Katie Langan never intended to teach dance—much less run an entire college dance department. Now, with decades of experience under her belt, including more than 15 years as the dance chair at Marymount Manhattan College, Langan is a passionate advocate for higher education.
How did she get where she is? Following early training at North Carolina School of the Arts, American Ballet Theatre and School of American Ballet, and a performance career highlighted by stints with Ballett Zürich and Twyla Tharp Dance, Langan got her BA in art and design at MMC. While a student at the college, she was asked to teach a ballet class. Part-time soon became full-time—and the rest is history.
During her tenure at MMC, Langan has revamped the school's dance curriculum. For example, "Once, there were only two options: The BFA was about performance and choreography, and the BA was about teaching," she says. She broadened the department, adding BA concentrations in body, science and motion; dance and media; teaching dance arts; and dance studies. She also restructured the technique class requirements. "We want there to be a skill set beyond kinesthetic awareness," she says. "Dancers should be able to write about dance, speak about it and negotiate the field on many platforms. The study of dance can be as rigorous and multifaceted as any other discipline."
A normal day for Langan runs the gamut, and it might include hands-on classroom time, administrative work, meetings with students, faculty and staff, and much more. To give you an inside look at the life of a dance department chair, DT shadowed Langan on a typical Friday.
1 pm: Meet with Marymount Manhattan College president
After a quick-change out of her teaching attire, Langan heads to a meeting with MMC's president, Kerry Walk. The two discuss the speech Walk will give at the department's 2017 Dance Gala, which features choreographer Jerry Mitchell as honorary chair. The nearly $33,000 raised from the gala goes toward bringing in guest artists and filling other gaps in the budget. Langan is working with her advisory board in hopes of establishing a new scholarship. Another ongoing conversation: how to find and pay for more dance space for the growing department. MMC currently has five studios on campus and rents additional space from the nearby Martha Graham School, but with approximately 230 dance majors, things are still a bit cramped. "Space is the final frontier in New York City," Langan explains. "The quality of our program is already at a very high level, but more space would complete the picture."