Background

The Department of Dance and Movement 7-year Developmental Program emphasizes the technical and creative elements of dance. Students are exposed to a wide range of dance techniques with a primary focus in contemporary modern dance and ballet. Through the explorations of improvisation and dance composition, students gain an understanding of the choreographic art and learn to create and design their own dance work in both solo and group forms. Through our extensive guest artist program, students have the opportunity to work with many local and national dance artists and educators in a wide array of dance forms and styles. In addition to classes in the department, students are required to take dance technique classes from established private studios and academies across the greater Denver metro area or in our After School Dance Program in order to further enrich their training and exposure to dance as a performing art. The department welcomes young students from all dance styles and backgrounds to join our community of creative artists by auditioning for this unique and highly respected program.

Denver School of the Arts, a Denver Public School, is the only comprehensive arts magnet in the Rocky Mountain region. Founded in 1991, the 6th–12th grade school provides students the opportunity to nurture their creative talents in a supportive environment designed to encourage artistic and academic excellence.

The Big Picture

The world of dance is as wide and diverse as human culture. You could say that dance is at the heart of every culture. The issues of dance — balance, clarity of purpose and intention, precision, the ability to survive in a complex interactive environment in harmony with other individuals, are the central philosophical issues of human coexistence and are epitomized in dance. Therefore, it is quite logical that most societies have chosen dance as the ultimate cohesive unit that draws the society or community together. Dance identifies a people and maintains heritage as culture. Culture has evolved with dance as the central way of expressing oneself to people of other cultures. Therefore, dance is one way to learn and know about each other.

Dance, as movement, carries history. Culture, as a response to what you are surrounded by, will continue to change, adapt and be in motion. In most societies, tradition is an on going practice and continues to change everyday. As sacred ritual, socialization or story telling, dance is a unifying force within a people. The ability to connect with ones ancestors or collective history is the gift of dance and culture to the individual.

Western theatrical dance forms such as ballet, modern dance, tap and jazz are as rooted in culture as any dance. American dance reflects our varied and multicultural social fabric. Ballet borrows from modern, modern has blended ballet with primal cultural influences, tap has African and Irish heritage and jazz dance has become an art form that blends these American theatrical forms with pop culture. So even our most dressed up and polished performances are, at heart, cultural forms.

The world of dance as a performance art or career is a demanding and difficult world. It requires a discipline as great if not greater than the talent within the individual. It requires the physical strength and stamina of an athlete. It requires the emotional range of an actor and the dynamics of a singer. The dancer must be a performer with a giving nature that is easily brought to the stage.

The art of choreography is the creative process in dance as a theatrical art and is an integral part of dance in western culture today. Being successful in the performance or creation of dance as art, requires a solid foundation in technical and creative training, as well as, an understanding of other art forms — music, theater, storytelling, visual art and technical theater. Above all, it demands a profound understanding of yourself as an individual artist and your relationship to other artist and the world at large.

The Department of Dance and Movement at DSA recognizes the complexity of dance as cultural phenomenon and performance art and seeks to weave the two into a cohesive training and enrichment program of study. Within the context of art school, the dancer is an innovator and a traditionalist all at once and merges these two worlds in unique and creative ways.

Our Goals and Philosophy

Our goal is to provide educational opportunities which enable our graduates to pursue creative endeavors in the fields of dance and related movement arts. Our philosophy is to provide a safe environment for students to explore their unique artistry both individually and in group activities. Through our practicing/visiting artists program we are able to provide classes in a variety of styles and techniques thereby enriching the students’ dance vocabulary and experience. The Department of Dance and Movement educational objectives are anchored in the technical and choreographic elements of dance and movement as a creative art form and the awareness of dance as a cultural necessity.

Individually, students have an opportunity to learn the language of dance, choreography, historical and contemporary contexts, performance concepts and practices. They have the freedom to explore individual creativity and to express personal thoughts and feelings through the art of dance. Extra efforts are rewarded through a Lettering and Certificating process.

Through group instruction, students have the opportunity to practice and refine their technical base focusing on strength, flexibility and stamina. Instruction in the improvisational process is designed to help young artists turn their focus inward to explore the motivations for self expression which are at the core of their desires to dance. Through individual composition assignments, students are provided the foundation for organizing movement into formal choreographic products. They have the opportunity to learn the language and elements of dance — time, space, rhythm, dynamics, effort, performance technique and production.

Our intention is to have every student master the art of choreography, as well as, become outstanding soloists and ensemble performers. Our hope is to develop the confidence and skills needed for students to perform with energy, presence and personal fulfillment. Finally, it is our hope that students will develop the skills and appreciation necessary to continue their education in college and/or pursue dance as a profession or life time activity.

Dancer Training — Balancing Form and Content

Dance training has several components, all with overlapping elements. As an integrated activity of mind, body, spirit and feelings, the training of a dancer is complex, yet simple. Dance training can be described as the learning of new ideas (scholarship) while building a set of physical patterns and awarenesses (technique). Dance training is the sparking of infinite imagination and inspiration for the purpose of personal and human expression (creativity). It is also the unlearning of old physical and emotional habitual patterns that interfere with the free flow of human kinesthetic energy (health and well being).