Badge of Honor: SMU Dance Grads Impact Texas Dance
SMU is home to one of the nation’s most highly regarded and rigorous dance programs.
By Nichelle Suzanne
Southern Methodist University’s Meadows School of the Arts in Dallas is home to one of the nation’s most highly regarded and rigorous dance programs. The Division of Dance releases graduates who leave with the training, talent, and drive to pursue a career in dance performance and who have gone on to dance with such legendary companies as Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Dance Theatre of Harlem, Martha Graham Dance Company, Paul Taylor Dance Company and more.
A few fly back. And some stay to build their own nest.
The ones who choose to stomp ground primarily in Texas go big right here at home. These leaders and influencers in Texas dance are releasing shockwaves, some of which are felt far beyond state lines. Each has a unique voice, like the fiercely independent Jennifer Mabus, or the sharply focused Lydia Hance or the creatively charged Alex Karigan Farrior and Albert Drake, or the indefatigably nimble Joshua L. Peugh. They demonstrate one common trait: A powerful ability to carve their own niche. Perhaps there’s something in the water at The Meadows.
“In the first year, students take a class called the Dancers Toolbox, which looks at developing skills that support a sustainable and long lasting career in dance,” says Associate Professor and Division of Dance Chair at Southern Methodist University (SMU) Patty Harrington Delaney.
In 1993, when Mabus, a Dallas native who grew up in the shadow of SMU wrapped up her time at the Meadows, sticking around post-degree wasn’t possible. There were no professional contemporary dance companies within which a highly-trained dancer could ignite a career, so she set out for New York City. While there, she performed with Battleworks Dance Company, Takehiro Ueyami, Heidi Latsky, and the Amy Marshall Dance Company. After well over a decade in the Big Apple, however, Mabus felt she’d reached her goals as a performer and needed to decide whether to settle into the next phase of her dance life in New York or elsewhere. The urge to be near family was strong, and in 2007 she returned to North Texas.
“When I moved home, I thought that my focus would shift from being an artist and that I would focus on teaching,” recalls Mabus. “I was surprised by the amazing and varied opportunities that I had as a performer and creator, as well as a teacher.”
While Mabus was away, some key players in the Dallas contemporary dance community had been moving things forward.