Dance students enjoy their new home


    The TCU School for Classical & Contemporary Dance trains its students in movement, so making the transition from the Rec Centerand the GrandMarc to Erma Lowe Hall has not slowed the department down.

    During the building’s renovation this past year, the school held classes in the GrandMarc and the Rickel Building, which is lo- cated in the Rec Center. Dance faculty and students celebrated the official opening of the new building with an open house on Oct. 13.

    The newly-renovated building features three studios, a student lounge, a Mac lab, a body/mind studio, costume and production shops, more office space and an elevator, Professor of Dance Susan Douglas Roberts said.
    The studios have taken on a more professional look and the larger studio can be used as a theater space for small-scale performances, she said.

    Senior Ballet and Modern Dance major Colleen Pagnotta said, although the department was slightly homeless last year, students and professors were grateful for the hospitality of the GrandMarc and Rickel.

    “I found it a nice change of pace,” she said. “Through being in the Rec Center, we actually felt like a part of campus, not being stuck in our own little world in the dance building. I got to see friends not involved in the dance department and they got to see a little of what we do every day.”

    Pagnotta said she is thrilled about the reopening of Erma Lowe Hall, and glad that it is finally up to the high standard of the rest of TCU’s campus.

    Junior Ballet major Jenn Shinn also said that practicing outside of their own building gave the rest of the campus an opportunity to gain insight into the department.

    Shinn said she is excited to see the finished product after all the hard work and planning that went into the building.

    “It is everything a dancer could possibly want in a dance facility,” she said. The school did not wait for the official opening of Erma Lowe Hall to start the semester’s events, though.

    Guest artists Amanda McKerrow and John Gardner, both world-renowned ballet danc- ers, were in residence until Sept. 18. They were setting a work from the Antony Tudor Ballet Trust contracted for the school’s fall concert, Director Ellen Shelton said.

    McKerrow was the first American to receive a gold medal at the International Ballet Competition when she won in 1981. She has appeared as a guest artist globally and is in demand as a master teacher for both students and professional dancers.

    Gardner, distinguished in American Ballet Theatre and White Oak Dance Project, has staged numerous ballets for companies and schools around the world.

    Shelton said the school also rehearsed another work contracted from the George Balanchine Trust, staged by Michele Gifford.

    Dance Medicine Specialist Deborah Vogel arrived Sept. 23 to teach a one week intensive body work course with first-year students, Shelton said.

    Shelton said the school welcomed guest artist Sarah Gamblin and returning alum Christian von Howard in the month of October.

    The school’s annual DanceTCU Fall Concert took place Nov. 4-6. The featured works of classical ballet and contemporary dance and a work choreographed by faculty mem- ber Susan Douglas Roberts, Shelton said.

    “Brown Bag,” an informal student-choreographed performance, took place on Oct. 17 in the Studio B Theater.

    Pagnotta said she was most excited to perform in a ballet piece titled “Fandango” choreographed by Tudor and restaged by McKerrow and Gardner. She said she is also looking forward to presenting her own choreography in December.

    TCU’s dance curriculum covers a wide range and Shinn said that range is what makes the program unique.

    “We not only study ballet or modern dance, we get an insight into all aspects of dance,” she said. “We take classes on teaching, production, lighting, design, music and anatomy.”

    The dance faculty was what drew Shinn to TCU in the first place. She said the professors take the time to get to know their students as individuals.

    “They help us discover our strengths and develop our weaknesses as dancers,” she said.

    During their senior years, dance students are required to put together two concerts in which they are responsible to create their own pieces and plan everything from casting dancers to designing the lighting, Pagnotta said.

    “A dance degree from TCU really gives you the knowledge to get a job anywhere in the dance field,” she said.

    Pagnotta said she most enjoys the fact that she has the same four or five faculty members all four years, which makes for a close relationship.

    Douglas Roberts, who has taught Modern Dance and Choreography at TCU for more than 25 years, said TCU is one of just a few schools in the country that offers a bachelor’s of fine arts in both Ballet and Modern Dance.

    “Our dancers are both specifically and broadly trained,” she said. “Dancers who graduate from our program are skilled and adaptable to contemporary concert styles.”

    Douglas Roberts said she is passionate about witnessing students arrive at the point in which art and education intersect.

    “It is fundamental that dance artists make choices in motion that are both conscious and intuitive at once, in the moment,” she said. “To be the one who facilitates that kind of expertise, to engage one-on-one with dancers who are coming into their own as artists, is both privilege and fuel.”