I just read a review of a new dance film called The Fits, that is a lovely departure from  what we have come to expect from North American dance films in recent decades. Not only does it center around a young African American girl’s life, dancing, and community, but it also blurs lines between dance and sport in interesting ways.

I can’t wait to see this film and find ways to include it in my courses. Someone should definitely write an article one day that compares it with Billy Elliot, How She Move, and Save the Last Dance, among many others.

I mention “The Fits” here because just reading about this new film and watching its trailer nearly gave me the fits. It made me think about all the exciting and interesting young dancers that are out in the world, for whom popular dance is intrinsic to who they are, how they see themselves, and where their life is going–and yet we STILL have no place for them in our university dance degrees. After more than a decade in the profession, my patience is waning on this issue.

In an era of diminishing enrollment, in which we are having to break our backs to find enough qualified students to recruit in order to meet “our numbers,” how can we continue to ignore these kinds of dancers? They could revitalize not only our classrooms, programs, and universities, but also inspire a revolution in dance education. [Those of you who know me well might remember that I have raised this issue six years ago in an article in Research in Dance Education.]

And so, I ask you all, where are there good examples of innovative dance programs that welcome (not just tolerate) popular dancers, who just happen to be the majority of young dancers today? Talk to me about curricular design and pedagogical approaches.

Tell me how we can break the “art” dance training model, that excludes so many interesting movers and dance makers who might jump at a chance to study dance academically as a potential pathway to a career in dance?

Danielle Robinson