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    Categories: Arts & EntertainmentCollege of Fine Arts and ProductionCommunityFeaturedGrand Canyon UniversitySpotlight

Dance Intensive gets students jazzed about college

Alicia-Lynn Nascimento (in mirror image, back row in white) and Isiah Johnson led Summer Dance Intensive classes.

Story by Ashlee Larrison
Photos by Elizabeth Tinajero 
GCU News Bureau

As American dancer and choreographer Twyla Tharp once said, “Dance is the most fundamental of all art forms.” It is a message that Grand Canyon University Dance Director Susannah Keita feels fits perfectly with this year’s Summer Dance Intensive, so much so that it was the quote for this year’s T-shirts.

Dance Department Director Susannah Keita (center) helps instruct a group of students in multiple forms of dance.

“If you think about it, dancing starts in the womb. Responding to rhythm starts in the womb,” Keita said. “They’re not putting words to it, obviously, but they’re building muscle and neuromuscular connections and all that cool stuff through movement. They’re playing — play equals dance pretty much.”

About 20 students from the Valley and out of state came together to learn from GCU dance instructors about what a college dance program looks like. Students study jazz, ballet, modern and West African dance forms taught by a guest artist. They rehearse throughout the week, and on Friday they perform what they learned.

Students, ages 14-21, are expected to have at least two years of dance experience, which in the dance world can mean very different skill levels, but Keita says that Summer Dance Intensive students’ skills often surprise her.

Students learned ballet, jazz and modern.

“They are go-getters, they’re often quite talented, quite skilled, have been really serious about dance,” she said. “It is really exciting when they come and audition for the program and we recognize them.”

Keita said the Dance Intensive allows students to break out of their usual dance routines, provides them with the opportunity to learn from someone new, and spurs professional growth.

For Boulder Creek High School sophomore Mia Roij, the week-long dance workshop is her first experience rehearsing outside of her usual studio.

“It’s definitely different,” Roij said halfway through her first day of the program. “It’s different than a studio just because it’s college teachers and they treat you like a college student.

“It definitely makes me feel more reassured that it’s not going to be too scary. It’s definitely good to dip your foot into college.”

Students ranged from ages 14 to 21 and rehearsed with several GCU dance instructors.

Barry Goldwater High School sophomore Leigha Agins has been dancing since she was 3. She said the Dance Intensive was challenging, but fun.

“It’s very interesting, all the ways that all the other teachers teach is good to see and they really get you out of your comfort zone,” she said.

But high school students weren’t the only students able to benefit from the program.

Xochyl Mejia felt that the program helped her decide where to continue her degree after completing her associate degree at Glendale Community College.

“What I’m majoring in is dance, and that’s what I want as a career,” she said. “I’ve been debating doing just dance in general or dance education, I feel like dance education will help me more to be involved in the community and even just here at the Intensive, just learning about other people’s stories, like how they started dancing would help me a lot just to help me become what I want to be.”

Mejia plans to transfer to GCU to pursue her dream of becoming a dance teacher.

The Summer Dance Intensive will run until Friday, and Keita hopes it will allow young dancers to recognize their strengths and set new goals for themselves, all while encouraging them to further their education in dance after they graduate.

Contact Ashlee Larrison at (602) 639-8488 or ashlee.larrison@gcu.edu.

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Related content:

GCU Today: Dancers twist again, like they did last summer

GCU Today: Summer dance program’s intensity is contagious

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