Some Kansas University dance students may soon be doing more pirouettes and less physics with a new degree program beginning this fall.
The School of Fine Arts will soon offer a bachelor's of fine arts degree in dance, a professional degree that focuses on technique and choreography courses. The BFA requires fewer academic courses than the bachelor of arts degree, the only option currently offered in the dance program.
The BFA program, which dancers will audition to enter, gives students less time in the library and more in the studio.
"It'll be open to people who show the promise of being professional dancers," said Joan Stone, director of KU's dance division.
Stone and Janet Hamburg, a KU professor of dance, have advocated the new dance accreditation program for more than 10 years. The Kansas Board of Regents finally approved the BFA program in November and it will go into effect during the fall semester.
"It's been a long, hard battle," Stone said.
The delay has been due to a regents' standard that requires 50 students to major in a field before a degree can be offered in it. There are more than 50 students enrolled in the BA dance program, but it's not apparent how many of them will take advantage of the future BFA program.
For students, the BFA program will involve more time stretching their bodies than their minds. It's not the right program for everyone, dance professors said, but it's a dance-intense curriculum for those serious about dancing professionally.
"For those students interested in having a career in dance with a smaller emphasis on academics, the BFA is for them," Hamburg said.
The BA program will still be offered for students interested in the more academic aspects of dance, including research, history or dance instruction. The BA will remain the choice for many dancers, instructors said, especially those who have double majors and are looking for a liberal arts base.
Because of her double major, KU junior Megan Jensen hasn't made a decision on what degree she will pursue. However, she said the BFA degree is a beneficial option because it adds to the scope of classes offered.
"They have your basic technique classes, but that's about it," Jensen said. "With the BFA program, they have new classes (offered)."
Those new courses include Renaissance and Baroque dance, classical East Indian dance, musical theater dance and a conditioning class.
Instructors said the BFA will elevate the KU dance program to a new level. They hope to recruit more students and retain students who were previously going elsewhere for a professional degree.
"It means that we are a more serious dance program and we will be able to build our reputation as a dance program by having this degree," Stone said. "We've had all the ingredients. We needed the program and what it represents in support with the university and regents."
Toni-Marie Montgomery, dean of the School of Fine Arts, is an adamant supporter of the new BFA program. Montgomery said KU's strong dance program and faculty warrant a course of study geared at professional dancers.
"There's no reason why, as a major research institute, we should not be providing this degree," Montgomery said.
Dance faculty are already looking toward the future of the program. They hope to add faculty, a touring performance group and eventually a master's of fine arts degree program, though Montgomery said they will be dancing to one tune at a time.