TU dance programs ranked best in Maryland, top 24 in U.S.

By Rebecca Kirkman on January 12, 2022

Dance US magazine highlights Towson University Department of Dance for third year

Dancers practice on stage in theatre
Guest artist Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, left, works with the TU Dance Company in fall 2021. (Photo: Alex Wright)

Towson University’s Department of Dance was ranked as the best dance program in Maryland and among the top 24 in the country for the third year by Dance US, an independent, online publication.

The publication highlighted TU as a center of excellence in dance education and artistry and commended the program for its rigorous training within the context of a comprehensive liberal arts education.

“I could not be more proud of our department and honored by this distinction,” says chair and professor Catherine Horta-Hayden. “During this difficult year, through a lens of love, empathy, encouragement and grace, our department has found many ways to continue providing excellent education to our students and present them with numerous opportunities to grow, reflect and dream toward a bright future.”

The department’s faculty and staff and conservatory-like training are what set it apart from other programs.

“Faculty and staff in the department are active professionals and scholars in the field. They are leaders contributing to and shaping the future of dance in numerous ways nationally and internationally,” adds Horta-Hayden, who was elected to the six-member Commission on Accreditation for the National Association of Schools of Dance (NASD) in the fall. “Graduates from our program have gone on to be principal dancers and choreographers in prestigious companies, owners and artistic directors at private studios and teachers.”

In addition to small class sizes and state-of-the-art facilities, students in TU’s dance department have access to world-renowned visiting artists and professional-level performance opportunities.

Recent visiting artists include 2021 MacArthur Foundation Fellow Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, founder and artistic director of performance ensemble Urban Bush Women, and Maestra Ramona De Saá, director of the internationally renowned Cuban National Ballet School. 

This spring, the department hosts a faculty member from Alonzo King LINES Ballet, a contemporary company based in San Francisco, for a one-day intensive open to regional dancers as well as Hubbard Street Dance Chicago artistic director Linda-Denise Fisher-Harrell, a former TU professor returning to the university for a series of master classes.

Towson University dance majors experience rigorous preparation to dance and create dance at all ages and stages of life—in professional companies, as educators and as arts advocates.

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Working with a visiting artist is one of the ways the dance program prepares students for life after graduation. Another is through the TU Dance Company, which produces quality theatrical dance concerts, educates diverse audiences and provides professional-level performing experiences.

“We want to give students a taste of what it’s like in the professional world,” says dance assistant professor Alison Seidenstricker. “We're training these students in a multifaceted way to have a lifetime within this profession and career.”

Markel Williams, a senior and member of the dance company who worked with Zollar last fall, has learned how guest artists’ personal experiences and cultural backgrounds inform their practices. He plans to put the skills from the program into use in his own career.

“Working with guest artists such as Jawole expands our experiences and connections to those who we will ultimately be working with throughout our careers,” he adds. “It educates and prepares us on how to come into a space and work with someone whom we have never had an experience with before, which is something that we as dancers and artists will experience a lot.”