Curriculum staples that set this course apart from other full time dance institutions are no longer taught: Skinner Releasing, yoga, improvisation, Feldenkrais, Alexander technique, & Contact Improvisation. All current practices within the industry globally, all so deeply interwoven into the original course philosophy and practice, all but non existent. However a commercial jazz dance teacher has been hired. Choreography was once taught by anything from seven to ten different current practitioners throughout the course of a year, industry professionals who were out there working on the practice. Now this is handled by two proportional staff, one of whose background is in classical ballet choreography and the visual arts.
The interdisciplinary approaches and projects inherent in the contemporary dance course (and now interestingly enough being favoured by other institutions such as Toi Whakaari) are gone. The initial vision that the course was built on, the culture, direction, and spirit are also gone. It’s a historical turning point. The new direction appears conservative, retrogressive, fiscally driven and mediocre. Unitec's dance course was a peerless construct with a spirit deeply devoted to the uniqueness and longevity of the people who went there. As it detaches from its history in the name of progress it seems out of step with the times. Just when the NZ School of Dance is focusing more on outreaching to the community and industry it seems sad that Unitec is unable to sustain those same relationships intrinsic to its identity.
Lets hope that this period of transition will result in the eventual manifestation of unique vision and soul in the work being done there. Thats something many of us want to see out there in the world anyway, something that I think a lot of us are going for in our own work.
(Thanks to Raewyn for the editing feedback and input, and Ali for inspiring the title)