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New dance major expands horizons for dancers at CMU

Clinton Township senior Jazmine Banks (center, arms raised) dancing at the Japan Rehearsal Nov. 6 in Rose 127.

Dance students at Central Michigan University will find a new door open to them next fall — for the first time, the university will offer a major in Dance Studies. 

After nearly two years of wriggling through the editing process, the major was approved by the Academic Senate Oct. 8.

Previously a dance curriculum had only been offered as a minor. According to CMU’s website, the dance minor “complements” other performance majors, such as theater, music, music theater and teaching. The major expands the curriculum by nine classes to include an internship, a senior capstone, a writing class, a class on teaching dance and higher levels of jazz and ballet dancing.

The new major will be introduced as two opposing forces tug at each other. The newly-independent department of theater and dance is attempting to forge an identity that will draw greater numbers of performance students, while a statewide dip in college enrollment and funding has seen CMU’s student body dwindle by as much as 7 percent. 

The major approved by the Academic Senate asserts that no additional faculty would be needed, describes the major as an “inexpensive program,” and says that existing classrooms are “adequate.” Dance faculty declined to comment on the Dance Studies major, as the program is still going through the approval process. 

Students pursuing the Dance Studies major will be required to minor in either business or entrepreneurship.

A minor in business or entrepreneurship may be helpful to graduates who go on to start their own dance studios, like CMU ballet instructor Andrea Purrenhage recently did. With her Mount Pleasant School of Dance, Purrenhage became a first-time business owner. However, her lack of business experience or education hasn’t seemed to weigh her down.

“There hasn’t really been any huge bombshell that’s like, aw, shucks, this is really bad,” Purrenhage said. 

The only stumbling block that came to her mind was when she received a call from a music licensor who explained the proper way to license the music she plays during her classes. 

“I think (the major is) incredibly valuable,” said Midland sophomore Emilie Rohn, who is pursuing the dance minor. “I’m not going for the major, but I know some people who are. Dance is what they want to do for the rest of their life.” 

Rohn is majoring in exercise science and hopes to be able to combine her dance education with a career in health professions. She believes she’ll still benefit from the implementation of the Dance Studies major, because the new classes will be available to students pursuing the minor as well.

Toledo, Ohio junior Cassandra Scouten was majoring in women and gender studies before the Dance Studies major was approved. Now her plan has changed. Switching her major means she’s going to have to stay longer than four years, but to her, it’s worth it.

“I plan on switching to the dance major because dance is what feeds my soul,” Scouten said. “It provides an outlet for creativity. I have to move, I could never, ever work at a desk.”