MARQUETTE, Mich.—Northern Michigan University will offer a new academic minor in dance beginning this fall. The program falls under the health, physical education and recreation department. It is composed of 20 credits—12 in required courses and eight in electives.
Mary Jane Tremethick, head of the HPER department, said the program will allow students to explore various dance styles from both a theoretical and performance perspective.
“The minor is a natural fit in our department, where there is a strong emphasis on health, human performance and lifetime fitness,” she added. “Though the minor is open to majors across campus, it is particularly complementary to majors in theatre, community health education, management of health and fitness, music and outdoor recreation and leadership. Students may choose dance to further a secondary interest or may use the minor to open employment opportunities in various recreation programs or dance for theater.”
Maria Formolo, an NMU dance instructor, said the new program will build on the interest generated by recitals and related events held on campus.
“We end up with some excellent students who’ve had 10-15 years of training, but aren’t interested in becoming professional dancers or teaching dance,” said Formolo. “This should appeal to a variety of majors and we’d like to promote the benefits of dance to athletes as well. It is excellent for football and basketball players because it emphasizes strict body training and awareness of body placement. Beyond that, dance is also a great emotional release and presents many opportunities for creative expression.”
NMU teaches several styles of dance: folk, tap, jazz, ballet, belly dancing, contemporary/modern, hip hop, dance for theater and social dancing, which includes ballroom styles such as the tango, waltz and cha-cha. These are complemented by courses in dance history and theory. Formolo said the latter addresses such topics as body image and the sociological implications of dance.
“Yoga and tai chi also supplement dance,” Formolo said. “There’s a lot of cross training. For example, many modern dancers study martial arts.”
The main goals of the program are that students will be able to use their bodies to express ideas, stories and rhythm; understand the different styles; learn to dance solo and work with others as part of group numbers; be able to choreograph short works and improvise in performance; have a working knowledge of theory and how dance has evolved, particularly over the last century; and understand how different cultures express religious, historical and cultural concepts through their dances.