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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


    History Takes a New Twist: American History through Dance

    TheStony Brook History Department will launch its first dance course, HIS 414,entitled ‘?Dancing American History?From Slavery to Hip Hop’during the Spring 2003 semester. The course, which seeks to teach historythrough dance, will incorporate readings about an era with the dances thatpeople enjoyed during that time.

    ‘?It’sa class for students to feel what dancing was like and why people didit,’ said History Professor April Masten, who will teach the class.

    Atrial run of the class was held in the Spring 2002 semester as a one credit mini course for Honorscollege students.Masten taughtthe small group of students a new form of dance in the Staller Center theaterhall each week. The semester’s dances included early African Americanforms, such as the Ring Shout, and moved into the Irish Jig, with newerAmerican Dances such as the Waltz, Charleston and Foxtrot coming later in thesemester.

    Studentswho took the mini course said the course provided the opportunity to learndances they would not have otherwise known about.‘Even though the dances were different, I had a lot offun learning the new styles,’ said Eric Greenberg, a student in the minicourse.

    Limitedto 25 students, next semester’s extended course is set to cover moredances and styles. ‘?This course will be more intense with more dancingand will cover a larger time span,’ Masten said.‘?The most valuable thing aboutthis course is that students will get group interaction and one-on-oneprofessor-student experience.’

    Masten also said the dances taught in the classexplore the changes and cultural influences America has seen during the past200 years. Masten shows the influence of African American dance on whitecommunities, and students learn the mixed dance forms through lessons andactivities.

    ‘?Thedances that students might talk about in other classes, like the Charleston,they’ll actually learn to dance,’ Masten said.

    Teachinghistory through dance has been a topic of slight controversy in the past. Theeffectiveness of such a venue has been debated. ‘?In some ways, I think itwouldn’t be effective at all because there are many societies that areknown by their lack of music and entertainment,’ history major CatherineBrenner said.

    Mastensaid she thinks dancing can be a tool to understand many societal pressures andideas that people lived with in the past, however.

    ‘?This course is for people wholike ideas,’ Masten said. ‘?And dancing becomes an idea that theywork on and understand. I’m glad that I work in a history department thatis willing to try new things.’

    Somestudents were excited by the concept. ‘?It would be an interesting and funclass to take because you are learning about American history but from adifferent angle,’ junior Tina Francis said.‘?You are learning why these dances came about and whatwas going on during the time.’‘ ‘

    l’>Totake the 400 level class, the professor must approve the student. Foradditional information contact April Masten at [email protected], and632-1341 or Susan Grumet at 632-7480.

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