Wis. (WLAX/WEUX) – A blend of artistry and athleticism. That’s how Ashley Dobrogosz describes dance, an activity she fell in love with as a child learning ballet, jazz, modern and tap.
Now, she is bringing her passion to students at UW-La Crosse, leading the new dance minor under the recently renamed Department of Theatre and Dance.
“What I enjoy most about teaching dance is the opportunity to share my art with others,” says Dobrogosz, who worked with dance companies before transitioning to teaching full time. “Dance has given me so much: a passion, a career and a community. I love teaching an already skilled dancer, but I also love teaching a beginning dancer. No matter the skill level, I am always reminded that humans are meant to move. Whether that means in professional settings or recreational ways, everyone is meant to move their body.”
The minor begins with entry-level courses on ballet, musical theatre and the foundations of dance. It progresses to more advanced courses on dance history, composition, improvisation and more. Department leaders expect to offer three to four dance courses each semester, with the hope that students could complete the program in two years.
Implementing a brand-new program presents many challenges, Dobrogosz says, but it’s part of what drew her to the job.
“For some people, that might seem a little intimidating. But for me, it sounded like an exciting opportunity,” she says. “I feel very supported by the theatre faculty. I have also had faculty in other disciplines reach out to share their excitement and talk about prospects of collaboration. This is exciting to me because it shows the program is supported by others, which could create collaborative experiences for our students.
“We have an opportunity to make something special,” she adds. “Dance connects all people, not just a ‘trained’ dancer. We must start by spreading the word about this new program and form a community of not only theatre students but hopefully dancers in other departments.”
Former Chair Joe Anderson and current Chair Laurie Kincman were eager to add dance to their department after the retirement of an Exercise and Sport Science faculty member specializing in dance.
Absorbing the previous dance technique offerings was imperative for musical theatre majors looking to complete their program, as well as design and stage management students striving to be fully prepared upon graduation. However, Anderson and Kincman took it a step further by creating the new minor.
“Not only will this make our musical theatre emphasis much stronger and in line with programs across the country, but it will also afford many students — theatre and non-theatre alike — the opportunity to study something they love,” Anderson says. “Many, many students have been taking dance since they were very young. This will provide them with a creative outlet minoring in something that not only brings them great joy, but continues to develop the skills of discipline, creativity, physical development, dedication and the mind-body connection.”
Judging by fall semester enrollment, the interest in dance is not limited to theatre students, Kincman adds.
“Students with majors including psychology, communication studies, therapeutic recreation, English, marketing, and even the dual-degree program in physics and engineering are enrolled,” she says. “The creative work is appealing across campus.”
Dobrogosz hopes to be a resource for all students, whether or not they take one of her classes. Dance, she says, is something all people can carry and use throughout their lives.
The new minor is designed to promote that lifelong skill while drawing even more students to the broader world of theatre arts.
“I think the accomplishments of the Theatre and Dance Department show that we have something special here, and students use their education in numerous, successful ways,” Dobrogosz says. “The addition of dance is not only a logical one, but a necessary one. I hope our growth brings more art and opportunities to the UWL community.”