There is no shortage of Penn students out dancing with friends on the weekends, but most have never considered dancing for credit.
Last Wednesday, a group of Penn students sent out an anonymous survey designed to gauge interest in a potential dance program for academic credit at Penn.
Penn is the only Ivy League school that currently does not have a dance program, and conversations about whether dance should should be offered at Penn have been going on for years. In 2013, 2015 Wharton graduate Alex Wiggins created a petition to try to establish a dance program.
College junior Ramita Ravi said she has been dancing for a long time, and the fact that Penn did not have a dance program was disappointing to her until she found Arts House Dance Company, a student-run dance company for which she now serves as artistic director. Wharton sophomore Jennifer Li, who is also a member of Arts House, said she felt the same way.
“It was probably my biggest reservation applying to Penn,” Li said.
Other Ivies have either a dance department that offers a major or minor or a dance program offered in conjunction with the theater or performing arts department. In the past, Penn has offered classes in dance history but not performance.
However, students organizing the survey said they are not entirely sure what they expect a dance curriculum to look like.
“That’s what we really want to use this survey to kind of see,” College sophomore Nicole Frazzini said. “What we’ve learned from these past efforts is that we really want to use the resources that we have, which is why we are taking a more academic approach.”
This movement is not without faculty interest either.
Penn professor Marion Kant, a musicologist and dance historian, has taught dance history classes before as part of the English Department and previously designed a curriculum for a minor in dance studies that was never approved by the College of Arts and Sciences.
“As an academic subject, dance has no tradition at Penn,” she said. She shared that in the past, there have been efforts to integrate dance into preexisting programs such as theater.
“Dance studies and theater studies aren’t identical,” she said. “Just to squeeze dance in there is not something [that] has worked and will work.”
The students hope to use the survey, which so far has had 200 responses, along with Kant’s dance curriculum, to create a more solid foundation for a potential dance program.
“A lot of dance groups say ‘no experience necessary,’ but that’s not completely true,” Ravi said. “So the great thing about an academic program is that it’s accessible to everyone.”
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