Although enrollment for dance classes this fall remains consistent with that of previous years, students voiced waning enthusiasm for the classes this semester. 

Students say that this is most likely due to Assistant Professor of Dance Charlotte Griffin’s sabbatical this year.

“[Griffin] is just an amazing addition to the department. The department as a whole is strong, but she has brought a new wave of professionalism and enthusiasm and created passion for dance at Bowdoin,” said Allie Frosina ’14.

“People have favorite professors or favorite course offerings and if they’re just not available, then it’s just not going to be what you’re going to take,” she added.

Mollie Friedlander ’14, another dancer, called Griffin a “fantastic professor,” noting her absence.
Dancing at Bowdoin is an activity that lives in two distinct realms on campus: in the Department of Theater and Dance, led by a staff of five committed dance professors, and in at least 12 extracurricular clubs and teams, all of which are student-run.

Laura Keller ’15 has danced for “basically my entire life,” but has only taken one department dance class at Bowdoin. She is a member of Vague (the jazz club), Obvious (the hip-hop club), and a leader of Arabesque (the ballet club).

“I’m a biochemistry and neuroscience major with a German minor so I don’t really have room to squeeze dance class in there,” Keller said.

“Bowdoin is a liberal arts college, not a conservatory. People may come with dance experiences but might want to pursue other majors,” said Paul Sarvis, Senior Lecturer in Dance Performance and Theater and Dance Chair.

Friedlander is a prime example. She prefers to keep her extracurricular passion separate from her busy academic life. 

As a Spanish and neuroscience double major, she logistically has no time to take department dance classes.

 She added, “The beautiful thing about Bowdoin is that even if a dance class conflicts with one of the classes I’m taking for my major, I can still dance in the student-run groups. They’re a phenomenal opportunity to keep up with dance.” 

Another draw of the dance clubs is that they give students the ability to choreograph and direct their own dance pieces.

 “The students who are very serious about dance and who like to choreograph and who are looking forward to spending 12 hours of dance a week (not counting choreographing hours)—it’s these dancers who want to make it their extracurricular activity and their focus at Bowdoin," said Danae Hirsch ’14, a leader and member of many student dance groups on campus.

While many serious dancers at Bowdoin do chose to participate in clubs rather than classes, there are some who are able to work class into their schedule.

Jasmine Bailey ’14 has danced since she was eight and was a member of student dance groups in previous years. 

“I’m a government and Spanish double major so most of my classes are reading and writing,” she said, “and it’s nice to have a class that’s just not that. It’s doing something different and moving around […] with different students.” 

The dance clubs also offer students the opportunity to dance in a wider variety of styles than the department.

“I think most of the dance classes are more tailored towards a more modern style of dance which we don’t really offer in the clubs,” said Keller.

Many student dancers also said that they enjoy keeping dance as a non-academic pursuit.
“With the dance clubs it’s fun, it’s extra-curricular,” said Bailey. “You become close with the students in the club and you get to perform outside of the department dance show.”

Freidlander agreed.

“There’s something beautiful about not having to worry about a grade at the end of a practice with the jazz group, and not worrying that I’m going to have to write an essay on a technical skill,” said Freidlander. 

“I can just kind of lose myself in being there in the moment, and use it as a release from academic commitments, from the craziness that is life.”

There is, however, a bridge forming between the two sides of dance at Bowdoin, helped along by the new Edwards Center for Art and Dance—both the clubs and the dance department classes will now occupy the same physical space. 

“Recently, Paul Sarvis just offered help to the dance groups and extended his hand and said ‘if you ever need another eye to look at your piece, just let me know.’ And I think that’s one of the greatest things about the Edwards, that the dance studios are so close to the faculty offices,” said Hirsch.

Sarvis echoed that sentiment.

“The dance faculty wants to be available to meet with the dance clubs,” said Sarvis. “We want to support them any way we can.”