Though AU is one of the few Christian colleges to offer a dance program, there was once a time when dancing was forbidden on campus.
“The Church of God has a strong animus towards dancing,” explained Erich Yetter, assistant professor of dance. “They thought it was lascivious and led to boys and girls getting together.”
When students began leaving campus to dance, the university introduced a dance class as a way to keep students safe. AU’s first dance class developed into what is now the dance department.
“Once they opened up the first dance class, they realized that there was a huge need,” he said. “It just took off. People wanted to go to a Christian university to dance because they saw dancing as a way to praise God.”
When the original studio in Kardatzke Wellness Center became too small to meet the growing demand for dance, the university invested in a new space that was designed for temporary use.
“The university ordered a kit from Germany,” said Yetter. “It’s almost like IKEA furniture. Evidently it was shipped here on a boat, and they put it all up, basically just screwing it together quickly.”
The dance studio was built on top of the parking lot behind the KWC.
“We should be closer to the arts,” said Yetter. “We should be closer to the music and theatre performers. Dancers should be able to poke their head in on a theatre or Chorale rehearsal. The arts are all integrated. We’re all part of the School of Music, Theatre and Dance, but this was the easiest place to put it.”
The current space is home to three studios, and is fully insulated and equipped with air conditioning and heating. Despite this, the dancers run into problems throughout the year.
“We don’t have bathrooms here,” he said. “All throughout the year our dancers are sweating. Usually there’s a locker room. They should be able to take a shower, get dressed and go on with their day. They can’t unless they go out in the snow to the KWC. It’s the same way if they have to go to the bathroom during class.”
Because of the dance studio’s parking lot location, rain water pooled beneath the building causing moisture buildup. Eventually, air pockets formed in the studio flooring. One dancer tripped over a pocket and sprained an ankle. New flooring was installed over Christmas break and the moisture problem was fixed with the installation of ventilation.
Yetter attributes the dance studio’s shortcomings to its initial design as a temporary space and hopes that in the future the dance department will have a permanent home.
“Eventually we would love to have a building,” Yetter said. “I believe the university is thinking of building a new student center. If they did that, then hopefully we could repurpose the current student center as the dance department. The cafeteria would make a great studio.”
Creating a space for the dance department closer to campus would promote togetherness within the AU community.
“If we were in the cafeteria having classes then students walking to class could see what we do and demystify it,” he said. “A lot of people are scared of dance, especially men and boys. They think you wear a tutu and look like a girl. Really, it’s one of the hardest things you’ll ever do. It’s harder, more gruelling and requires more flexibility, stamina and strength than professional football.”
Assistant Professor of Dance Christine Thacker would also like to see the dance department moved into a permanent building.
“For a temporary space, it’s great,” she said. “The floors are sprung and the mirrors are great, but it is temporary. There’s no plumbing. That’s always fun to explain to guests and auditioners. It’s inconvenient and slightly embarrassing.”
Thacker raised several safety concerns about the building.
“I have a concern about fire hazards and active shooter situations,” she said. “There’s no exit. There’s one door in and one door out. If there was some kind of fire, there’s only one way out of that building. That’s it. That poses a little bit of a concern for me.
“My daughters go to Noblesville schools and we had a shooting incident last summer. That’s something that’s always in the back of your mind as a parent. As an educator, my students are like my adopted kids. If there ever was an active shooter situation, we would be in jeopardy in that building. It’s a lot of glass and there’s no way to lock the doors from the inside of the studios.”
When her students are using the studio alone at night, Thacker always reminds them to lock themselves in.
“My students use the space independently in the evenings for rehearsals because they’re student choreographers and they run their own rehearsals,” she explained. “I do remind them to lock themselves in. Especially for a female choreographer, if you’re in that building at 9 p.m. at night and you’re not locked in, someone could let themselves in. The only way for you to get out is to go through them. I don’t want that to happen.”