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PSU dance research symposium highlights student projects and dances

PSU students had the opportunity to perform dances on stage. On April 14, 2021, at 5:30 p.m. in the Bicknell Family Center for the arts, several Pittsburg State University students participated in the Dance Research Symposium, an event dedicated to showcasing the achievements of undergraduates and graduates involved in dance classes or in dance degree programs.  

The event consisted of a gallery of research display boards, a hip-hop flash mob, and a professional student showcase featuring sixteen dances.  

Janice Jewett, a professor of dance at Pittsburg State University and one of the main organizers of the symposium, said coming up with the theme “A Light on the Horizon” was a process. 

“We did not pre-determine a theme for our show,” Jewett said. “But when the students, faculty and graduate assistants all discussed their tech needs with the Bicknell staff, Jon Eastman, technical director at the Bicknell, said ‘you have a theme?’ Moving toward the light…a light in our future, etc… Most of the dances depict struggles that we face in relationships, the environment, and the pandemic to name three themes that are illustrated through the art of dance in our show. Andra Stefanoni and Sarah Clausen helped us put this into words with ‘A Light on the Horizon.” 

The first part of the night included a collection of research presentations in the lobby of the Bicknell as well as a surprise flash mob by students currently in one of PSU’s hip-hop courses. The research presentations included presentations such as an interactive tap dance/ballet display and a poster board with information on how dance can benefit athletes.  

Breonna Goodwin, junior in recreation with a minor in dance, presented and told attendees about the benefits youth enrolled in dance courses can receive. 

“My research project is about why you should dance,” Taylor said. “..and I have a few things listed like the physical benefits, developmental, artistic, and also some benefits for older adults since usually when we get older we think we can’t dance anymore, but there are actually several benefits for older adults. I talk about how (dance) can help you from a young age to when you are older, the health benefits from the cardio workout dance gives you, social skills, teamwork, patience. Artistically, kids (who dance) at a young age become more individual, they learn step, time and rhythm. I’m also bringing awareness to some classes for college kids if they were wanting to start dancing themselves.” 

Cassidy Pankratz, junior in elementary education and minor in dance, also presented at the symposium and focused her project on the benefits of dance curriculum in a school setting. 

“Dance is something I want to incorporate in my own classroom,” Pankratz said. “I’m an elementary education major as well as a dance minor, so that’s why I chose this topic for my research project.” 

Another major aspect of the symposium was a series of sixteen dances performed and choreographed by PSU students. 

“Our dance students as well as other PSU students are featured in sixteen dance numbers,” Jewett said. “For some of our dancers, it is their first time performing and for others this may be their hundredth time on the stage. The performers in the show are from some of our classes including beginning tap, ballet and jazz. In addition, some have auditioned to perform their own work or the work of our graduate assistant. The show features several dances choreographed by our students which allows them the opportunity to create something special and bring it to fruition on the stage. The styles range from tap to contemporary to musical theatre to cultural and folk dance! The tech requirements have been custom designed specifically for each number as student choreographers met with the Bicknell staff for individual consultations to explain the message behind their dance and determine the best way to portray it on the stage through sound, lighting, and other means.” 

A live stream of the dance performances is available at pittstate.tv or through the Bicknell’s Facebook page. 

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