On Oct. 14, the Loyola dance program celebrated its 10th anniversary at the Loyola University Museum of Art (LUMA) with an exhibition by founder and Director of Dance Sandra Kaufmann. Generations of students and faculty attended the exhibition.
From humble beginnings to a program with 125 students and three full-time faculty members, Loyola’s dance program has experienced substantial transition and growth during its 10 years.
Kaufmann said the program began small, offering level-one core classes in dance techniques and a level-two ballet class. Over time, more classes became available as the program grew in popularity. It had little curriculum while the dance minor was being introduced and had difficulties finding locations for classes.
Loyola alumna Cara Scrementi remembers finding locations to hold classes before the program created a dance minor.
“I took one of the first classes offered in the fall of 2007: ballet with Sandra,” Scrementi said. “There were no dance studios at that time, so they laid down some marley [floor for dance] in a room on the first floor of Mundelein that was previously a cafe area.”
Loyola alumna Kristen Rybicki said students pursuing a dance minor during the program’s early stages held bake sales to raise money for funding.
A dance major was added in 2012. Loyola’s first student to graduate with a dance major, Lauren Serra, said she witnessed many changes during her time in the program and continues to see the program’s growth.
“When I left, we not only had a major, but we had two dance studios, academic classes, a new stage, access to costumes… we even had male dancers,” Serra said. “Being part of the program at that time was very special, because we watched something amazing get built from the ground up.”
Loyola dance and psychology junior Isabelle Taylor recalls changes she has seen in the program in just a short time.
“Since my freshman year, the program has added senior solos as a capstone, the adaptive dance course and moved the annual dance concert into the Newhart [Theatre],” Taylor said.
Partnerships with other programs throughout the university are vital to the dance program, according to Kaufmann and full-time faculty member Amy Wilkinson. Some current partnerships include the Institute for Environmental Sustainability, the Center for Experiential Learning, the athletics department and the Loyola University Museum of Art (LUMA).
Social justice is an integral part of Loyola’s dance program, according to Wilkinson. To make the program’s social justice message visible. Recent Loyola graduate Abigail Newlon explains how social justice impacted her as she progressed through Loyola’s dance program.
“We built a community that values equality and inclusion. And we have performed works that shed light on injustice in our society,” Newlon said.
Wilkinson said she sees the program developing a focus on adaptive dance (which intersects dance and disability) and the programming around it, led by full-time faculty member Sarah Cullen Fuller.
“With the adaptive dance class it really came out of my interest in research in physically integrated dance practices and best practices surrounding adaptive dance,” Fuller said. “Based off the role I had at Hubbard Street as the founder of the Parkinson’s project, it is really sort of attune to the mission of Loyola and this idea of access to and equity for all education… and thinking about how we’re inclined towards helping others.”
The Center for Experiential Learning has supported students’ international travels to research dance through the Provost fellowship. Loyola’s “research in dance” has been recognized, with students having won the Undergraduate Researcher of the Year award, and Wilkinson having been awarded the Provost award for mentoring undergraduate research.
Loyola graduate Timothy Eidman was a dance major while performance opportunities were being solidified.
“By the next year, we were suddenly performing at LUMA, taking dances to ACDA and performing for climate change on the quad, and [performing] the mainstage concert” Eidman said.
Current senior Yariana Baralt-Torres said she has been greatly impacted by the dance program.
“The dance program’s commitment to social justice has allowed me to shape and define myself as a person and dance activist. It has allowed me to find my passion for social justice and understand what I want to do with me future career,” Baralt-Torres said. “By providing me opportunities to perform pieces that are rooted on social justice issues, and by creating platforms for us to make and expose our own art, Loyola’s dance program molded me into the person, dancer and artist that I am today.”
The dance program’s next performance is “Voces Gratia” Nov. 16-19 in the Newhart Family Theatre. Tickets can be purchased online at www.artsevents.luc.edu.