Section: Opinion

Does Kenyon care about dance?

Thriving department deserves more support

Before Kenyon officials announced last week that the date of Summer Sendoff would be moved back to its traditional slot (April 29), the rescheduling of the event to May 6 would have conflicted with many student showcases, including the annual Spring Dance Concert. 

“I was both alarmed and concerned when the date for Sendoff was announced,” Professor of Dance Balinda Craig-Quijada told me in an email. “It presented quite an obstacle for the Friday performance of the Kenyon College Spring Dance Concert.”

We started trying to brainstorm possible alternatives, but since our department production schedule is set at the beginning of the school year, it was turning into quite a headache,” she said. ”I thank all the people who ‘listened’ and were flexible enough to reschedule Sendoff.”

The performing arts are thriving here at Kenyon. They receive tremendous support from faculty and students and are high quality in our productions. But this support and enthusiasm does not seem to extend to dance.

In fact, what I hear most often is that students are unaware of what goes on in the Shaffer Dance Studio behind the Bolton Theater, uphill from the Kenyon Athletic Center.

I’ll level with you: Dance can sometimes fail to engage everyone, often only amusing those already versed in the medium. Context is often necessary. But this is a shame, as Kenyon’s dance department is dynamic, and the dancers tremendously hard working and innovative.

Dance is a craft here and students are actively honing their skills, just like they would in any other field.

As Craig-Quijada put it, “dance is part of a liberal arts experience and is acknowledged as an academic pursuit.”

The administration’s willingness to so easily overlook the dance concert in its planning may be indicative of something larger. What does it mean to be studying a performing art or arts in general at a liberal arts college?

Graduating and gaining employment is a constant source of anxiety for students. But for people pursuing the arts as a career, employment may be a matter of luck—  the reality is that these fields are fiercely competitive.

Those who pursue the arts professionally are known to work many jobs to make ends meet. This is the nature of the work– these fields lack adequate funds. But as an institution should we already be discouraging these scholars? They are scholars, after all.

As undergraduates we have the beauty to truly decide what it is we want to study. This is what a liberal arts college is, and by potentially dismissing these fields of study is Kenyon reflecting the real world too much? Or is it the school’s responsibility to us steer lofty goals?

If anything this might lead to a hierarchical nature of majors, but Kenyon shouldn’t be a place where objectivity is a burden. We are not all going to be doctors or engineers.

We must, as an institution, work to support students in all endeavors. Would theater receive less support than it does currently if Paul Newman ’49 and Allison Janney ’82 weren’t alumni? I hope not. 

Any one of the Kenyon majors  could end up being the next big thing in the dance world. They should receive adequate support and acknowledgement, to make these dreams realities.

Eve Bromberg ’19 is undeclared from Brooklyn, N.Y. Contact her at bromberge@kenyon.edu.

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