The incoming freshman class of 2024’s dance majors may be the first students to experience a brand-new structure to the dance program in the Conservatory of Performing Arts (COPA).
According to the program chair, Garfield Lemonius, concentrations will no longer be offered to dancers, and the option of obtaining a Bachelor of Arts degree, rather than a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, will no longer be available. This change comes in favor of offering more opportunities for cross-curriculum between schools for dance majors, with focuses in education, entrepreneurship, choreography and leadership.
Currently, the program offers both a B.A. and a B.F.A. option for dancers, as well as requiring dancers to pick a concentration of either ballet, modern or jazz within the dance major.
“The goal is to do away with concentrations as they are and as they relate to focusing on technique area,” Lemonius said. “Right now it is a constant focus on ballet, modern and jazz, and the faculty decided that in order to prepare dancers to be versatile movers, we will move away from them focusing just on technique and focus on them being overall versatile movers.”
Lemonius also said that the decision to eliminate the B.A. option was made due to the amount of students who chose the B.F.A. over the B.A.
“We found that the majority, I’d say 90%, of the incoming freshman would select the B.F.A.,” Lemonius said.
According to the Point Park website, the current B.A. program requires 120 credits to be completed, while the B.F.A. program requires 130-134 credits. However, the main difference between a B.A. degree and a B.F.A is that the B.A. is considered to be an academic degree, while the B.F.A. is considered to be a professional degree, with less of a focus on liberal arts.
Lemonius explained that in order to make the program change, a new program guide had to be created, and that it is in the process of being approved. Lemonius stated that hopefully, it would be approved by the faculty assembly in time for Fall 2020’s new freshman class.
Lemonius also explained that under the new program guide, a dancer’s freshman year would still be practically identical to what it is now.
Lemonius described several different options in the works for dancers to expand their education beyond the dance program, including the opportunities to minor or double-major in education, business or sports, arts and entertainment management.
“For dancers who are simply thinking about expanding their career opportunities at Point Park, one way would be what we call, and we borrow this from HDTV, DIY, where they can design it themselves…so the point is for them to really go outside of the department, to couple their degree with a minor or a major.”
“I personally love the idea of no concentrations,” Makenzie Farleo, a current senior dance major with a concentration in jazz said. “It creates an opportunity for dancers to become more versatile in their dancing, which is a must in the dance world now.”
Farleo also said that during her time at Point Park, she was able to build versatility into the current curriculum.
“I grew up a ‘bun head,’ so when I came to Point Park I chose to switch up the path I wanted to take to more commercial dancing, so I chose jazz,” Farleo said. “I think I took enough classes that kept me versatile in a way where I was still taking both ballet and modern classes along with my concentration jazz classes.”
“I feel like it’s not important what concentration you are, and I feel like it actually hinders you and kind of puts you in a box,” Cecilia Alves, a sophomore dance major with a concentration in ballet, said. “For me, I would think of myself as a ballet concentration and I think that people would see me that way. But I think if you just labeled everyone as ‘dance,’ there wouldn’t be so many cliques within the dance program.”
Alves also is working towards a minor in psychology, and she said that with the current programming, scheduling classes in psychology can be difficult.
“All of my classes that I wanted to take this semester for my minor were all during dance class times,” Alves said. “So if there was a way for them to build that into the program, then that would be really helpful.”
The Point Park dance program currently sits on the OnStag Blog’s “Top 30 College Dance Programs List.”
“The BFA Dance program offers concentrations in ballet, jazz or modern,” the blog reads under a section titled “Why we love it.” “Esteemed faculty include Judith Leifer-Bentz, a former member of the Martha Graham Dance Company and Jay Kirk, who has danced professionally with the Americana Dance Theatre, Dallas Ballet, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre and Chicago Ballet.”
Lemonius stated that the program must make changes in order to keep up with changes in the dance world and continue to be nationally ranked.
“In order to be recognized continuously as a, ‘top program’ in the country, we have to make sure that our curriculum is inclusive and that we have diverse talent in our dancers,” Lemonius said.