Georgia's Oldest University Repertory Celebrates 25 Years

March 29, 2011

Asya Greenwood

Georgia's Oldest University Repertory Celebrates 25 Years

VALDOSTA -- For Eric Nielsen, head of Valdosta State University’s dance program, moving to music is a way of life. This weekend, Nielsen and the hundreds of dance majors who have graced the VSU stage, will celebrate a generation of dancing during the VSU Repertory Dancers’ 25th Annual Dance Concert at 7:30 p.m. March 31 - April 2 and at 3 p.m. Sunday, April 3. VSU President Patrick J. Schloss will present the Dance program with a special proclamation following the Saturday night performance.

Created in 1986, the repertory is the oldest university company in Georgia. The weekend’s performances, featuring alumni and artists from the National Ballet of Florida, will draw from the more than 200 dances the repertory has archived for restaging and academic purposes.

“The original idea of the repertory company was to acquire a variety of choreographic dances that would not only be documented for future reconstructions at VSU, but also shared nationally and internationally,” Nielsen said. “I am amazed at the growth, talent of students, and continuing support we have for the dance program. Seeing the transformation from a dance emphasis to an actual dance major is a dream come true.”

The dance program has grown to include 34 dance majors and two additional choreographers. Dance instruction ranges from jazz and musical theater to contemporary modern. In 2007, the Department of Communication Arts expanded the dance emphasis to a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance. The program also provides guidance for the popular Repertory Dance Club, and in fall 2010, the extremely active professional Ballroom Dancing Club.

Associate Professor Catherine Schaeffer and Assistant Professor Kim Holt join Nielsen in the creation of the dance concert repertoire. The celebration performance will include two choreographed works from Schaeffer titled “Concerto Des Mia,” and “Baggage,” two dances from Holt titled “Opening Closure,” and “Out of Context,” a new work by Nielsen called “Driven,” and another titled “Flashbacks.” Five dancers from the National Ballet of Florida will perform “Robin Hood Pas De Deux,” “Diana and Acteon Pas De Deux” and a male solo titled “Gopak” on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.

“The concert is a great blend of new choreographic works, restagings from repertory dances and guest performances by the National Ballet of Florida,” said Schaeffer, who received VSU’s 2008 Faculty Excellence in Teaching Award. “No two dances look the same, so, I think every audience member will take something away from the concert, which emphasizes the breath of dance we teach at VSU.”

The dance company has been perfecting the show since January. Nielsen, who has seen the program grow during the past 25 years, said there are no signs of it slowing down. The celebration concert is one of many milestones the dance program at VSU will reach, he said.

The Dance Faculty

Professor Eric Nielsen created the dance emphasis program at VSU in 1986 and founded the VSU Repertory Dancers. In addition to his more than 35 years of collegiate teaching experience, Nielsen has performed for a number of classical ballet companies, directed/choreographed decades of summer stock theatre and was a routine show dancer, performing at the M.G.M. Grand Hotel in Reno, Nevada.

He has been on faculty exchanges in Russia, China and Hungary, and taught on the summer studies abroad program in Great Britain in 2004, 2006 and 2008. In 2003, he received the Dance Educator of the Year Award from Georgia's Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance. The VSU College of Arts awarded him the Excellence in Service Award in 2008.

Associate Professor Catherine Schaeffer came to VSU in 2001 to build an unstoppable dance force and expand traditional concepts of dance with the introduction of thought-provoking modern interpretations. The yoga enthusiast has exposed students to international competition, taking select students to compete in summer dance festivals, dance film projects, and concerts.

A prolific choreographer, Schaeffer has created more than sixty original works in modern, contemporary ballet, jazz, and multi-media genres produced at colleges, conferences, and professional venues. The certified somatic/massage therapist continues to perform in her own work. Her latest passion is the study of Butoh dance as a healing performance art.

Assistant Professor Kim Holt is the program’s newest member, joining VSU’s professional staff three years ago after earning a Master of Fine Arts from Florida State University. The talented performer, who thrives in both modern and classical forms, said she is eager to continue to expand the program’s reputation throughout the nation.

“I feel confident about the programs future, I hope,” Holt said. “I feel like we are constantly performing strong dances every year, and our auditions are getting bigger. The dancers seem to be interested, engaged and enjoy what we have to offer. We have a very diverse curriculum which is competitive with any of the other bigger schools in the region.”