Dance department hosts annual master class series

Visiting dance instructors teach free workshops for Dunham Technique and more.


Workshops are free and open to the public. Photo by Lea Borner, ‘22.

Lea Borner

The department of theater, dance, and film studies hosted its annual dance master class series, which featured three fall term workshops that were free and open to the public.

The next class on the “Dunham technique” will take place on Nov. 30. 

Jenefer Davies is a dance professor and head of the department of theater, dance and film studies. She has organized the series since 2006.

“My goal is to provide the students with styles and techniques of dance that they wouldn’t get from our faculty. So, I look for things that are very different to give students the broad picture of dance,” Davies said.

Two visiting dance instructors gave participants an insight into their study field. 

The master class series kicked-off with Eric Rivera’s modern technique workshop Oct. 2. Rivera, now an assistant professor of dance and choreography at the University of Richmond, danced with Ballet Hispánico, an American dance company based in Manhattan, for 13 years.

Beginners and advanced dancers alike enjoyed the fast-paced, modern dance class, which covered basic ballet to improvisation-based choreography.

Anne Van Gelder, the director of dance and the artistic director of the University  of  Richmond Dancers, holds an MFA from the University of Utah in performance, choreography, and pedagogy.

She served as ballet master in companies throughout Virginia and Utah and instructed the Oct. 9 class on Baroque dance, taking students back to an older century.

Madison Lilly, ’25 said she had never tried any historical dances prior to the class.

“The second master class was really extra enjoyable because we had so much context for the class. She kind of sat us down and gave us the historical facts so that we were able to envision ourselves during that time when Baroque dancing was popular. So, it made it a lot easier to get in character and do the arm placement properly,” Lilly said.

Lilly, who took ballet classes for 12 years, said she also gained some dance knowledge from the experience. 

“I learned that I have to pick up faster. I think I also learned that sometimes it is not all about the technical aspects of things, sometimes it is a little bit more important to be present in the movement and in the music and the story we are trying to tell,” she said.

Kahinde Ishangi, a dancer, choreographer, dance educator, and movement coach will visit from New Orleans on Nov. 30. She will give a dance workshop on the “Dunham Technique.” This technique was created by popular dancer Katherine Dunham following her anthropological studies in Africa and the Caribbean.

Liza Deck, adjunct professor of dance and current head of City Modern Ensemble, praised the classes highly.

“The more variety you can have in your education, the better. When you bring in a variety of people it shocks your senses, and it wakes you up a little bit,” Deck said. “The larger the number of different teachers you can get the better, so you have to seek them out.”

Deck encourages anyone interested to participate in the workshops.

“If you can only observe that’s fine, just take as much as you can,” Deck said. “Do  what you can in the class, if it’s over your head just take something from it. Suck up the knowledge of that teacher. Because that’s what teachers love. They love to just give you everything, so take it.”