Forging Ahead

A professional dancer brings West Virginia its very first dance major.

Yoav Kaddar is practically a one-man department machine.As director of the dance program at West Virginia University, with only one other recently hired faculty member to share the load, his day might include working on a grant, scheduling the next guest artist or overseeing the three divisions of his summer dance academy, all while running in and out of the office to teach modern classes throughout the day.

This fall, he welcomes the first crop of dance majors to the school—a sweet reward for Kaddar, who in just three years has transformed a dance minor into the first bachelor of arts dance degree in the state. Though dance has long had a rich history at WVU (its first recreational ensemble was established in 1928), only recently has interest in the department exploded. Enrollment for its dance minor has consistently hovered around 80 students.

Originally from Israel, where he studied folk dance, Kaddar got his BFA from Juilliard. After performing with the Limón Dance Company, Pilobolus, Jacob’s Pillow’s Men Dancers and Paul Taylor Dance Company, he returned to school for his MFA and then a PhD in education administration and policy studies. What initially attracted him to WVU was the opportunity to build a BA degree program from scratch. “I knew I wanted to go into administration,” he says, “because I wanted to be able to make changes in education and root for the dance world.”

Kaddar’s work has helped the department develop a dance honor society, a student association and a National Dance Education Organization chapter. Students have three opportunities to perform each year, including a program called Masterworks, in which a renowned company sets work on participating dancers. (Taylor and Jump Rhythm Jazz Project were its first companies.) He also created a weeklong summer program, WVU Summer Dance Academy, with divisions for youngsters, teenagers and teachers. Funding for the Academy, which had nearly 50 participants last summer, was generated entirely by Kaddar.

WVU dance minors in Yoav Kaddar’s Standing Tall

In the future, Kaddar hopes to start minors in both dance education and dance science. “We have strong sports medicine and human performance programs here at WVU,” he says. “I like to cook with what I have. Why not expand on the connections that already exist?” In fact, crossovers with the dance department keep popping up everywhere. In spring 2014, the program will enroll its first football player, something Kaddar admits he’d love to encourage more of with a dance-for-athletes class. “I’ve been like a kid in a candy store—I’ve had a hard time figuring out what to tackle first,” he says. “Even doing simple things, like ordering a sign for the door that reads ‘Dance Program,’ elicited cheers from the students. They finally feel like they belong somewhere.” DT

Photos courtesy of WVU

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