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Interest in Dance at OWU Remains High Even After Cutting of the Major

Updated: Nov 20, 2022

Photos depict Orchesis 22/23 and are courtesy of Ohio Wesleyan Orchesis on Facebook.

Last year, Ohio Wesleyan University removed the dance major from their academics. After over 10 years of being offered, dance is now only available as a minor for incoming students.

College Factual reported that three OWU students graduated with a bachelor’s degree in dance in 2021, more than the two who graduated with the degree in 2020. Nationally, they reported dance degree graduates dropped in the United States by 3.3%.

Ohio Wesleyan dance instructor, Rashana Smith, has worked at the university for 10 years. She said typically between two and four students graduate with a dance degree each year. When it comes to a dance minor, Smith says there are around six to seven students.

“We also had dance scholarships available for dance majors. Typically, what would happen is we would get between two and four dance scholarship majors a year, and sometimes we could get more dance majors declared without the scholarships…It wasn’t a ton, but you also had theater along with everything and it was just more connected in many ways,” said Smith.

According to Smith, there was a new dance major implemented around 2013 but the university stopped offering dance as a major last year. The dance minor scholarship does still exist.

Research done by Data US reports that 268 universities offer a dance major out of the approximate 5,300 schools in the United States. In 2020, there were only 3,254 total dance degrees awarded to graduating students nationwide. These numbers are small compared to STEM majors awarded with degrees the same year being 773,971 graduates.

Smith believes many benefits come out of participating in dance of any kind at a university, especially at Ohio Wesleyan.

“Being an artist involves creativity, problem solving, all those wonderful things!...How do you deal with schedules, how do you manage your time…You can’t ignore time, even from the physical, practical side of things, even with dance.”

University senior Kayla Rush is one of the last students to be a dance major before it was withdrawn. She has participated in Orchesis for four years and choreographed for three years, while being the president of Terpsicorps, Ohio Wesleyan’s spring dance program.

While national data suggests that the interest in dance degrees is decreasing, Rush claims to have seen the opposite effect at the university.

“I’ve seen a large increase in students in the last two years who have interest in dance, especially students who have never danced before or didn’t think they wanted to continue in college.”

This year the studio topics classes have 10 or more students and the DANC 105 class fills up consistently each year. Orchesis participation has also increased, Rush says, as there are usually 20 students with additional crew. Terpsicorps has over 30 people interested in it for the spring of 2023 along with OWU Rhythms.

Photos depict Orchesis 22/23 and are courtesy of Ohio Wesleyan Orchesis on Facebook.

Having a dance major as an option at Ohio Wesleyan is something that tends to draw students given the ability students must double, sometimes even triple major in a variety of fields.

“Also, one of the biggest reasons I chose OWU was because of the ability to pair my biology and dance major. That is something that is not possible at other institutions and really drove my college decision,” said Rush.

Despite the increasing interest, the dance major program was not properly promoted as it was combined with the theater department. Theater became the center of the performing arts program further affecting dance program promotion. Rush says that she doesn’t think people recognize the “value and rigor in dance studies as well.

“It is often written off as just a physical endeavor when there is a lot of mental stimulation and scholarly work put into it as well.”

Ohio Wesleyan has a variety of majors and minors available, yet some are taken away as they start to gain more interest. The dance major is just one example of many, though it still is offered as a minor at the university and there are both Orchesis and Terpscicorps.

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