ballet dancers

Students participate in Brenau’s second Summer Dance Intensive

Jun 20, 2019
Kathryne Davis

For the second straight year, Brenau University’s dance department held a Summer Dance Intensive for students aged 13 to 22.

The intensive, held June 10-22 on Brenau’s historic campus and Brenau East in Gainesville, Georgia, is taught by Brenau faculty and guest choreographers from Atlanta, Chicago, Virginia and New York.

The two-week program features classes in a variety of dance styles, including ballet, jazz and hip hop, as well as training in partner work, improv, conditioning and dance history. At the end of the program, the students put on a public performance to showcase their hard work. Not only are the students practicing different types of dancing all day, they are also able to perform to live music during their classes by artists from Chicago and New Mexico.

Madia Cooper-Ashirifi, chair of the dance department, said that the department had been talking about doing an intensive and it finally came to fruition last year.

“We look at it as this,” Cooper-Ashirifi said. “One, we keep the department vibrant. Two, we bring a pool of experts to come together to collaborate, teach and share their knowledge and expertise. Three, we use it to showcase and show off Brenau University and our dance department.”

John Streit, assistant professor of dance, went to several recruiting events over the past year to help bring students to Brenau and to the summer intensive. Along with recruiting events, the intensive was also promoted on social media. Students participation nearly doubled from about 55 last year to nearly 100 this summer.

student divingStreit said that the department wants the students to not only become better dancers but to experience Brenau and Gainesville as well. The students are able to live in the dorms, eat in the dining hall and meet fellow dancers. They also went to Lake Lanier to get to know each other better and for a break from dancing.

“I love it all,” Streit said. “The highlights for me are working with my cast of dancers to create a piece for them. I like getting to know people who come here, talking to them, having fun and teaching them.”

Some past Summer Dance Intensive participants will be attending Brenau in the fall. Two of the students, Baylee Schneider and Tiffany Oltjenbruns, returned to Brenau over the summer to dance in the Gainesville Ballet Company’s intensive. Both will be studying dance with a concentration in pre-physical therapy.

Schneider, from Madison, Alabama, said she had a lot of fun last year at the intensive and it helped her decide to go to Brenau.

“During my audition, I loved the atmosphere,” she said. “Then the summer intensive sealed my decision. I just love it every time I come back.”

student dancingOltjenbruns, from Woodstock, Georgia, has Brenau in her blood. Her mother, Rhonda Kenitzer Oltjenbruns, graduated from The Women’s College of Brenau University with a Bachelor of Arts in early childhood education in 1988 and earned a Master of Education in dance performance a year later. Like Schneider, Oltjenbruns had a great experience at Brenau’s intensive.

“I came out of a situation where I was kind of sick of dance, but being back in a nurturing environment with the encouraging teachers just changed everything,” Oltjenbruns said. “I would come back a million times more.”

Oltjenbruns said she also loved the performance at the end of the intensive.

“I’ve been to multiple summer intensives, ones for big companies, and it’s just not as close-knit as this one was,” she said.

The students will put on this year’s performance at 6 p.m. Saturday, June 22, in the Hosch Theatre of the John S. Burd Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets are $5 at the door.