Elon Department of Performing Arts hosts dance workshop for high school students

The inaugural Discover Dance with Elon event took place Saturday, Nov. 13 and provided North Carolina high school students with the opportunity to learn several types of dance forms.

Elon Performing Arts hosted the Discover Dance with Elon workshop on Saturday, Nov. 13 for high school students to allow them to learn several types of dances while also exploring the possibility of studying dance in college.

“We saw that there was a lot of disparity between students who were coming from very well supported studios and high school programs and students from around the state that came from smaller programs and didn’t have any exposure to what studying dance in college could be like,” said David McGraw, assistant professor of arts administration.

This is the inaugural Discover Dance workspace and was birthed from the dance faculty receiving an Elon Innovates grant in May. “Connecting Community: Access, Inclusion and Diversity in Dance” was a proposal put forth by McGraw, Assistant Professor of Art Administration Wen Guo, Chair of Department of Performing Arts Lauren Kearns, and Associate Professors of Dance Jen Guy Metcalf, Renay Aumiller, Casey Avaunt and Keshia Wall.

Top row (L to R): Keshia Wall, Casey Avaunt, Jiwon Ha. Middle row (L to R): Jen Guy Metcalf, Lauren Kearns, Renay Aumiller. Bottom row (L to R): Jasmine Powell and David McGraw

The workshop integrated a series of workshops on dance career development and dance auditions. Students were also invited to see Elon’s Fall Dance Concert, witnessing first-hand a range of performance styles and collaborations.

Twenty-six high school students from across the state attended the workshop on Saturday. Most of them were in the 10th and 11th grade, which is the ideal range because it introduces the idea of attending college for dance to students early enough in the high school process so they could potentially take that path, McGraw said.

The day started with West African dance with live drummers, something that most of the students had not experienced. The students then went over Capoeira, a martial arts dance form that originated in Brazil.

The second half of the workshop covered dance styles that students may be a bit more familiar with such as ballet and modern contemporary. Students also heard from Evan Sprinkle, dean of undergraduate admissions, on how to go about looking at colleges and weighing out the pros and cons of choosing which schools work best for them.

“We wanted to introduce them to new dance forms but also kind of build upon the work that they’ve already done as high school students,” McGraw said.

Elon Assistant Professor of Performing Arts Jasmine Powell said, “When teaching or observing students who engage in dance, I look for intrigue. Intrigue as to why I want to keep my eyes on them, as well as the intrigue and look of curiosity that they hold in trying something new,” said Assistant Professor of Performing Arts Jasmine Powell.

Assistant Professor of Dance Keisha Wall added, “I hope the students who participate have a blast, make new connections and make discoveries.”

The workshop was organized and coordinated by Elon senior in arts administration as a part of their senior seminar where they learn how to devise, coordinate and manage full-scale arts events. “I am very proud of the seniors working on this project,” McGraw said.

McGraw said they wanted to meet high school students halfway with the workshop, so they spoke with dozens of dance studios to see what young people were looking for in sessions. The opportunities granted by the Discover Dance with Elon will be an eyeopener for the students that participated.

“Studying dance at the college level really expands their worldview,” McGraw said. “They may not have seen a college-level production of dance with a variety of styles that we present here. So, it’s that exposure that shows what more they can study in the field.