Nestled away in the basement of Alumni Hall is a dance studio. Unbeknownst to most, it’s not for Western University’s dance team or any clubs, but for students enrolled in Western's very own dance minor.
The minor has existed since 2003, when the undergraduate dance program moved from the School of Kinesiology to the Don Wright Faculty of Music. Barb Sarma, one of the current dance lecturers, helped create the minor after graduating from Western with a degree in psychology and a specialization in dance. She has been teaching the minor since its inception along with two other lecturers, Pamela Eddleston and Dale Yoshida.
“When I was young I would choreograph large gymnastics shows, and I absolutely loved the idea of creating movement and putting it on other people’s bodies,” says Sarma. “As I continued to study, I couldn’t imagine not dancing, not creating, so it became a passion of mine.”
The minor itself is comprised of a technical and a creative stream. The former includes intro to modern dance, elementary modern dance, intro to theatre dance and LA fundamentals, while the latter stream has dance improvisation, movement making, and basic and intermediate composition classes. On top of that, there are also opportunities for dancers to team up with a music masters student for their independent study.
Sarma’s passion is equally evident in her students, current and former. Alumni frequently send her emails and videos filled with updates on their lives, often complete with a little dance. Sarma also says that while there are presently only 45 students enroled, the courses themselves are full or overflowing, with Sarma usually taking on more than the 25 person limit for technical courses.
Current students Nicoletta Andreacchi, a fourth-year criminology student, and Kelly Martin, a fourth-year creative writing student, have both been dancing since they were three years old and have deeply appreciated their time in the program.
“[The minor] is one of the reasons I wanted to come here. So I could continue to grow my dance skills while pursuing other academics,” says Martin.
Andreacchi’s favourite course is dance improvisation because of its “freedom of movement.” Martin prefers the dance composition course. And, while neither student sees dance as part of their future careers, both consider it essential to their personal lives.
To those that are considering pursuing a dance education, Sarma spoke highly of the program’s uniqueness.
“It’s the opportunity to use your brain in a very different way than you would in other courses, because you are actively learning while you’re moving instead of taking notes and memorizing them,” says Sarma.
The dancers will have the opportunity to show the rest of campus what they’ve learned on Sunday March 4, with their annual Studies in Motion show at the Paul Davenport Theatre in Talbot College. For Martin, it's the highlight of her and other dance students’ year.
“It showcases the artistic talent that our students possess and it’s kind of a broadcast of all of the incredible abilities that the dancers are able to show to the audience,” says Martin.
Studies in Motion 2018 will be held this Sunday, March 4 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $10 and can be bought here.