THE WELLESLEY NEWS STAFF EDITORIAL
Campus forum for advanced dancers fails to be reconstituted
Published: Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 3, 2012 12:10
Now that the semester is getting into full gear, student organizations are also returning to their campus activities. To the regret of many students, however, earlier this semester Wellesley College Dancers was not to reconstituted by the student-run Student Organizations and Appointments Committee (SOAC). Alongside FreeStyle and AscenDance, Wellesley College Dancers is one of the few dance programs at the College. It particularly serves as an important forum for students with a more advanced, trained background to continue engaging in the craft. The failure to support the Dancers’ reconstitution raises critical questions about the extent to which the Wellesley College community is supporting student organizations that aim to promote the performing arts.
Students should join extracurricular activities and on-campus organizations based on criteria that encourages active engagement with the world. Pursuits outside of the classroom serve as a way for students to relax from schoolwork and do something that they are passionate about. To maintain good mental and physical health, students must actively seek options that help to improve their fitness and relieve pressure from their busy academic lives.
The prioritizing of fitness and relaxation among the College community was reflected in a recent MSNBC ranking that placed Wellesley College third on a list of the 20 fittest colleges in America. However, when juxtaposed to other comparable liberal arts schools, such as Mount Holyoke College and Smith College, both of which have a dance program similar to the Dancers, Wellesley stands out as the only one not supporting a dance program of its own. Despite being one of the fittest colleges in America, Wellesley College no longer has a constituted dance program oriented to trained dancers. This alone reflects how little support the College is giving to dance and, to a lesser degree, the performing arts in general.
While dance opportunities at the College are certainly not limited to the Dancers, this program is the only Wellesley College dance program geared towards more advanced and trained dancers. The limited support and attention that the College does pay toward dance tends to be oriented toward entry-level dance and physical education classes.From the frustration conveyed by many dancers after the Dancers lost their SOAC-funding, it is clear that these entry-level dance classes and groups cannot satisfy the needs of long-time dancers. While Wellesley does have physical education classes for dance, the classes tend to be geared more toward dance as an exercise or a sport and “degrade dance as an art form,” in the words of a former co-president of the Dancers. After the organization became unconstituted—and, therefore, lost its funding, some Wellesley students chose to transfer in order to fulfill their interest in performing arts elsewhere, according to the former co-president of the organization. Such student dissatisfaction hurts the arts culture on the College campus and further impairs Wellesley support toward dancers and the performing arts in general. With fewer students engaged in different styles of dance directly on campus, the College is less likely to devote more resources to enhancing its artistic culture and to strengthing its dance programs. In terms of academics, there are few performing arts academic programs at the College aside from theater arts and music. Meanwhile, other schools such as Amherst and Mount Holokye offer students dance majors and minors.
Even without considering the College’s public image, the obvious distress of advanced dancers on campus should be enough to promote a change. Students, and their diverse interests, are the core of what keeps Wellesley an active, lively and thriving community. Destorying the primary forum for advanced dancers on campus is essentially cutting off a not-insignificant aspect of the performing arts. While the organization was presumably judged on its merit as an individual group and deemed unconsitutional on that basis, the decision should have (and should in the future) draw on the awareness that the Dancers are an important element of the performing arts. There are more specific and specialized groups that exist for dancers, but the Dancers represented a unique and essential element of performing culture at Wellesley.
However, advanced dancers on campus should not give up hope. The organization still has the potential to become reconstituted in future years. Like many other unconstituted organizations on campus, the Dancers could easily continue as a vibrant and active group, even without the funding that they previously enjoyed. While this may be a regrettable drain on the individual members, the group itself does not necessarily have to suffer.
Still, student interest in the performing arts, especially dance, must be encouraged by the College community. Student dancers should not sacrifice their pursuit of personal artistic development.
Wellesley already provides a wide variety of extracurricular activities. From sports to a capella groups, from cultural to religious to political organizations, Wellesley features more than 160 on-campus student organizations. Considering the large number and wide range of organizations on campus, it is almost bizarre to think that we are devoting so little to dance, a critical element in the performing arts. If the College community wishes to foster a stronger culture of creativity, it is crucial that the College devotes more support and resources to dance and all other genres of performing arts, including music and theatre.
Moving forward, members of SOAC and Wellesley College Dancers must work together to ensure that the student dance organization is reconstituted with stronger leadership and sufficient funding. The College must also use this opportunity to reflect upon whether or not the institution is providing enough academic and extracurricular support for the performing arts, a vital and integral aspect of the well-rounded liberal arts curriculum that the College prides itself on offering to students.