With an enrollment of 250 majors and 200 minors, the School of Performing Arts (SOPA) at Virginia Tech makes up a relatively small piece of the 4,000-student College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. But among the various major and minor options, ranging from music technology to theatre performance and many programs in between, one performing art in particular is missing — dance.
In August 2018, Scotty Hardwig, a professional dancer and choreographer, was hired to teach as Tech’s first dance professor for SOPA’s theatre program.
“What's unique about my position is that it was written for someone as a movement professional and I am a professional dancer and choreographer,” Hardwig said.
Hardwig comes to Virginia Tech after working as a dancer and choreographer for several professional dance companies, including San Francisco’s Axis dance company.
According to Paul Steger, director of SOPA, the school is planning two new dance technique courses that will be offered in spring 2019 and two new dance-related courses that are expected to be offered in the fall 2019 and spring 2020 semesters, in addition to SOPA’s existing course in creative dance.
Hardwig, however, hopes that SOPA will soon be able to offer dance-specific degree programs.
“On the curricular side of what I'm doing here at Virginia Tech is I'm building a dance program, with a curriculum and a series of dance classes that students can go through, which hopefully perhaps as soon as the end of next year would become a minor program and then hopefully sometime in the future would become a major program,” Hardwig said. “There's kind of a gap in the curriculum, I feel, when it comes to dance education ... and what's exciting about being here (at Virginia Tech) is that I'm sort of building something new in a place that hasn't had it."
Hardwig feels that the need for a dance-specific degree program at Virginia Tech is demonstrated by the many dancers on campus who could benefit from adding a degree in dance to their other degree programs.
"There's a ton of dancers here and dance groups, and I have this vision of having a program or a department where they can all come together and study, even if their major is in molecular biology, they could be doing a minor in dance or a double major,” Hardwig said.
Hardwig hopes to offer more classes in dance technique, theory and history as part of a degree program — and even a more science-based dance anatomy class.
"Because it's an art form that is so much about the body, I incorporate functional anatomy into most of my curriculum, and so that class will be an anatomy and kinesiology class, but from the perspective of a performance or a dance or an athletic lens,” he said.
Steger wrote in an email to the Collegiate Times that there haven’t been any official conversations concerning a dance minor and major. Nevertheless, Hardwig believes it is feasible that a dance minor will be available within the next five years and a major within 10 years.
However, Hardwig points to a lack of studio space as one of the greatest obstacles to overcome before a dance-specific degree program is possible.
“In the next 10 years, one of my goals would be more studio space. We're kind of tight on studio space right now, and I would love, I mean we could do with even two studios,” Hardwig said. “All that dancers really need is a big, open room.”
While there are many steps left to be taken before a dance minor and major can be rolled out, Hardwig feels encouraged by the positive feedback that he has received.
“There are lots of people that support dance as an art form, that love it, you know, dance-o-philes. It's great to have that. I haven't felt anything, any pushback at all, which is very encouraging,” he said.
Editor's Note: In the Jan. 29 print paper, we published an article with the headline “Theatre program at Virginia Tech welcomes first dance professor.” We intended to convey that Scotty Hardwig is the first professor in the program who is also a professional dancer. But, we now recognize that the headline can be interpreted as Hardwig is the first dance professor in the program. This is incorrect as Hardwig is not the first professor to teach dance in the theatre program.