Vermont’s flagship university wants to show dance can add value to a career.
This fall, for the first time, students can pursue a major in dance at the University of Vermont in Burlington, Vt.
Currently, approximately fifty students are earning a minor degree in dance.
“Combining it with my anthropology degree has just expanded how I thought dance could enter my life and enter the world,” said Chloe Schafer, a student from Salt Lake City, Utah.
Schafer and Zoey November are both sophomores and dance partners.
They recently performed a duet on stage called “Nocturnal Encounter.”
This fall, they’re upping the ante and pursuing dance major degrees.
“Having a dance degree to graduate with really shows your commitment to the art form, it gives you the opportunity and the support that you need to continue on to a career whether it be in teaching or performing or choreographing or even just like multi-disciplinary artistic collaboration,” said November.
“You don’t have to start when you’re 3 [years old]. You can start right now and you have as much to offer dance and dance has as much to offer you,” said Paul Besaw, the director of the UVM dance program.
Besaw has been the program director for about 13 years and has built up the academic program ever since.
Vermont, he says, has roots in the modern dance genre.
“The people who became the major figures of modern dance were gathering in Bennington College in the 1930’s and they were figuring out this new dance form,” said Besaw.
Bennington College and other colleges, including Middlebury College, continue the tradition to this day.
“So I feel like the flagship university should represent that somehow. So we will be the first dance major at a public university or public school in Vermont,” said Besaw.
Besaw says the time is now for the expansion.
“What happened recently with this renovation of the Taft’s school which is now the Cohen Center for Integrative Arts is they took the gym and they converted it to what is now a dance studio and what will be a sort of combined studio and performance space,” said Besaw.
Besaw envisions dance as an art form that can bring people together.
“It’s meant to be a live, in person field of study with other bodies in the space. Dance is maybe the last hold out for trying to keep us in the room together with other people. I hope we can hold on to that,” he said.
Most students who enroll in the program will likely be double majors.
There are also dance clubs on campus as well, adding to the thriving dance community in Burlington.