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University High School     
Dance I
Orchesis Intercity Dance Company

Instructor:  Laurie Merriman

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

ABOUT UNIVERSITY HIGH SCHOOL'S DANCE PROGRAM

by Laurie Merriman


Table of Contents

  1. Who is eligible to enroll in Dance I @ University High School ?
  2. Do all Dance I students have to perform with Orchesis Intercity Dance Company ?
  3. How many students are enrolled in Dance I ?
  4. When does the class meet and how many sections of the class are offered ?
  5. Where does the class meet ?
  6. What kind of dance is taught in Dance I ?
  7. Tell me about Orchesis Intercity Dance Company !

WHO IS ELIGIBLE TO ENROLL IN DANCE I @ UNIVERSITY HIGH SCHOOL?

From the inception of dance being offered at University High School in 1984, the Dance I course has been available to all interested high school students at University High School.  In addition, it has been traditional for the U-High Dance I course to be made available to students attending area "intercity" schools.     In this case, intercity students from other high schools may enroll in this course for either Fine Art or Physical Education credit and must first contact University High School to fill out the appropriate paper work.   It is also advisable for intercity students wishing to take this course to contact their school counselor prior to enrolling in the course.   All intercity students must obtain permission from the U-High Dance I instructor, Laurie Merriman, prior to enrollment.   The only exception to this policy would be if the class has reached maximum enrollment from the University High School student population.   This class has typically enrolled students from University High School, Central Catholic High School, Bloomington High School, Normal Community High School, Normal Community West High School, and home schools. 

 

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DO ALL DANCE I STUDENTS HAVE TO PERFORM WITH ORCHESIS INTERCITY DANCE COMPANY ?

No.  Dance I and Orchesis are two separate entities.  Dance I is the credit bearing, academic course designed to teach students various dance forms, choreography or dance composition, dance improvisation as well as the history and philosophy of dance.   Orchesis however, transfers the knowledge gained in the class to the stage or the production component of the performing arts.  Orchesis is the performance outlet for those dancers who successfully audition for the dance company.   While Dance I students are not required to audition and perform with Orchesis Intercity Dance Company, they are required to participate in the production elements of the Orchesis Concerts each semester.   These production assignments include working backstage as crew, stage manager or assistant stage managers, light gel changers, costume assistants, ushering at the door, and so forth.  

 

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HOW MANY STUDENTS ARE ENROLLED IN DANCE I?

The course has grown in popularity considerably throughout the years.  In its first year (1984-1985) the class consisted of approximately 10 young women and grew to a class of 17 under the direction of Ms. Judith Webster (an Illinois State University graduate student in Dance at the time).   Ms. Wright then took over the class and built the Dance class up to approximately 20 students in 1987.  I then succeeded Ms. Wright in the Fall of 1988 with 27 students and have remained at University High School teaching dance since August of 1988.  The Dance I class at University High School is generally comprised of about 40 young men and women. 

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WHEN DOES THE CLASS MEET AND HOW MANY SECTIONS OF THE CLASS ARE OFFERED?

As from the inception of the course, the Dance I class is still offered at the 7:00 am hour for five days a week throughout the school year.  The class is dismissed at 7:45 each morning.   While there is currently only one section of the course offered at University High School, it is our hope that a second section can eventually be added to accommodate the proficiency levels within the class and to offer a class with a maximum enrollment of approximately 30 students.  

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WHERE DOES THE CLASS MEET?

Although in my first years of teaching the class I taught in the small gymnasium of University High School, since 1990 the class has been utilizing the professional dance facilities of Illinois State University.   The facility used, Centennial East, 116,  is a fully equipped dance studio space with both free standing and wall mounted ballet barres, full-length mirrors, a vinyl dance flooring (ie. marley) on top of a raised floor, state-of-the art sound equipment, and DVD/VCR and monitor.   While our primary classroom space is Centennial East 116 there is a second dance studio space in the same building that we occasionally use for our large group projects. 

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WHAT KIND OF DANCE IS TAUGHT IN DANCE I ?

Students study classical ballet, modern dance, and jazz dance technique.    Musical theatre and tap dance are also included in some years.  In addition, students also participate in dance composition assignments, dance improvisational exercises, and dance production assignments.  Students are also encouraged to learn about dance history, dance aesthetics and many dance related topics such as injury prevention, nutrition and the construction of a resume.   Classroom projects include both individual performance and group generated performance experiences. 

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TELL ME ABOUT ORCHESIS INTERCITY DANCE COMPANY!

Orchesis is the performing group developed as an outgrowth of the Dance I course at University High School and it, too, is an "intercity" component of University High School.  The company, just as the Dance I class, has grown throughout the years.  The company presented its first concert in Stroud Auditorium on May the 2nd of 1984 with 9 dancers!   The company has consistently highlighted the talents of between 50 and 60 young men and women dancers each Fall and Spring since 1990.   This company is the only one of its kind in the downstate region of Illinois and is widely respected throughout the state for excellence in choreography and performance as illustrated by consistent success at the Illinois High School Dance Festival each year.   Orchesis Intercity Dance Company conducts auditions at least once each year (generally in August or September) and all company members must be enrolled in Dance I each semester in order to be considered.   Senior company members along with Artistic Director, Laurie Merriman, conduct the audition.   Final decisions for adding new dancers to the company remain with the Artistic Director.  The company rehearses each Saturday and Sunday throughout the school year in preparation for performances and contests.   Dancers are only required to attend rehearsals of the dances they have been cast in.   Final casting decisions are made at the discretion of the Artistic Director, Laurie Merriman.  Most company members are cast in 2-3 dances on average per semester.   Most apprentice company members are cast in 1-2 dances on average per semester.   Each dance rehearses for approximately one hour each week. 

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