Photo and story by Eric Goodwin / Contributing Writer
Beginning this fall, MTSU students may pursue dance as a major when the university rolls out its new Bachelor of Science in Dance. The program will be the first of its kind in Tennessee.
Before the dance major was introduced, only a minor in dance existed.
“There wasn’t a more guided course of study for dance than the Bachelors of Science that will launch in the fall,” said Marsha Barsky, Director of Dance at the university.
Barsky said she is most excited about “welcoming our first cohort of dancers. I’m just really excited for that first day of school and saying ‘look at our first dance majors.’”
The major’s approval in January was the result of three years of writing proposals to the Tennessee Board of Regents, Barsky said.
“It’s been a three-year process, and I’m just excited to be able to have students on campus that really want to study dance and give them the opportunity to develop and grow their craft,” Barsky said.
She added that she looks forward to dance students not only being able to “impact this community at MTSU but really change the culture of dance in the state.”
To get into the program, students must audition. Auditions for the new program will be April 8 and September 9.
Besides requiring students to have fundamental dance skills for the program, Barsky said that in a dance student she looks for a “great attitude … an openness to learn and a willingness to take risks.”
“The curriculum is pretty much in place right now, but I would imagine that as the semesters go by and we understand the needs of our student body, we will start to develop more classes and add courses to complement what we already have in place,” Barsky said.
The major is divided into two specialized tracks of study: Performance and Choreography as well as Dance Pedagogy and Practice. Like other majors, there are core classes students must take, but beyond that, students can choose what specific areas of study to go into.
“We have general classes, but then we asked students to determine what it really is they want to do,” Barsky said. “Do they want to be choreographers, do they want to be performers, do they want to go into education?”
Regardless of which track students pursue, Barsky said, “Everyone will be prepared for graduate-level work in dance or their specialized career.”
“Currently we have all levels of ballet, modern and jazz. We also offer tap and musical theater,” she said.
In the fall, the program will offer West African dance, and Barsky said she hopes to have an aerial dance class soon.
Turning the program into a major opens the doors to wider varieties of dances.
“I’d love to have an Irish dance class, or a classical Indian dance class or dance improvisation. So these things will be worked into the curriculum as time goes by,” Barsky said.
Some may bat an eye at a dance major, claiming dance can be learned by mere practice. However, Barsky compares dance to music.
“Some people say you could go pick up a guitar and play music. That’s very true, but at the same time just working with a mentor, having advisors, having faculty who are connected within the field of dance as a whole so that you have networking opportunities, so that we can really guide and mentor our students — it’s so much easier to do that when you have a community to do that in,” she said.
Barsky added that guidance and mentorship are the keys to success in the profession.
Having the degree will take dancers further by equipping them to become professional dancers, pursue a graduate degree, work in dance therapy or start a company, among other possibilities, according to Barsky.
Interested students may visit Barsky at her office in the Murphy Center room G040, contact her directly at Marsha.Barsky@mtsu.edu or visit the website at http://www.mtsu.edu/programs/dance/.
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