Students at UA Little Rock have started a Change.org petition on Wednesday to keep the dance program at UA Little Rock after it was announced on Monday that it may be completely eliminated.
The petition was started by Alysa Anderson, a third year at UA Little Rock transfer student currently obtaining a B.A. in Dance with a minor in Psychology and Health Science. Her petition, titled “Keep UA Little Rock’s Dance Department and Programs,” received over 800 signatures and growing in just its first five hours. It was started after Anderson felt she needed to do something in order to keep her department alive for future students.
“After hearing the news of the recommendation to eliminate the program I knew that I couldn’t stay silent,” she said. “I, along with so many of my fellow students, have such a deep flowing passion for what this program has given not just to us, but to the community and to Arkansas.”
Anderson, along with other dance students currently enrolled at UA Little Rock, will still be able to complete their degree without any problems, but Anderson still feels it is important to keep the program at UA Little Rock even after she leaves as it is the only university that offers a complete dance program on a collegiate level alongside music and theatre.
“Dance plays a huge role in the world of the arts along side of music and theatre,” she said. “This dance program has not just help me grow as a dancer, artist, and creator, but as a person as well. Dance teaches you numerous life lessons like collaboration, teamwork, drive, the importance of community and how to properly take care of not only your physical health, but emotional and mental health as well.”
Anderson points at the abundance of job opportunities that a dance program can lead to as a reason to keep the program.
“Graduates go on to not only be dance teachers, choreographers and performers, but also doctors, physical therapist, research scientists and chiropractors, just to name a few,” she said. “Keeping this program in Arkansas makes it possible for individuals to have access to these possibilities and to give back not just to their community, but their state.”
The decision to eliminate the dance department was announced Monday, May 4 during a meeting between Chancellor Christina Drale and the Board of Trustees on the ongoing retrenchment process.
“After much review and discussion, several things are clear to me,” Drale said in her updated proposal. “Allowing all three programs (Music, Theatre, and Dance) to operate as-is, is a non-starter because it requires a heavy subsidy from other programs in which we might otherwise invest.”
Drale says that it is not possible to retrench the Music, Theater and Dance Departments to a sustainable level due to the lack of crossover among the instructors in the programs.
“In order to preserve the building blocks of a future performing arts unit that is strong and viable,” Drale said, “one of the curricular areas will have to be eliminated.”
This curricular area, she proposes, should be the dance program. As for Music and Theater, Drale also proposes combining them into one unit, a Performing Arts unit, as well as reducing the faculty of the music department by three and the Theater Arts department by one, making it a total of eight with the elimination of the dance program.
Along with the petition, Anderson also started a Facebook page titled “Advocate For UALR Dance Program.” Since starting both, Anderson has faith that it may help keep the program alive.
“We have had numerous messages and people who have reached out to us asking what they can do to help us in spreading the word,” she said. “It has been so moving to read people stories and comments both on social media and on the petition of how either this dance program, or dance itself, has influenced their lives for the better. We hope that seeing everyone’s stories and people showing their support will show how much the arts and dance is an intricate part of Arkansas.”
Anderson says that they have not only received support from all across Arkansas, but also in almost all 50 states.
“The arts community is one that is always a constant source of support for all,” she said. “We band together with those in tough times and rejoice in the good times. To have other students and people help spread the word and sign the petition to keep this program in place helps to keep that community alive and growing not only on UA Little Rock’s campus, but in Little Rock and all of Arkansas.”