Dance programs step it up with classes for every skill level

Missourian Archives
In 1993, John Beasant was one of 11 male dance and theater majors at Stephens College. A small number of men are admitted into performing arts programs at the traditionally female college. Currently, only two percent of the student body are men.

From Stephens' College nationally acclaimed dance program to local ballroom studios, Columbia has been home to a variety of dance opportunities in the past 50 years.


Looking back on her first dance recital at age 6, Marie Robertson, now 56, vividly remembers her mother spending hours sewing her pink, feathered costume.

Robertson began studying dance with her twin sister, Maggie, when they lived in Newport, R.I. Before becoming co-owners of Dancearts of Columbia with Kari Scott, Maggie and Marie Robertson attended Stephens College, where they each received a bachelor’s degree in dance and a bachelor’s degree in mathematics.

As Robertson has found, whether an individual is just starting out in dance, dancing for leisure, pursuing a dance degree or dancing with a professional ballet company, a full spectrum of opportunities is available in Columbia.

Dancearts is one of at least eight dance studios in Columbia. Combined, the dance outlets provide instruction to more than 1,250 students each year. Other studios include Columbia Dance Academy, Twilight Dance Studio, Academy of Fine Arts, Perlman Halcyone Ewalt School of Ballet, Columbia Performing Arts Centre, Wedding and Ballroom Dance and Moon Belly Dance Studio.

In addition to these studios, Stephens College offers a three-year, two-summer program for individuals pursuing bachelor’s degrees in dance. Thirty students are enrolled in this program. The Stephens College dance program was founded in the 1950s by Harriet Ann Gray. “Under her leadership it grew to be a strong, nationally known dance department,” said Bob Boross, associate professor and chair of the dance department at Stephens College.

Each year, students from the Stephens dance program perform in a myriad of public performances, including the Fall Festival of the Arts, the Senior Dance Concert, the Spring Dance Concert, the New Works Concert and the Summer Dance Intensive performance.

Whether at the amateur or professional level, dance plays an important role in the lives of many, including Stephens senior Katie Smart.

“What I get out of dance is the opportunity to let myself go and be someone else or sometimes just be the ‘me’ that most people don’t get to know,” she said. “I can put all of my frustrations, fears, thoughts and observances into a piece of work without ever having to say a word.”

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