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The MSU Denver’s Dance Major is distinctive in its versatility and its partnership with Cleo Parker Robinson Dance (CPRD). CPRD is recognized worldwide for its dynamic cross-cultural curriculum, community engagement, innovative choreography, and promotion of American dance heritage. In this exciting program, CPRD’s mission of social transformation through dance and MSU Denver’s academic rigor and focus on real world experience converge.
The dance curriculum includes coursework in African dance and drumming, ballet, belly dance, hip hop, jazz, modern, tap, world dance history and culture, community-based dance practices, somatics, pedagogy, improvisation, choreography, contemporary dance and interdisciplinary performance, dance entrepreneurship, movement analysis, dance production and administration.
The program is exceptional in its flexibility, enabling students to tailor their majors according to an area of emphasis that reflects their specific educational and career goals. This flexibility is supported through a generous number of electives that allow students to combine courses from departments across MSU Denver, take additional dance electives, and participate in individualized field experience and internship projects that give them hands on experience in preparation for their careers.
The flexibility of the major is coupled with invaluable access to a world-class dance organization, afforded by the program’s partnership with CPRD. CPRD is recognized as a leader in its culturally diverse programming and community engagement, evident in the company’s repertoire, the international guest artists that make their way through its facilities, the student and professional performances in the theatre, and the work the company does in its academy, public schools and through community events. The focus on individualized, high-level experiential learning, both in management and artistic realms, along with extensive access to CPRD, is unique amongst other dance programs.
Course offerings, such as Advanced/Professional Company class and MSU Dance Ensemble, in addition to Student Development Grants and Service Learning opportunities in Dance Administration, Pedagogy, and Community-Based Dance will add to students’ experiential learning opportunities. Several dance program technique classes take place at CPRD. In addition, students are able to attend professional company rehearsals, engage in Field Experiences and paid Internship programs, and can earn credit by participating in the International Summer Dance Institute. Students have multiple performance opportunities in the CPRD theatre each year, including Senior Concerts, the CPRD Showcase in the spring, and the MSU Dance Program Production in the fall. MSU Denver also has many performance spaces students have access to through DTAPP, the student-run dance organization on campus.
Multiple dance faculty are MSU Denver Entrepreneurship Fellows, where they work as part of a cross-disciplinary cohort to develop entrepreneurship curriculum across campus. In her book, Creative Cross-Disciplinary Entrepreneurship, internationally renowned scholar and cohort trainer, Dr. Dianne Welsh, defines entrepreneurship as being “creative and innovative in all you do that creates value.” The entrepreneurial focus in the dance program requires students to put Welsh’s definition into action each day, enhancing their abilities to utilize their skill sets and create opportunities for themselves to thrive as leaders and valuable contributors to their communities through arts-based entrepreneurship.
Dance training develops transferable skills such as critical thinking, creative problem solving, collaborative teamwork, organization, discipline, time management, presentation skills and tenacity. The dance major will prepare students to undertake a variety of careers, undergo professional training in the pursuit of specific dance-related or therapeutic careers, or continue studies in graduate school.
Some students choose professional programs such as law or business, often with relationships to the arts, among others.
Leslie Merrill is a Co-Coordinator of the Dance Program and has been teaching dance for over 20 years. She holds an MFA in Dance from the University of Colorado and has performed professionally and presented her choreographic and video work nationally and internationally in places such as British Columbia, Mexico, and Germany.
Nicole Predki is a Co-Coordinator of the Dance Program. Nicole teaches because she believes that everyone can dance and create and strives to give students the confidence and tools to do both. She has an MFA in dance from the University of Colorado Boulder with a focus in somatics and multidisciplinary performance and graduated with a B.S. in Environmental Science from Columbia University in NYC.
Dance faculty have been presented with Community Engagement Awards and selected as Entrepreneurial Fellows through MSU Denver. The dance student organization, DTAPP, has received generous student travel funding to attend multiple American College Dance Festival conferences, and has been nominated for various student involvement and leadership awards.
Cleo Parker Robinson has won numerous awards, including MSU Denver’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Award, the Colorado’s Governor’s Award for Excellence, the Denver’s Mayor’s Award, a Kennedy Center Medal of Honor, the NEWSED Civil Rights Award, and the King M. Trimble Community Award for service to the Denver community, among many others. She was the 2017 Dance/USA Honoree, and has also been inducted into the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame and the Blacks in Colorado Hall of Fame.
MSU Denver Dance students are working or have worked in the field in the following capacities:
Sharing the healing power of dance with women in prison through Dance 2B Free