Dancers display renewed energy

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By Samantha Mendoza
Southwestern’s dance department has for years taught tap steps, high steps and turn steps. Now its faculty is making ready to step it up.

Veteran Professor of Dance Mary Jo Horvath and newly-minted assistant professor Dana Maue have new plans for the grand old department that embrace the style of the 21st century and the diversity of the South Bay.

“What sets our dance programs apart from other community colleges is that we promote student choreography,” said Horvath. “Every fall the concert is choreographed by our faculty, but in the spring we like to let the students create their own choreography and watch it come to life at the show.”

Students audition before a panel of judges to be selected as a choreographer and then audition with their dance group nine weeks later to see if their piece will be used in the recital. Choreographers have full artistic responsibility of the numbers, including costume design.

Some of the performers hope to follow in the dance steps of SWC alum Paul Rico, star of Disney’s High School Musical 3 parade and Universal Studios in Japan. Rico was just like any other SWC student hoping to earn an AA degree in dance when he met Horvath in a tap class, she said. She noticed his special talent and encouraged him to push himself to the next level.

Horvath said students do not need to be gifted like Rico to learn and grow in the SWC dance program.

SWC’s main campus and all three Higher Education Centers offer a variety of dance classes, she said. Whether students are learning the basics of rhythm or they dance like the next Nicole Scherzinger on Dancing with the Stars, SWC has a place for them, said Horvath.

“There is a wide range of dancers at the college,” she said. “I have some students in my ballet class who have never tried ballet and I have some who have been doing it for 10 years.”

Horvath said the dance program is looking to grow and improve.

“We are trying to get new bleachers in the gym because they have been there since 1960 and are not up to fire code,” she said. “We would also like to get velvet curtains to replace the free-standing wood acting as masking for the background in performances.”

Maue is the advisor to the SWC Dance Club where students can share their creativity and talents from muscular hip-hop to elegant ballet.

Maue said she hopes to fire some school spirit by starting an SWC dance team that would perform at athletic events and other campus activities.

“A lot of people in dance classes want to break out of their shell,” she said. “They can come to Dance Club to express that energy.”

Maue said she likes the dance atmosphere at SWC because it brings people together.

“I feel like a community college is a family,” said Maue. “We can work together to provide for students and the community.”

By getting involved with dancing students gain confidence in themselves and network, Maue said.

Child development major Stephanie Camacho said she looks forward to the new dance team.

“I feel like there’s a lot of students who would like to dance,” she said. “A dance team would really benefit a lot of people.”

Camacho said she has been a dancer since she was three years old and has always enjoyed performing.

“I love the stage, the people and the lights,” she said. “At first I’m really nervous when I see the big audience, but then when I’m dancing I’m excited.”

Dance allows her to learn about herself and gain confidence, Camacho said.

“It’s a big stress reliever,” she said. “Everything just goes away and it’s just you and the music.”

Maue said she wants more student involvement on campus so their ideas can be put to use.

“It’s important to take different styles of dance because there’s so many different expressions and feelings behind them,” said Maue. “When I see Stephanie dancing Bachata it’s like she’s Shakira, she has so much passion.”

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