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The Scarlet & Black

Dance fee lifted

By Kevin Hong

Students who want to take dance lessons do not need to worry about money anymore. After several years, Grinnell College has removed the $300 fee on the Dance Technique lessons. Before the removal of the fee, many students who were interested in dancing took the dance ensemble for extracurricular credit, partly to avoid the fee. Next semester, with the restriction lifted, more students will be able to take this opportunity to expand their liberal arts experience.

The College used to treat the dance lessons the same as private musical instrument lessons. According to Paula Smith, Vice President of Academic Affairs, the justification given in the student catalog for charging a fee does not apply to Dance Technique classes. In the academic catalog under “Music and Dance Fees” it says, “These fees cover individual instruction, use of the music library, use of a college musical instrument for regular practice, and use of practice room facilities.”

Back when there was almost no dance at Grinnell, the department was just called “Theatre Department” and there were no regular full-time faculty members teaching dance. At the time, some students approached the dean asking for extra instruction in dance, but they had to pay a fee because an instructor was being brought in especially at their request, like Applied Music Associates, who give lessons on specific instruments in response to student interest.

Times have changed—the department has changed its name to “Theatre and Dance,” there is a permanent faculty member teaching dance and the curriculum has expanded in performance studies. The Dance Technique class is now offered regularly as a standard course. As a result, it no longer makes sense to charge students a fee.

“I think the rationale is that they were trying to say that it is like private instructions, which it’s not really. … What they argued to remove the fee is that no other liberal art college imposes this kind of fee, and it is really restrictive for people who are interested in taking dance,” said Aniko Drlik-Muehleck ’11, an active member of the dance ensemble group.

Up until this point students have been taking “free” dance lessons in the two-credit dance ensemble. But the ensemble is auditioned based and meets two hours a day and four days a week after classes—a scheduling restriction for many students.

“I’ve been taking dance the whole time since I came here, but I haven’t actually ever signed up for the studio classes that you have to pay the fee for,” Drlik-Muehleck said. “I’ve always been in the dance troop, which is now called dance ensemble. It meets every afternoon and it is mainly for performance. Even if I wanted to take the studio class, I wouldn’t have because of the fee, on top of all my other school fees.”

“I am really happy about that (the removal) of the fee. I’m definitely going to take the dance technique lessons next semester and I hope more people can join us, “ said Lucy Zhang ’14, a member of dance ensemble.

Right now Grinnell charges students for private musical instrument lessons, and the current fee is $385 per semester for 30 minutes per week of lessons.

“That makes more sense,” Drlik-Muehleck said. “The private … lessons are individual-based, one-on-one, and you are getting much more attention. But I think the dance here is in a different situation, where it is more of a classroom experience, and you are learning from each other. It’s not you privately working on your own individual skills. So I personally think that removing it is great, because that will encourage more people to take dancing classes who wouldn’t have before.”

Through this semester dance classes have remained fairly gender specific, something lifting the fee might begin to change.

“There’s a lot of guys in the class that is called Movement for the Performer, and I think that it’s because it is not called ‘dance,’” Drlik-Muehleck said. “There’s a really big stigma around males in dancing, which I think is very deeply ingrained in our society—using your body to express yourself and make art is something for women to do, and using your body as pure power is more of a man-thing to do. But I hope people will move away from that.”
The removal of the fee will hopefully allow more students to take dance courses and broaden their horizons, an essential part of a liberal arts education.

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