SUNY Oswego students this fall can glide, float, leap and pirouette their way to a new minor in dance.

The program will offer studio and classroom work in beginner and intermediate modern, jazz and ballet techniques, in addition to "Dance History, "Anatomy for Dancers" and electives such as "Choreography" and "Dance Around the World." An advanced ballet class -- a first for the college -- is in the planning for fall.

"The minor is something we've been working toward for a long time," said Jennifer Knapp, interim chair of the theatre department, which incorporates dance. "We're very excited about it. I think it will be a great recruitment tool for the department."

Students do not need prior dance experience to declare the dance minor, though some who take the courses have had lessons, appeared in recitals and shows, or participated in the college's popular dance organization, Del Sarte.

SUNY Oswego dance instructors Cheryl Wilkins-Mitchell (modern and jazz) and Ligia Pinheiro (ballet) -- both professional dancers and choreographers -- express enthusiasm for the new minor, as do students of theirs.

"This is really special," said Wilkins-Mitchell, who has been a strong proponent of the new program. "A lot of young people have grown up with dance and want to increase their participation. Some need to be more physically prepared, with improved body awareness. A lot of others want to explore their interest in dance."

Pinheiro said, "I think it's the most exciting news. There's a lot of interest (in dance and the minor) on campus."

'Something I enjoy'

Some students who take dance courses at Oswego have taken lessons since they were very young, need to improve their dancing or movement for musical theatre or plan to become dance instructors themselves.

Sophomore Dejanee Nisbitt of Queens, enrolled in Wilkins-Mitchell's class in "Beginning Jazz Dance Technique," majors in public justice and aims to be a law enforcement officer, but said she started dancing at 4 and has a long-term aspiration to own a dance school "for students who can't afford dance lessons."

"The dance minor is something different -- not a lot of schools offer it," Nisbitt said.

The college in recent years upgraded its dance studio in Lee Hall, adding a shock-absorbing sprung floor, Marley (vinyl) dance flooring, Wi-Fi access and ballet barres. The building itself is undergoing a $2.9 million exterior renovation.

Sophomore Emily Nasal of Forestville, who majors in TESOL (teaching English to speakers of other languages), took a break from the barre in Pinheiro's class in "Intermediate Ballet Technique" recently to talk about the new minor. She plans to declare it this fall. Nasal started lessons at age 3, already has taken seven of the 19 needed credit hours in dance at SUNY Oswego, and hopes to teach at her sister's dance school in North Carolina someday.

"It's just something I enjoy," she said.

That's an important motivator, Knapp said. "We have a tagline: 'Pursue your passion with a minor.' It's a great way to continue doing what you love."

Abigail Stone, a sophomore zoology major from Franklinville, said she took Wilkins-Mitchell's beginning jazz class "because I needed to learn to stretch properly. And I have. I've lost weight, and it's a good, fun activity."

Besides proper stretching, strengthening and dance techniques, students in the minor will learn about social and cultural issues that have influenced the development of dance as an art form; apply choreographic principles, structures and processes of movement to create original work; work collaboratively and think critically in studio courses; and learn how to avoid injury by understanding the primary bones and muscles used in each dance technique.

For more information on the dance minor, contact Knapp at 315-312-6612 or