Dance Department Chair sets a Foundation for Growth
Nine years ago, Jordeen Ivanov-Ericson's first graduating class as Department Chair at Marygrove School of Dance graduated one single student. Ivanov-Ericson definitely had her work cut out for her, as she sought to grow the program into what now amounts to two thriving dance companies: that's 43 majors to be exact, including ten very talented graduating seniors. When it comes to success, Ivanov-Ericson never misses her mark.
She began dancing ballet in Pittsburg, PA under the direction of internationally renowned choreographer Nicolas Petrov. She continued her studies at the North Carolina School of Arts and toured with the North Carolina Dance Theater. Upon graduation she joined the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater and was quickly promoted to Principal Dancer. In 1976, she joined the Chicago Ballet to study under Ruth Page, an iconic pioneer choreographer of American ballet. Her many credits include Ballet Mistress with the American Dance Ensemble/Ballet Petrov, and several guest artist performances...in fact, that's how she came to know Marygrove, back in the mid 70's.
"Marygrove Dance has always had its own look," said Ivanov-Ericson, Special Instructor II of Dance and Department Chair. "...it was a thriving urban dance company with a lot of heart. When the opportunity arose for me to work here, I was happy to take the challenge—I knew what it once was, and what it could be." She was uniquely qualified to lead at a time when the charge was to strengthen the program's formal classical training.
Ericson explains: "A lot of schools had gotten away from classical training; the focus had become largely contemporary. The problem with not focusing on the fundamentals of ballet, modern and jazz is that you are limiting a student's audition potential, and marketability. Marygrove produces a proficient, versatile dancer; students seek out our program for that broader appeal. Our graduates will never be tossed out of an audition for not being prepared in the three genres. We prepare our dancers to be ready for anything, and it all starts with the ballet barre."
A rigorous year is always in tow for Marygrove Dance freshmen, and it can prove to be too much for some. Freshmen dance students have four Ballet classes, three Modern dance classes and one Jazz class per week. "Most students will find out if they have what it takes in their first year," Ivanov-Ericson says. "Second year students take courses in nutrition and anatomy, along with improvisation and dance history. We also begin general education course work, which serves all majors toward a well-rounded education, regardless of BA or BFA." The trend is a record number of Bachelor of Fine Arts majors.
Not only has the program grown, but the Marygrove's prospective student talent pool has grown, probably due to the popularity of TV shows like So You Think You Can Dance. "We are able to be very selective with our recruitment...students who make it to Marygrove can be very proud that they are among the best technical dancers out there." Ericson adds. Growth is always nice, but Ericson is quick to point out that a large dance school is not necessarily a better one. A program is only as good as its talent and a Dance major has to prove he or she has the right stuff to get enrolled. "We are unique in that we have to tailor our program each year to the talent of our students." she adds. "Other programs have a set curriculum that doesn't vary much from year to year...for Dance, we have to assess our talent and make sure our program is fluid enough to bring out the best in them." Dance programs, she adds, should fit a student like a glove.
As auditions for a new crop of students have begun, the tireless Department Chair looks back on her accomplishments with pride and thanks. There were a couple of angels in the wings who helped her reach her goals. In 2002, Dance Patron Pam Prairie Premo generously donated funds for a new shock-absorbing sprung floor and expanded costume storage space. Another special Dance Patron, Kathie Cude Putnam, has made an important donation and annual pledge that provided smart technology—televisions, recorders, laptops—for all of the dance studios. "The renovations helped me organize the department in a meaningful way," Ivanov-Ericson says. "You have to give dance students structure, which includes the space they work in every day.
Is there a wish list for the future?
"We could use a bigger performance space, and maybe some portable lights and boards, but we're in good shape," she adds. Every Marygrove dance student is fortunate to showcase their talent on a traditional, curtained proscenium stage, as opposed to a less-formal black box. They are also able to perform in two full-blown productions every year, a privilege afforded only to upper classmen at other schools. "Having a beautiful theater in the heart of an urban environment --where cultures meld together and are constantly changing--only enriches the dance experience here," Ivanov-Ericson said. "That's why I love it."
To see the eclectic choreography of the Marygrove Dance Company at its best, come to "Velocity I" and "Velocity II".
Show Dates and Times:
December 10, 8 p.m.
December 11, 2 p.m. & 8 p.m.
December 17, 8 p.m.
December 18, 2 p.m. & 8 p.m.
For more information or tickets, call (313) 927-1568 or (313) 927-1307.