(Editor's note: From the spring 2009 edition of Bucknell Magazine.)
By Barbara Krohn
LEWISBURG, Pa. – From the meticulous synchronicity of ballet to the high-energy choreography of jazz and the emotive genre of modern, dance at Bucknell has been a vibrant part of the curriculum for 20 years.
Though the faculty has changed and talented students have come and gone as the years have passed, the program continues to stay exciting and inspire new talent – and new audiences. This spring, the Bucknell Dance Company celebrated the dance program’s anniversary with gala concerts.
The program got its start when Danna Frangione, an expert in modern dance and jazz forms, was hired as the University’s first tenure-track dance professor in 1987.
Dance and culture
“Given her incredible breadth of knowledge about dance and culture, she was the perfect person to start a dance program,” says Bob Gainer, professor emeritus of theatre and dance. Frangione’s interest in modern as well as classical dance forms led to a much more diverse program than available at many universities. She built a program of great reach and, though she passed away in December 2002, her inspiration remains.
“She had a vision,” says Er-Dong Hu, director of the dance program. “Most colleges surrounding us are modern. We are the one that has balanced ballet, modern and jazz.”
Kelly Knox, assistant professor of dance, arrived in 2003 to fill the modern dance slot left open by Frangione’s passing, while Dustyn Martincich, a jazz dance specialist and assistant professor of dance, arrived in 2008 to fill an important vacancy. Together with Hu, they make sure the Bucknell program continues offering a distinctive blend of specialties.
Today, the University’s dance minor, first offered in 1991, offers classes in all levels of ballet, modern dance and jazz; master classes taught by visiting artists; and extensive student choreography opportunities and Showcase as well as Dance Company performances.
Most of the students entering the program don’t have plans of becoming professional dancers. Instead, they find a comprehensive curriculum at the University that allows them to explore their love of dance even as they prepare for careers in medicine, engineering, education and finance. The caliber of the program, in fact, has grown with the recent addition of Merit Scholarships.
“It was very important to me to find a college with an excellent dance program.That’s what brought me to Bucknell,” says merit scholar Katie Culver ’09, who along with Ally Haseltine ’09, is a student choreographer featured in the gala. Culver majors in education and psychology and is eyeing a career as a guidance counselor. “It wasn’t enough for me to have a really good dance program but not academics. I wanted both. Bucknell was perfect.”
“Bucknell having such a reputable dance program as just a minor factored greatly,” says Alex Fredas ’09, who plans on becoming a doctor.
“Coming to Bucknell with its diverse faculty and having professionals coming in to do master classes – I would never have been able to do this at another institution.”
In fact, Hu notes, Bucknell’s dance offerings are distinctive in the liberal arts university. He points out that Dancers magazine highlighted Bucknell as one of the few schools in the country that offers Chinese dance. “We offer the best minor in the world,” he says. “No one can compete with us.”
Perhaps one reason the program continues to thrive is the excellence expected of all the dancers, whether their careers lie on stage or not. “I’m not training them to be professionals,” says Knox, “but I’m treating them like they are.”
It is an approach that has served dance at Bucknell well for a quarter-century, and counting.
Contact: Division of Communications