Magazine article Dance Magazine

College Goes Commercial: Pace University Offers a New Program

Magazine article Dance Magazine

College Goes Commercial: Pace University Offers a New Program

Article excerpt

Rhonda Miller saw a gap in higher education. Though most college dance programs provide intense training for concert dancers, many are not preparing students for the current job market-a commercial dancescape that often demands hip-hop, ballroom, and the gamut in between. No stranger to the commercial dance scene, Miller--who in 1992 helped found one of Los Angeles' top professional studios, Edge Performing Arts Center-decided to take action.

A lecturer for Pace University's theater program since 2008, and now an associate professor, Miller worked with the school's administration for a year to develop the commercial dance major in 2012. It was their first dance major. Now in its second year, Miller has built the fledgling dance program to emulate intense conservatory training. The BFA program emphasizes versatility: Students take ballet and jazz technique daily, as well as classes in hip-hop, tap, modern, contemporary, theater, and aerial dance, plus singing, acting, and composition. "Students may find work in concert dance," says Miller, "but I want to give them the tools to make a living in the commercial world, too, from music videos to Broadway, L.A., Vegas and New York."

The commercial dance major accepts 36 incoming freshmen, who must audition. Students are encouraged to apply for outside internships, and, in addition to dancing in two annual dance-department productions, perform as much as possible within Pace's wider performing arts program.

When creating the major, Miller looked to her professional connections from L.A. and New York City. Celebrity choreographer Mandy Moore was one of the first artists in residence, and other guest teachers (all funded through the nonprofit Voice of an Angel Foundation) have included Tony Award-winning choreographer Jerry Mitchell, New York City Ballet principal Tiler Peck, and Cirque du Soleil choreographer Cherice Barton. …

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