University of South Florida

College of The Arts

University of South Florida

USF Dance Alumni Return to Teach Masterclass Series

Sarah Walston - Class of 2015

As many colleges and universities closed their physical campuses to students after the Thanksgiving break, all finals, papers and project presentations had to shift to the virtual environment.

The School of Theatre and Dance at the USF College of The Arts decided to make the most of this situation by providing their students with a week of virtual masterclasses. Inspired by the 50th anniversary of the Dance program, Sadie Lehmker (Adjunct Faculty) and Danielle Boe (Office Manager), posed the idea to the dance faculty and staff.

With everyone on board, they made a list of alumni they knew were teaching or working in the field and reached out to gauge the level of interest from alumni. Turns out, there was a great deal of it. Sixteen alumni stepped forward to take over technique courses in the timeframe normally reserved for (in-person) final showings.

Current students were required to take masterclasses that fell within their normal window of dance technique classes and were also encouraged to take any others that would benefit them outside of class time as well. Styles ranged from Contemporary and Ballet to Musical Theatre and West African Dance, and everything in between. Beyond technique, there were also Q & A sessions and built-in learning experiences in freelance opportunities, body awareness, choreography, movement workshops, and other valuable skills and resources that students need in the professional dance world.

Dazaun Soleyn - Class of 2014

The masterclasses have provided alumni an avenue to reconnect and share their real-world skills with the next generation of dance professionals and given current students an opportunity to network with working artists and further enhance their preparation for future success upon graduation.

Lehmker discussed the many impacts on both groups including networking opportunities, recruiting, and broadening each other’s horizons in the field and in the classroom. She believes the main point of this exchange is to facilitate an opportunity for both students and alumni to “make connections and have access to resources and the ability to reach out to one another.” Her hope is to continue to grow this meaningful series making it an annual, or maybe even semesterly occurrence. She notes there is already growing interest from other alumni, both in an out of the dance field, who would like to share their vast variety of expertise.

While the hope is to host these masterclasses in person in the future, the virtual environment has actually provided a convenient and cost-effective way for alumni from all across the country to reconnect with the School and share their valuable experience with current dance students.

The students, alumni, and faculty of the School of Theatre & Dance all look forward to strengthening these bonds with students past, present, and future.