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The Carletonian

Limited Dance Studio Space Creates Scheduling Conflicts

<est in dance at Carleton grows, the limited spaces for dance on campus have  caused some difficulties for student organizations that are hoping to use consistent and high-quality dance studios. Currently, the dance department, physical education classes and at least eight  student organizations all require studio space, often twice a week or more.

According to Associate Professor of Dance Judith Howard, when discussing over-scheduling spaces, “I know that some are experiencing that limit and it is a very real pragmatic limit, not imposed by outside forces, but rather by out-sized needs. The dance studios are primarily department classroom spaces. Carleton is unique in that a majority of the studio use is extra-curricular student use.  We want to support that.”

While any dance group can reserve the space, “we attempt to place curricular and departmental needs on the schedule first,” said Howard. Both dance priority hours and the modern dance company Semaphore fall under the academic and departmental category, receiving first priority during scheduling.

In an email, Howard explained that dance priority hours “are put aside for students in dance courses (primarily 6 credit courses) and independent studies with assignments, as well as for guests and faculty use. These are a few pre-reserved slots for particular classes or guests and are not open times, but are connected to class and faculty permissions and are part of departmental programming.

“They work much like lab times for required work. If you are a student in a class with outside rehearsal assignments, dance Comps projects or independent studies, you would have permission from a dance faculty member to use the reserved space,” she said. “We surveyed the students for their best times and we came up with a schedule which we try to keep the same over each term (we actually subtracted some priority hours this term). We try to be judicial to allow for as much extra-curricular student use of the space as possible while guaranteeing students in department classes studio time. Students in classes are also students using the studio and there was certainly ‘limited availability’ for them.”

The dance priority hours, introduced last year, have forced several student dance organizations to move their meeting times. Swing dance club and Social Dance Club (SDC) were originally on Monday and Wednesday nights respectively, but after the implementation of dance priority hours, both organizations now must meet on the weekend, said SDC officer and ballroom team member Nicole Connell ’20.

According to Connell, these scheduling changes have led to some challenges for the clubs. “Our club attendance rate has dropped since fall term,” said Connell. “As much as we try, it is not as accessible. It’s harder to encourage people from the social dance PE classes to come when it is on a Friday night.” The club used to expect 25-30 people. This term, 15 students is a good day, according to Connell.

Another factor affecting attendance, in addition to losing students from social dance PE classes, is that “the partner dance community is pretty overlapping,” said Connell. Many dancers hope to participate in ballroom, swing dance and social dance programming. Therefore, spreading out these dance events throughout the week yielded a higher population of students, not overloading dancers on certain days. Now, almost all of the partner dance organizations meet Friday through Sunday.

“Most of the people who go to SDC are involved in ballroom team which is heavily scheduled on the weekends, so you are packing everything into the weekends,” said captain of the ballroom team Annie Zanger ’18, reflecting on the lower attendance at SDC.

“I get home from ballroom practice on Friday and I don’t want to go to SDC but I run the club. I’m always happy I went but it’s definitely harder,” said Connell.

According to Connell, “There is a communal aspect that has kind of been lost because of the weekend. There used to be very established trips to Sayles after the dance clubs met,” she said. “It was anywhere from 20 minutes to some crazy night hours, but that has also been lost the last two terms.” As other performances and socials on campus occur on Friday nights, many dancers leave before the weekly Sayles run.

In addition to dance priority hours limiting studio time available, several new dance groups formed in the last few years, adding to the difficulties in scheduling. A new jazz and contemporary dance group, for example, reserves at least six hours a week.

Some dance groups, however, were less affected by dance priority hours and the increased demand for dance spaces. According to WHOA! director Adam Loew ’20, WHOA!—a hip-hop dance group—always practices later at night in the Rec Center, avoiding the hassle of finding times to practice during the peak studio hours. “It’s nice because we don’t have to worry about it and no one else wants 9-11 PM, Monday-Thursday dancing at the Rec,” he said. “But it kind of sucks, personally, because it is at the end of the evening, often in the middle of prefect sessions or something. That’s how it has been for awhile for us and we are okay with that.

“It’s less of a hassle for us to just have these regular times, albeit at a worse space, but at least we have this continuity and we don’t feel like we are butting other heads with other dance groups,” said Loew.
For groups trying to reserve space during peak times, Zanger suggested both more communication with the dance department and “maybe loosening up on some of these [dance priority] hours. They have so many hours dedicated to the dance department that no one is using,” she said.

“I think it’s hard when you have a department that is trying, clearly trying to expand and to include more people, but to do that they need to reserve all this space that no one is using, which is stopping dance from happening in other contexts on campus,” said Zanger.

According to Howard, the dance department plans to change some of the dance studio policies and reservation system in the future. She encouraged group leaders and those who hope to reserve a space to look for a letter by the end of the term with these new procedures.

“Studio use is not guaranteed. And we want the studios to be used. We are asking, how can the department have access to its own space and still host as many groups and individuals as possible? How can we guarantee performance times and rehearsals for student groups? Our cup overflows,” said Howard. 

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