(January 14, 2015)

Dance undergoes reinvigoration at Centenary

SHREVEPORT, LA — Dance instruction has been part of the Centenary curriculum for decades ranging from square dancing electives, dance history, ballet courses, and a respected dance company, Escaped Images. By 2011, however, the 30-year-old company had dissolved, leaving students with only a few dance courses to choose from.

Escaped Images
Escaped Images, 1987
Yoncopin Yearbook

In the fall 2014 semester, Anna Kirkes '09 was appointed as a faculty member and became the newest lecturer in dance. A lifelong dancer herself, she is committed to making this means of expression available to all students.

"In my beginning level classes last semester, I had students who had danced throughout their childhood and deeply missed it, students who had never danced before, and athletes who wanted to take an elective to learn a new skill," said Kirkes. "There was a wide range of proficiency among those students, but for those who dance their whole life, the studio is your second home."

Anna Kirkes
Anna Kirkes '09
Photo by Lily Darragh

Kirkes herself would not have considered Centenary as a student if there had not been that second home here. Once she learned about Escaped Images, it sealed the deal.

"I was dancing every day for hours in high school," said Kirkes. "Without dance in college, an emotional release that I needed would have been missing. Without that outlet, one can become depressed. I think offering dance is a service we provide for our students so they can continue to pursue or explore this passion. And at Centenary, students can continue dancing and be premed."

For Kirkes, taking dance courses and performing with Escaped Images became more than an outlet—it became a career. She graduated with a bachelor of arts in psychology and dance in 2009 and went on to receive her master's in fine arts in dance at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. Kirkes danced professionally for Ballet Arkansas in Little Rock for two seasons before moving back to Shreveport with her husband, Justin Kirkes, Residence Life Coordinator.

Escaped Images Company
A student performs during an Escaped Images dance concert in 2008

Kirkes taught three courses last semester, and has Beginning Techniques and Dance for Musical Theater on her schedule now. She hopes to add more classes in the future so students who want to improve their dance technique. She is also actively creating new components to reinvigorate the dance curriculum and motivate her students. In the fall, Kirkes collaborated with Don Hooper, Chair of the Theatre and Dance Department, to create a performance opportunity. Students in her beginning ensemble dance class cast their peers in original choreography and spent evenings outside of class practicing and preparing for the A Night Becomes Eclectic event that also featured student-directed scenes.

The positive feedback and eager class participation makes Kirkes hopeful that another campus company may form in the near future.

"To me a 'company' is just a word," said Kirkes. "Right now we have a group of people who want to rehearse and perform together, which could be considered a company."

Kirkes credits shows like So You Think You Can Dance and Dancing With The Stars with increasing the accessibility and popularity of dance. These shows have exposed the public to quality and intelligent dance and perhaps made them more likely to try it out themselves.

"College is a safe place for exploration, and dance is a communication tool," said Kirkes. "For me, dance has always been a way to talk about issues that are uncomfortable. But if you wrap controversy in movement and make something beautiful, defenses come down. You can explore situations from another avenue. I think we need that and need to give our students that opportunity."