Dance classes have been available for quite some time, but students may now earn an associate of fine arts degree in dance at Cottey. "We graduated our first four dance AFAs last spring; we will have five dance grads in spring of 2013," said Jo Byrnes, assistant professor of dance.
Some dance for the love of it. Some are trying something new, exploring a form of expression they've always wanted to explore, but never before had the opportunity to try. Still others are simply fulfilling a physical education requirement.
Classes are taught by Byrnes and adjunct professor Christi Fulton, who's also the hall director for Robertson Hall.
"I am the more modern dance, creative/expressive dance type. Christi is more jazz/tap/musical theater entertainment type. We feel our diversity makes Cottey a strong dance program, especially for our size," Byrnes said.
"We have added improvisation and musical theater dance to the curriculum. This brings our total course offering to two levels of jazz, ballet, modern, tap and improvisation, and one level of ballroom and musical theater dance. We also offer choreography and dance appreciation."
The Cottey-in-Motion Dance Company is another opportunity, in the form of a class for which students must audition.
"Before my arrival, the dance company did one show in April; now they do two shows, one in November and one in April. I have continued the informal dance concerts, which take place the last week of each semester and include performances from all the dance classes," Byrnes said.
Byrnes also has taken part in a wide variety of collaborative efforts. The most recent of these was a production called "Words, Words, Words," in November, a dance/theater event based on text from "Hamlet," featuring the dance company and Cottey actors.
Last year's "Corners of the Heartland" dance concert was featured in the Nevada Daily Mail.
"For that show, I had collaborated with three other Missouri choreographers. The dance company and I performed, as well as guest musicians from the Cottey music faculty," Byrnes noted.
Several other collaborative efforts include "The Serpent," with Professor Michael Denison, and other productions with Denison and Rusalyn Andrews on "Very Short Attention Span Theatre," "The Learned Ladies," "Thurber Carnival," "The Forced Marriage," "Troy Women" and "Ama and the White Crane."
Collaborations with the music department included a joint dance and music effort in conjunction with the Smithsonian exhibit at the Bushwhacker Museum at the time, "New Harmonies."
A Cottey dance club, BodyWorks, which sponsors dance master classes, hosts a November show in which any student may participate.
Through this program, Fulton taught the routine promoted for National Dance Day last fall, "and the students who learned it performed it as a flash mob during a C for Yourself event. Last spring, BodyWorks created a dance team, called 'Explosion,' which performed at a Cottey home basketball game," Byrnes said.
In the community, dance students are active.
Byrnes said they've taught dance and gymnastics classes at the YMCA, the Community Center and at Nevada Dance and Gymnastics for the past several years.
"We are grateful to these organizations for giving our students these opportunities," she said.