New dance program at Northwestern State takes first step

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A letter of intent for a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance at Northwestern State University has been approved by the by the Board of Supervisors for the University of Louisiana System. The degree program is subject to approval by the Board of Supervisors and the State Board of Regents.

The new program would be the only one of its kind at a public university in Louisiana.

“We are excited that the letter of intent was passed through the Board of Supervisors for the University of Louisiana System,” said Director of Dance and Associate Professor of Dance Kirstin Riehl. “The BFA would be a professional degree program with specialized emphasis in dance training and education. The goal for creating the degree is to prepare students for professional careers in the dance industry.”

Riehl co-authored the degree proposal with Assistant Professor of Dance Brett Garfinkel.

The university plans to produce well-rounded students who will be able to enter any area of the dance profession including performance, teaching or choreography. A BFA program contains more courses in dance than a Bachelor of Arts program.

Objectives for the Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance are:

• to develop technical mastery in dance techniques within both professional practice and performance;

• to become knowledgeable with the cultural and historical dimensions of dance and apply these principals in choreographic and pedagogical environments to support student’s work;

• to articulate critical thinking and creative problem-solving skills in theoretical and practical application in dance

• to demonstrate an integral understanding in the principles of dance training as it applies to self-practice, pedagogy, anatomy and kinesiology;

• to understand and apply techniques and principles of choreography, producing and creating work, directing dances and producing a concert

• to cultivate an appreciation for the technical side of performing arts, working in the lighting, scene and costume shops.

A survey of high school dancers indicated that 91 percent of those questioned would consider applying to Northwestern State if the BFA in Dance were available.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of dancers is projected to grow five percent between 2016 and 2026, which is in line with the average for all professions.

The program would meet a need within the state for K-12 dance teachers. The state offers dance certification in grades K-12, but no public university in Louisiana currently offers a degree in dance or fully prepare K-12 students to meet the Louisiana Arts Content standards.

Northwestern State dance students perform for the Board of Supervisors for the University of Louisiana System prior to approval of a letter of intent for a BFA in dance at NSU.