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5 College Dance Programs You May Not Have Heard of—and What Makes Them Unique

University of Hartford. Photo by John Long, courtesy of Hartford

Today's college-bound dancers face a dizzying array of choices. How can you as a teacher help your students make the best decision? To narrow down options, it helps to reflect on their personal strengths and interests. Would they benefit from an emphasis on teaching? Do they have a desire to explore how dance can cross over into other topics? Hope for an opportunity to study abroad? Perhaps a dancer isn't ready financially (or in terms of maturity) to commit to a four-year program, but what if their circumstances change?

Every dancer is different, and when they find the right college dance program, it can feel as if it were designed especially for them. Here, for example, are five that cater to specific groups of students. They all provide intense technical training intended to produce well-rounded, employable dancers—and each offers a unique focus you may not have known existed.


Santa Fe Community College. Photo by Ani Collier, courtesy of SFCC

The Seamless Transfer

Santa Fe College

Gainesville, Florida

AA in dance

Many four-year institutions will ask a two-year transfer student to go backward—that is, to repeat coursework. But according to fine arts chair Alora Haynes, that's not the case with SFC graduates who transfer to the nearby University of Florida's four-year BFA. The two schools—which are both located in Gainesville—even share faculty. "We've been working together for so long that our students are highly sought-after," says Haynes.

Dickinson College students. Photo by Pierce Bounds, courtesy of Dickinson

Dancer As Activist

Dickinson College

Carlisle, Pennsylvania

BA in dance

Under the leadership of renowned New York–based dance artist Sarah Skaggs, Dickinson College pairs dance with social activism. Dickinson dancers have taught movement workshops for senior citizens with dementia and worked with local hip-hop groups to offer after-school classes in the community. Skaggs encourages her students to create choreography that is engaged with contemporary issues. "We attract students who want a tool set—students who are asking, 'How do I get engaged? What do I do?'" she says.

Ballet-centric BFA

University of Hartford

West Hartford, Connecticut

BFA in ballet pedagogy

In addition to its performance-focused BFA, The Hartt School Dance Division at the University of Hartford offers a rare ballet pedagogy BFA program. For that degree, students take seven semesters of pedagogical theory, complete internships and study movement analysis, music theory, anatomy and kinesiology, dance administration and human development in order to prepare for a career in dance education, whether at the studio, professional or university level.

Tulane University. Photo by Melisa Cardona, courtesy of Tulane

Multitalented MFA

Tulane University

New Orleans

MFA in interdisciplinary dance performance

The Newcomb Dance Program's three-year interdisciplinary MFA allows students to complete research in other disciplines, like gender and sexuality or Africana studies. With courses like Choreography and Media and Text and Movement Studies, the graduate program requires students to coordinate about a half of their three-year credits with other university departments.

Kennesaw State. Photo by Robert Pack, courtesy of Kennesaw State

International Exposure

Kennesaw State University

Kennesaw, Georgia

BA in dance

Kennesaw State's BA curriculum includes the option to enroll in a two-week study-abroad program with Israel's Batsheva Dance Company. Dance majors get to study company repertory, including Gaga, the ooey-gooey improvisational dance form introduced by Ohad Naharin.

News
Courtesy Russell

Gregg Russell, an Emmy-nominated choreographer known for his passionate and energetic teaching, passed away unexpectedly on Sunday, November 22, at the age of 48.

While perhaps most revered as a master tap instructor and performer, Russell also frequently taught hip-hop and musical theater classes, showcasing a versatility that secured him a successful career onstage and in film and television, both nationally and abroad.


His resumé reads like an encyclopedia of popular culture. Russell worked with celebrities such as Bette Midler and Gene Kelly; coached pop icon Michael Jackson and Family Guy creator Seth McFarlane; danced in the classic films Clueless and Newsies; performed on "Dancing with the Stars" and the Latin Grammy Awards; choreographed for Sprite and Carvel Ice Cream; appeared with music icons Reba McEntire and Jason Mraz; and graced stages from coast to coast, including Los Angeles' House of Blues and New York City's Madison Square Garden.

But it was as an educator that Russell arguably found his calling. His infectious humor, welcoming aura and inspirational pedagogy made him a favorite at studios, conventions and festivals across the U.S. and in such countries as Australia, France, Honduras and Guatemala. Even students with a predilection for classical styles who weren't always enthused about studying a percussive form would leave Russell's classes grinning from ear to ear.

"Gregg understood from a young age how to teach tap and hip hop with innovation, energy and confidence," says longtime dance educator and producer Rhee Gold, who frequently hired Russell for conferences and workshops. "He gave so much in every class. There was nothing I ever did that I didn't think Gregg would be perfect for."

Growing up in Wooster, Ohio, Russell was an avid tap dancer and long-distance runner who eventually told his mother, a dance teacher, that he wanted to exclusively pursue dance. She introduced him to master teachers Judy Ann Bassing, Debbi Dee and Henry LeTang, whom he credited as his three greatest influences.

"I was instantly smitten, though competitive with him," says longtime friend and fellow choreographer Shea Sullivan, a protégé of LeTang. "Over the years we developed a mutual respect and admiration for each other. He touched so many lives. This is a great loss."

After graduating from Wooster High School, Russell was a scholarship student at Edge Performing Arts Center in Los Angeles, where he lived for many years. He founded a company, Tap Sounds Underground, taught at California Dance Theatre and even returned to Edge as an instructor, all while maintaining a busy travel schedule.

A beloved member of the tap community, Russell not only spoke highly of his contemporaries, but earned his place among them as a celebrated performing artist and teacher. With friend Ryan Lohoff, with whom he appeared on CBS's "Live to Dance," he co-directed Tap Into The Network, a touring tap intensive founded in 2008.

"His humor, giant smile and energy in his eyes are the things I will remember most," says Lohoff. "He inspired audiences and multiple generations of dancers. I am grateful for our time together."

Russell was on the faculty of numerous dance conventions, such as Co. Dance and, more recently, Artists Simply Human. He was known as a "teacher's teacher," having discovered at the young age of 18 that he enjoyed passing on his knowledge to other dance educators. He wrote tap teaching tips for Dance Studio Life magazine and led classes for fellow instructors whenever he was on tour.

In 2018, he opened a dance studio, 3D Dance, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where he had been living most recently.

Russell leaves behind a wife, Tessa, and a 5-year-old daughter, Lucy.


"His success was his family and his daughter," says Gold. "They changed his entire being. He was a happy man."

GoFundMe campaigns to support Russell's family can be found here and here.

Teaching Tips
@jayplayimagery, courtesy Blackstone

Zoom classes have created a host of challenges to overcome, but this new way of learning has also had some surprising perks. Students and educators are becoming more adaptable. Creativity is blossoming even amid space constraints. Dancers have been able to broaden their horizons without ever leaving home.

In short, in a year filled with setbacks, there is still a lot to celebrate. Dance Teacher spoke to four teachers about the virtual victories they've seen thus far and how they hope to keep the momentum going back in the classroom.

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News
Betty Jones in The Moor's Pavane, shot for Dance Magazine's "Dancers You Should Know" series in 1955. Zachary Freyman, Courtesy Jacob's Pillow

An anchor of the Humphrey-Limón legacy for more than 70 years, Betty Jones died at her home in Honolulu on November 17, 2020. She remained active well into her 90s, most recently leading a New York workshop with her husband and partner, Fritz Ludin, in October 2019.

Betty May Jones was born on June 11, 1926 in Meadville, Pennsylvania, and moved with her family to the Albany, New York, area, where she began taking dance classes. Just after she turned 15 in 1941, she began serious ballet study at Jacob's Pillow, which was under the direction of Anton Dolin and Alicia Markova for the season. Over the next three summers as a scholarship student, Jones expanded her range and became an integral part of Jacob's Pillow. Among her duties was working in the kitchen, where her speedy efficiency earned her the nickname of "Lightning."

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