[VIDEO] Save the last dance: Budget cuts force UK to suspend minor


UK had to suspend its dance minor in November, which was housed by the College of Education because of its link to physical education. Photo by Brandon Goodwin

Audra Flanagan has been dancing for most of her life. In the studio or on a stage, she often finds she communicates best when she uses no words at all.

“It’s really hard for me to express myself a lot of times with words, and it’s easier for me to express myself through movement, and it really allows me to be creative which I feel I really need in life,” Flanagan said.

Although a business junior, Flanagan is also a dance minor, something she said has changed her life significantly.

“I’ve improved so much as a dancer, a choreographer, a dance educator and an artist — it’s completely changed where I want to be in my life,” she said. “When I first came to UK, dance was not in the picture at all pretty much. I was doing business, and the dance minor completely turned that around, and dance is my focus now and more important to me.”

Flanagan has found that release at UK, but incoming dancers may not have the same opportunity.

Tough Times, Tough Decisions

The UK dance minor and dance certification programs were suspended in November of last semester, but the possibility had been discussed since the 2008-09 school year, said Kinesiology and Health Promotion Chairwoman Melody Noland.

When Rayma Beal, the only full-time dance instructor, retired, the department began to look at whether or not to hire a replacement.

“The KHP faculty met and voted on it twice, and both times unanimously decided to take the funding for the dance position and fund another KHP faculty,” Noland said.

This decision was based on two factors: the resources the dance program required and the low enrollment.

While the dance minor had 11 students, and the dance certification program had three, Noland said KHP saw a 33 percent increase over the last two years. Out of 17 dance classes offered, Noland said the majority did not service the entire department.

Noland said dance classes will still be offered but not enough to fulfill a dance minor.

“It’s a big job to run 17 classes with one teacher,” she said. “It was really complicated. We hated to do it.”

Out of the loop

While discussions about suspending the program had been in the works for more than a year, Beal said she was surprised at the way the news reached her and her students.

Beal said she was forwarded an e-mail sent by Noland inquiring how to suspend a program. After that, she did not hear anything more until her dance students came to class with a letter.

“(The students) didn’t get any information from Dr. Noland until right before their dance concert in November,” Beal said. “Not until one of them told me, I didn’t know they had gotten a letter.”

The reactions of the dance students were mostly of disbelief and many changed their plans, which originally included studying dance.

“They were shocked,” she said. “All of the students that were coming in thinking dance was going to be available, a bunch of them totally dropped their plans.”

Kelsey Shackelford, an arts administration junior with a dance minor, said she felt more than just shock when she found out the program was being suspended.

“I was sad, and I was also angry, because I feel like dance is always the first thing to go, and I feel the university doesn’t always look at the arts, especially dance, as a legitimate area of study or work,” she said.

Shackelford said removing the dance minor is a step backward for UK in its top-20 goal.

“I know (the administrators) are really big on the top-20 plan,” she said. “ … Almost all the other schools on the top-20 plan have some kind of a dance program.”

Noland said all students enrolled in the minor and certification programs will be able to finish their studies. But all incoming students will not be able to complete those fields of study at UK.

Shackelford will be able to complete her minor, but said she feels the decision to eliminate the program will have a negative effect on recruiting arts students to UK.

“I honestly don’t know if I would have come to UK if I wasn’t able to dance at all,” she said. “ … If there hadn’t been any dance here other than dance team, I probably wouldn’t have come.”

Noland said she understands the risk of losing students interested in dance but believes the resources must be spent on where the most students would benefit.

“We would lose a few students, but our numbers show it wouldn’t be very many,” Noland said. “You have to balance it out and see what would service the most students.”

Looking for a new home

The dance program at UK is under the College of Education because of its history as part as physical education. But as the funding runs short, Beal and the dance students are still campaigning for a change of heart in the administration, or at least a change of venue.

“If the provost hadn’t said to the (KHP) department, ‘Well you can have another person in health promotion,’ then there would be money for a full-time person in dance,” she said. “Whether or not he can be persuaded to change his mind, I don’t know.”

Beal said dance is a fundamental element of arts education and could fit in the College of Fine Arts, if funding was available.

“I think theatre would be interested in having dance become part of the College of Fine Arts, but it can’t do it without a full-time funding line,” she said.

Noland said she believes dance does have a place at UK, it just might not have room in the College of Education at this time.

“I think the dance minor has a rightful place in the College of Fine Arts — the problem is they don’t have the resources,” Noland said. “I think dance at UK is really wonderful. But our department told us ‘you can’t do everything,’ and we are really sorry about that.”

Wherever the dance program ends up residing, Flanagan said she just hopes it exists so others can have the chance she had to live out her passion.

“Dance is not a big thing where I’m from in Kentuck,y so it’s very important for me to educate others about dance and the importance of dance,” she said. “Knowing that others aren’t going to get the same opportunity I had is very heartbreaking to me.”