Almost 10 years after the addition of a dance minor in 2007 — and four years after the implementation of the dance major in 2012 — Loyola’s dance students are reaping the benefits of a program that hasn’t stopped growing.
Sandra Kaufmann, founder and director of Loyola’s dance program, has made it a goal to create a place where academically-inclined dancers can receive conservatory-level dance training while still receiving a liberal arts education.
A focus on social justice and advocacy has developed in the program through the passions of its dance students and through the leadership of full-time faculty members Sarah Cullen-Fuller and Amy Wilkinson.
Aligning dance with this mission has opened up opportunities to collaborate and perform with other university programs and organizations, such as the University Chorale, the Institute of Environmental Sustainability, Loyola University Museum of Art and Cullen-Fuller’s Parkinson’s Project.
Wilkinson values how these performances teach her students how to use dance for more than pure entertainment.
“These experiences change the way our students see themselves as artists,” said Wilkison. “We provide opportunities for students to use their creative voices to make the world a better place.”
With five days of Advanced Ballet class a week and the recent addition of four days of the Advanced Modern class a week, dance majors join Loyola’s dance program for its balance of professional dance training and liberal arts education.
Megan Carter, a senior theatre major and dance minor, said non-majors see the growth of the program in the variety of academic interests the students pursue.
The growth of the dance major has made it harder for dance minors to participate in certain performance opportunities such as the Annual Dance Concert, Carter said, but performances such as the bi-annual Dance Informance highlight the support Loyola dancers have for one another.
Kaufmann said at the Dance Informance — an informal performance involving all dance classes at the end of the semester — she can see a transformation in her students as they work together and perform onstage. Kaufmann said in those moments, she can see the emobdiment of “cura personalis,” or “care for the whole person,” which is part of the program’s curriculum and mission.
Looking toward the future, Kaufmann said she hopes to attract a record class of 15 incoming freshman while expanding resources to include a third studio and a fourth full-time faculty member to accommodate the growing number of dance students. She also aims to start a significant scholarship fund for the dance majors.
As the program stabilizes and as Kaufmann builds upon the strong foundation of the current program, Kaufmann said she is glad to see the university embracing dance and “allowing us to build and grow.”
Sharidan Rickmon, a junior dance and physics double major, said since her freshman year, the biggest change she has seen in the program is its integration into the university as a whole. She attributes this “connection to the Loyola community” to the passion of her teachers and the performance collaborations with other university groups and spaces.
“We are interdisciplinary in nature and we are always looking to connect on this campus,” Kaufmann said. “We’re very grateful to be a part of a university like Loyola University Chicago, where we are able to have this opportunity to create art.”
Jordan Kunkel is a junior dance major at Loyola.