of national importance. Under Coleman’s direction, dance became a growth area within the physical education curriculum, offering a variety of choices such as rhythmics (including interpretive dance), clogging, and folk dancing. Dances such as clogging and square dancing, which were both closely connected to the mountain culture of the state, were particularly popular.

The students’ interest in dance was fueled by the visit to the college by several important dance troops, including the Duncan Dancers, which had been organized by the internationally renowned American dancer, Isadore Duncan; the Denishawn Players, featuring Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn; and the famous Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova.

Virginia Moomaw
The curriculum continued to grow under Coleman’s strong management and in 1945 Virginia Moomaw was brought to the college to develop an official dance program. Shortly after her hire, the interdisciplinary Graduate Creative Arts Program was approved, which established dance as an MFA degree program and in 1957, students had the opportunity to declare dance as their major. Moomaw was also very involved with dance outside of the school. She was active in the early years of the National Dance Association as well as the AAHPERD (American Association of Health, Physical Educations, Recreation, and Dance). Her reputation for excellence and her creative curriculum made the college’s dance program one of the best in the nation.


Student Dancer, 1990s
In the following decades, dance became a part of several administrative changes. In 1963, the program was included in the Physical Education Department with health education, physical education and recreation but by 1970, dance became part of the School of Heath, Physical Education, and Recreation, which was renamed the School of Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance in 1980. When in 1991, the School of Health and Human Performance was formed, dance was included and remained as part of the department until 2010 when it joined the School of Music, Theatre, and Dance.  In 2016, the Department of Art merged with the School of Music, Theatre, and Dance to form the College of Visual and Performing Arts, the largest performing arts programs in the state and one of the largest programs in the region and in the country.*

* The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (20 January 2015). "UNCG: GRAMMY nods for four with ties to School of Music, Theatre... -- GREENSBORO, N.C., Jan. 20, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ --".

No comments:

Post a Comment