Dance lacks financial resources

The Lion’s Roar / Heather Jewell
Christa Clement-Sevin, senior general studies major with a concentration in dance, rehearses along with her fellow classmates and dancers for this week’s Katrina Project.

While those who represent Southeastern, including both faculty and students, have been working to improve the school the past couple years through numerous expansions, improved facilities, and new fees towards athletics, some programs are seeing no assistance towards their end. The dance program under the Department of Fine and Performing Arts are without a personal budget or student-assessed fee, resulting in limited or lack of mirrors, speakers, safe flooring and more.

“The students work really hard and they really believe in the program that we do here,” said dance instructor Skip Costa. “They are getting quality education but there is a limit to what we can present and produce when there is no budget involved. It’s not that we want this abundance amount of money to work with, but there’s little necessities in order to produce quality work at a professional level that goes across the board with all the universities.”

The dance program currently borrows speakers from a student and often uses things bought by Costa. Costumes for productions are typically found at home or at Goodwill.

“I’m still going to buy stuff for this performance because I feel they need to do things as professionally as they can because when they leave here it is a professional world,” said Costa.

According to Martie Fellom, dance professor, they often have to readjust and change their plans for a production due to lack of money. Currently, if Fellom needs money for a production she will request it through the department head, but often receives far less than needed in regards to set, props and costumes.

“It saddens me. I know it’s a necessity with the department because of money, but if we had a certain amount of money then it could be visualized the way it was intended,” said Fellom. “That’s probably the most challenging thing because then you have to give up your vision. Any artist who is creating something, there’s a vision there and sometimes money is a big factor in that vision.”

For the program’s upcoming performance, they are using a large set piece that was donated to them. This piece alone has opened the door in possibilities that they did not have before. Similar objects could increase future opportunities for the program and for students.

“We have a set piece behind us and the only reason we got this was because another department heard us out,” said Joseph Matherne, senior majoring in general studies with a concentration in dance. “We are extremely thankful for the contribution of this piece. There are stunts that wouldn’t even be possible had this piece not been here, and that catapults us into the next semester. If we did have a budget, what else could we do? What other things could we provide for the university that is our home?”

Other programs in the Department of Fine and Performing Arts currently receive student-assessed fees or student lab fees. According to Leonet, full-time students currently pay two dollars for theatre, one dollar and fifty cents for the art gallery, two dollars for cheerleading, twenty dollars for the parking garage, one hundred dollars for athletics and much more in fees towards various aspects or projects around campus. Most of these fees aside from athletics have been in place for a long time and were voted on by the student body at a time. 

“For the dance crowd to get something like that, first off all they would have to get their faculty to get that approved up through the chain,” said Jim McHodgkins, assistant vice president for Student Affairs.

The approval of a student fee would go through faculty, department head, dean, provost, Student Government Association, president, board and would finally be voted on by the student body.

According to Dale Newkirk, interim department head of Fine and Performing Arts, the dance program does not have their own budget due to their lack of lab fees. The department of Fine and Performing Arts has a general budget, but it is stretched in many different directions due to large and diverse aspects of the department, including music, visual arts and more.

“Areas such as dance, and all music and visual arts funding for classroom supplies and studio needs comes from student lab fees,” said Newkirk. “Dance is a small area with few students compared to other areas in the department. However, the area is important and we are working to meet their needs. I have been helping the area this year by funding the dance production costs of shows currently under production. In this way the dance program, considering our resources, has been generously supported.”

Fellom and Costa recently submitted paperwork for approval for a student lab fee, which if granted may offer some assistance.

Although, the program is lacking in many necessary tools for dance, they are steadily growing and improving. According to both students and faculty, much of the renewed passion and growth in the dance program is due to Costa.

“He is reaching their inner voice of creativity,” said Fellom. “He is bringing forth their excitement that hasn’t been here for a while. That’s why I think our numbers are increasing. They want to study with him, and they want to have their own personal voice.”

According to Fellom, one student is planning on transferring from the American College of Dance to Southeastern so that she can be a part of the dance program here and under Costa.

According to numerous dance students, many came to Southeastern for dance because of Costa and his background.

Many dance students expressed how much the program has strengthened them and positively changed their view of what dance can be. For some, it has helped with anxiety, for others it has taught them how to use expression through dance and open a new world to audience members.

“I never did any contemporary dance until I got to college so this program has been massive for me,” said Forrest Duplantier, majoring in engineering technology. “It’s affected my life a lot. It’s helped out my anxiety a lot, it’s helped a lot of things in my life.”

The dancers and instructors plan to continue on and grow with or without a future budget or student fee.

“A lot of us don’t plan on stopping,” said Matherne. “We want to keep going. I want to open up a company and multiple other people want to do stuff with dance. This is not where it ends. We want to keep going and in order to keep going we want to put ourselves in the best position as possible, which is why we’re asking for these things. If we didn’t care about it, we wouldn’t ask and if we didn’t want it, we wouldn’t try.”