Students advance petition for dance credit

Leaders of the petition are meeting with faculty to discuss concrete plans

· December 9, 2013, 6:44 pm   ·  Updated December 9, 2013, 10:30 pm

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A member of the Provost’s Arts and Culture Initiative Steering Committee has given tangible suggestions to the leaders of a recent student petition to have for-credit dance courses at Penn.

Related: Students petition for dance class credit

However, several professors and the petition’s leader said that the plan to create these types of classes needs to be made more concrete before they can be successfully implemented in the curriculum.

Wharton junior Alex Wiggins, chair of the Performance Arts Council and creator of the petition, recently met with Karen Beckman from the Provost Arts and Culture Initiative Steering Committee to discuss plans to implement dancing credit in the near future.

Beckman, a professor of history and of arts and cinema studies, said in an email that “there are many places on campus where there would be strong resonances with dance as an object of study.”

“It is always important for students to stay involved in the conversation about their own educational experiences,” Beckman added. “Student voices are incredibly important to Penn’s decision-making process.”

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Wiggins, who developed the idea for this change as part of her Management 104 group project, was excited by the support she has received thus far from the University and said that she and her group just need to “make a concrete, realistic plan that the University can agree with.”

Wiggins said her next step will be to look for school sponsorship to fund instructors for dance courses and to cross list dance classes. She also plans to apply for the Provost Interdisciplinary Arts Fund, a grant from the Arts and Culture Initiative that funds new cross-disciplinary programs that directly engage students. Another important factor that the petitioners plan to work on is to bridge the gap between academic curriculum and arts-supported spaces on campus.

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“The challenges for dance at Penn are similar to those in visual art,” Professor of Fine Arts Joshua Mosley said in an email. “The curriculum would require both theory and practice.”

While Mosley praised the idea of having dance courses as part of Penn’s core requirements, he also pointed out that the petition should focus on the need for course content instead of transferring extracurricular activities into for-credit courses.

Marcia Ferguson, director of the Theatre Arts Program, was also delighted about the initiative, noting that a similar initiative — the theater arts major, which was created in 1977 — was initiated by students after a multi-year process.

She noted in an email that the creation of the theater arts major involved recruiting faculty and student representatives to create a proposal that set criteria for what would be considered credit-worthy. “So far, to my knowledge, the Dance proposal has not evolved to this point,” Ferguson said.

Wiggins said she plans to meet with College of Arts and Sciences Dean Dennis DeTurck once she formulates her final plan for pilot dancing classes.

“Obviously, we aren’t going to get a dance program overnight but by taking baby steps,” Wiggins said. “The biggest thing I took away from the meeting is that student support and desire for change at the University is the strongest factor in developing new ideas and initiatives at Penn.”

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