Castleton University has a new dance minor on campus. Once a thriving major with many different specific categories of dancing, Castleton has officially started on its road back to that place with its new addition of a dance minor. And the whole project has been spear headed by Castleton’s dance instructor and musical choreographer Maya Kraus.
“I had the thought of starting a dance minor the second year I got here in 2013, and over the years more and more students have been showing interest and almost begging for a dance minor,” said Kraus. “After five years of sitting on it, it was finally a year of paperwork.”
Kraus officially now has 12 dance minors who have added it to their degree or are planning to add it in the near future. A solid number for a minor that was officially birthed only a few weeks ago.
“I found out about the minor from Maya,” said Tess Webber, a theater major and now dance minor. “She knows I love to dance so she brought it up to me my sophomore year asking if I’d do it and of course I said yes.”
“I’m very excited, I was pushing for it,” said Jahwara Renalls, a hockey player and dance minor.
Webber isn’t the only theater major involved with the program. In fact, the majority of dance minors are theater majors. And while it certainly benefits them a lot with putting on better shows, that doesn’t mean it’s only limited to them, and that’s how Kraus wants it to stay.
“There are many majors here that could benefit from a dance education, not just physical majors,” said Kraus. “Movement is part of our lives and it’s always been a part of our lives because it’s not in the public-school education after junior high.”
As for how that diverse number of departments is going, she currently has a sports management major, an athletic training major, a physical education major, and one environmental science major. As well as eight theater majors.
“Honestly it helps me more on the athletic side now, it keeps me loose,” said Rennalls, a hockey player and dance minor. “As a varsity athlete you gotta be able to move around, body gets contorted in a weird way on the ice and you don’t want things popping.”
“Intro to dance was the only thing that fit in my schedule first semester, and it was just so much fun that I ended up taking hip hop second semester and the balls just been rolling,” said Rennalls, “You know that adrenaline rush you get when performing is just riveting and takes you to new heights.”
As for how the program was finally brought back, that came down to Kraus and her hard work to make it a reality.
“So back in the 70’s and 80’s there was a really thriving dance department, I mean there were levels, there were different disciplines and as far as I know it was run by one person and when she left the program severely dwindled,” said Kraus, “Her name was Susan Sgorbati and between her leaving and me there were at least five dance instructors. So, when I got here, I knew the dance community here and I knew coming here that there were dancers out there in other majors that just weren’t venturing over.”
So, she started with what she could control, which was making the Intro to Dance class fulfill a frame. And then it kept being filled every semester, which led to the addition of even more dance classes. Eventually she had compiled enough interested parties to make it a legitimate proposal and brought it to the faculty assembly.
“It’s only for full-time faculty which meant I couldn’t be there to present,” said Kraus, “But then it went to the faculty assembly and everybody passed it without question, not one person questioned it.”
However, Kraus didn’t know it had been passed until Harry McEnerny, the head of the theater department texted her about it.
“I cried because it took six years to make it, six years of talking to people, and they kept helping to edge me closer to the dance minor,” she said.
Kraus has loftier goals as well. She’d love to add a dance major in the future and to play around with the curriculum. But for now, Kraus is focused on the present.
“I want more outside artists coming in and influencing, because right now it’s just me and while that’s great for job security, I want the students here to know how many types of dance there are and how many types of teaching dance there are.