UST starts bachelor of fine arts in dance

December 30, 2018

The University of St. Thomas (UST) is introducing a bachelor of fine arts in dance for the spring 2019 semester.

The new degree was made possible due to a partnership with METdance, one of Houston’s largest dance companies.

According to Claire McDonald, professor and chair of fine arts and drama at University of St. Thomas, UST used to have dance, primarily as an extra curricular activity, back in the 70s and 80s, but it faded out. There were numerous attempts to reinvent a dance program, and in the early 2000s the university got as far as designing a dance minor, but “the stars did not align at the time.”

“We have had a partnership with MFAH Glassell School of Art and the partnership has worked very well…If we can do this with the studio art [program], we can do this with dance and partner up with someone prominent in town and develop a similar program,” McDonald said.

According to www.metdance.org, METdance is a multi-functional dance organization that excels at entertaining and captivating audiences, instilling a passion and excitement for dance in its students, training the talented youth of Houston and preparing them for careers in dance performance, and inspiring children through the art of dance.

METdance holds dance classes for children, teens and adults. METdance also has a repertoire company with 13 dancers that are contracted for a year. The company performs seven main performances each year in the Houston area. The company also tours nationally.

Jennifer Mabus, a choreographer, dancer and dance educator helped design the program, which the UST faculty and Board of Directors approved this past June.

“Students will be able to take technique classes at the METdance center. They get to have experience of working for a professional dance company. They will get an inside look at what their profession will be,” Mabus said.

The students will take introduction classes in contemporary dance, ballet, and global and urban dance form, and then can choose a specific dance focus as they move further through the program.

There will also be classes on choreography, dance history, and theory. There will also be an opportunity to assist teachers at METdance for younger student’s classes.

“We are looking for students to have some elementary dance training, and have a sense of dedication in pursuing the art form,” Mabus said.

McDonald hopes that students will find the new program appealing due to the University of St. Thomas being nestled amongst the various arts of Houston. McDonald also noted that there will be scholarship money available to incoming dance students.

“This is the best time to be joining the program as it grows by its nature,” McDonald said.

Both Mabus and McDonald noted that it was due time that Houston was able to offer a B.F.A in dance, currently the only one at any of the Houston area higher education institutions.

“Dance has been a stepchild in many academic situations. As an art form, it is probably more ancient than theater,” Mabus said.

For more information, visit www.metdance.org and www.stthom.edu.


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