A Step in the Right Direction

Mon, 2010-01-18 08:15 -- univcomm
January 18, 2010

Matthew Farmer is one of the latest faculty members to join the AU family. Farmer He is the first full-time dance advisor on the faculty. Along with Farmer come three new dance majors and minors.

Farmer has numerous prestigious accomplishments under his belt. Previously, he has worked as co-artistic director of the Jackson Dance Alliance. He has also choreographed numerous performances for universities across the U.S., three of which were shown at the Dance in the Desert Festival in Las Vegas. Furthermore, he has appeared in multiple dance publications and theater productions throughout his career. [Photo on left: Matthew Farmer teaching the Jazz III class in the Kardatzke Wellness Center.]

Farmer joins us hot off of his guest performance with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, last summer, which is one of his proudest achievements. The company is named after the late and famed choreographer, Merce Cunningham. Farmer performed a solo that Cunningham performed in the early 1920s. Along with the performance, he received a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to collaborate with Cunningham.

“That experience stands out to me as one of my proudest moments because I was able to work with Merce before he passed away,” said Farmer. Cunningham passed on wisdom and life lessons to Farmer that sharpened his dance skills. “Although he was wheelchair bound at the time, his mind was still as sharp as ever”

Working with Cunningham also gave him a sense of reality to the field of dance. “I worked with him a month before he passed and it made me think of what I want to leave behind after I pass,” said Farmer.

Farmer literally fell into dance. He ran track throughout high school but injured his leg in college. As a form of physical therapy, a friend suggested dance. “I fell in love with it and realized that dance is just as much of a sport as any other,” said Farmer. He plans to stress that same aspect to students. “Dance is a sport, so you have to learn correct technique,” says Farmer.

Two vital areas he focuses on while teaching are preparing student’s bodies for the physical demand of dancing and preparing students to perform on a professional level. “I want students to graduate, ready to perform in a professional dance audition,” Farmer said. “Almost every nation has their own style of dancing, and strong dancers blend all aspects from around the world.”

Farmer has already begun to positively transform the dance department at AU, even before one semester is concluded.

“Professor Farmer has been the ‘glue’ that holds the program together. As a full-time faculty member, he is present for students when they have questions or need help,” Dr. Jeffery Wright, dean of the college of the arts. “He invests time and energy in our dance majors and is the mentor that aspiring artists need at this point in their development. He has also helped us make adjustments in our dance curricula to bring us in line with dance programs on other campuses.”

It seems that the addition of Farmer to the dance department is the first of many opportunities for students with a concentration in dance. For example, within the next two years, he plans to offer more dance classes to students. “We also want to work at integrating dance, music and theatre in ways that will benefit our students,” said Wright. Over the next four to five years, Farmer would like AU to compete with other established dance universities.

“If our department grows and competes, we could ultimately be National Association of Schools of Dance [NASD] accredited, in seven to ten years,” said Farmer. “Within the first week of my arrival to AU, I have talked to three high school seniors who are now looking into AU because of the expanding dance department.” An AU dance company is also in the works; it will provide upper-division dance students with extensive experience before graduation.

Farmer is already helping AU stand out from other private Christian schools. “We are fortunate to have Professor Farmer with us and we are fortunate to have a dance program on our campus, that sets us apart from most schools of our size and type,” said Wright. With numerous accomplishments achieved thus far, mixed with the high hopes for the future, AU stands out in a class of its own.

Joseph Matas is a junior from Anderson, Ind., majoring in communication arts and minoring in marketing. Matas is an associate with Fifth Street Communications writing on behalf of Anderson University Office of University Communication.

Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,700 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson continues to be recognized as a top Christian college: in 2008, U.S. News and World Report ranked Anderson University among the best colleges and universities in the Midwest for the fourth consecutive year. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing and theology.