Students dance their way to success

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Dancing at South Dakota State is not only reserved for the SDSU Dance Team or for the country dances; SDSU also offers students a chance to dance in an academic setting through the university’s dance minor.

Melissa Hauschild-Mork, the SDSU dance coordinator, works hands-on with students on their way to earning a dance minor, and earned one herself while studying at SDSU as an undergraduate. Since her time at SDSU, the minor has been shaped to fit the needs of her students better.

“I kind of recreated the dance minor at SDSU several years ago based on what the national standards are for dance minors for universities across the nation but then you also have to look at who are your students and what do they need,” Hauschild-Mork said. “It would be really silly to have a dance minor on campus that looks exactly the same as a dance minor in New York City because my students are different and the experiences they need are different. So I spent a lot of time looking at who are the students who are gravitated toward this minor.”

Hauschild-Mork said that within the approximate twenty eight students earning dance minors at SDSU, there are three types of students she generally sees taking her courses.

One group of students that Hauschild-Mork sees is students who have never taken a dance class or have had the opportunity to take a dance class.

“There’s a large number of people who are just hungry [to learn about dance],” Hauschild-Mork said. Hauschild-Mork said that these students are curious about dance and choose to take courses because they are only one or two credit hours work.

Another group that Hauschild-Mork identifies as a large portion of the dance minor students are theatre or music students who “want movement experience to connect to other professional opportunities.”

“They need to know more, and they recognize that if they are to go on, they might need a little more experience,” Hauschild-Mork said. “Those students want to have a greater presence and control of their body…”

The third group of students Hauschild-Mork recognizes is students who have had extensive dance experience already.

“They [the students] are defined in some way of being a dancer,” Hauschild-Mork said. “The idea of coming to college and not having that opportunity … is really frightening for dancers. They really want to keep dancing for their own health and wellness, but also for their personal growth and they just want to keep dancing and learning. They want to know more.”

One such student that falls into this final category is Kathryn Mattes, a junior exercise major, who has been dancing since she was around two years old.

“When dance has been a part of your life like it has of mine, you can’t just stop dancing. I wanted to dance,” Mattes said.

Mattes believes that taking part in the dance program at SDSU has added value to her college experience.

“It feeds the hunger and the addiction to dance,” Mattes said. “It’s an escape from the stress of my major courses … (and) I have learned more about myself in how I tend to move and the connection to my personality, how I like to teach, and how I like to learn.”

Mattes plans to continue her dance education by working at a private studio and would like to become a dance instructor at the collegiate level “focusing on strength and conditioning for dancers and the studio environment.”

Students minoring in dance currently have a partnership with Estelline and teach the dance pupils at the studio each month.

The dance program is also connected to the Brookings Community through the Exultation Dance and Choral Company. This is a “liturgical dance company that’s connected with a community choir,” Hauschild-Mork said. “All of the proceeds from the performances go to the Brookings Domestic Abuse Shelter downtown.” The company performs Easter and Christmas performances each year.

Not only do dance students work with the Brookings community through the choral partnership, but they are also a part of the SDSU Expanding Harmony Dance Studio Partnership Company. The partnership has continued for 25 years and allows students to take classes at the studio while at the same time earning academic credit from SDSU. Hauschild-Mork said that the partnership allows students to have their “practical experience at the studio.”

This past Saturday dance students took part in the Expanding Harmony Dance Studio dance recital.

Ashley Fuhrman, a senior advertising major with minors in dance and communication studies, was in three pieces during the recital, including her own piece.

Fuhrman based her performance off of Maya Angelo’s Caged Bird poem because she “liked the emotions that were portrayed in that piece and so my inspiration stemmed from that poem and I kind of brought it down to that emotional connection and the feeling of being trapped and being held back by your own worries, expectations and any type of stresses and wanting to break free from those and pursue your own individual happiness … and so the movement portrays that.”

Fuhrman, like Mattes, also believes that her involvement in the dance program has enriched her college experience.

“It [the dance program] has been the sole reason I chose SDSU and stayed at SDSU,” Fuhrman said. “Melissa Hauschild-Mork … she is seriously my mom on campus and without her I don’t know where I’d be. She has really helped lead me to defining my career goals and helping my dance goals as well and she’s just a great teacher and cares about her students … and then having my dance friends, my dance family, around me has been a really great opportunity and then getting to fulfill my passion at the same time has just been awesome.”

Fuhrman said that anyone is welcome to get a dance minor.

“The dance program comes from a very holistic approach and focuses on just being very kind and welcoming and nurturing,” Fuhrman said. “It’s a very nurturing environment and everyone gets along. … It’s a really good program for anyone who’s just interested in dance, wanting to learn more about movement or wanting to learn those transferable skills… but doing it in a fun, active way.”