Dancing with the Saddleback Stars

Individual classes and performances provide opportunities for students seeking a degree in dance or an extracurricular activity at Saddleback College.

Dorothy Garant, dance liason, instructor and head of the dance department has been working at Saddleback since 1990. With almost 20 years experience in the department, she said that Saddleback is a central hub for dance in the area.

“[Our goal is] to provide a well rounded education for dancers from professional experience,” Garant said.

The program provides classes in multiple dance styles such as ballet, tap, jazz and modern dance. Students also learn about dance through theory and history classes. The fall 2008 semester will provide one additional class, designed for students interesting in learning technique as it applies to auditions.

The technique class is meant to help students planning on auditioning for university dance programs, theme parks or industry jobs in Los Angeles.

A master’s in dance is required for all dance instructors. Garant said experience in the industry is always a positive attribute, but it is not a requirement for teaching in the dance department.

“I love working at Saddleback,” said Deidre Cavazzi, instructor of dance history, ballet and modern dance. “I love teaching dance. I love teaching my passion. I hope to inspire a passion in my students to love dance.”

In addition to teaching at Saddleback, Cavazzi is the creative director of ArchiTexture Dance Company. The company focuses on modern dance styles and performs in specific locations, instead of on a stage. Cavazzi sometimes recruits students to join the dance company providing extra performance opportunities and experience to them.

Every year the dance department puts on two shows. The fall collective is an opportunity for students to perform in instructor-choreographed pieces. The spring show however, consists of not only student performers, but student choreography as well.

Students put everything together for the spring student show including costumes and staging. However, both productions are directed by Garant.

One dance student, Alex Gabrielli, 24, mechanical engineering and dance started with the program three years ago when he choreographed a piece for a performance.

“I choreographed a solo and I’ve been dancing here ever since,” Gabrielli said. “The teacher shows are fun, but I enjoy the creative process. It’s the one shot we have to show ourselves.”

Auditions for the shows are held in the first week of every semester. Judges then decide who will be cast in each piece. For the spring show, student choreographers must also present their ideas for dance numbers before being chosen to do choreography.

“We only do two shows,” Gabrielli said. “The student show is really all we have.”

The dance department has also worked with other departments such as the music department to provide more well-rounded performances. In the past, the two departments have collaborated to recreate selections from musicals combining the dance and song elements.

“We have collaborated with the music department several times in my experience at Saddleback,” Garant said. “It’s been great.”

Many students involved in the dance program are enthusiastic about the sport and involve themselves in multiple classes in addition to performances.

“Dance is my life and it gets me through the week,” said Sheena Morabito, 19, undecided. “I’d be bored if I did anything else.”

Another dance student, Nathan Smith, 22, kinesiology, encourages students to get involved with the program and try it out based off of his pleasant experience in the dance program.

“It’s a good experience, I would recommend it to anyone,” Smith said. “I’m glad I’m taking dance. If I had to do it again, I would.”

Students interested in joining the program don’t need previous experience to take classes or audition for any of the shows. However, the best way to get involved with the dance program according to Garant, is to take a technique class and audition for one of the shows.

“It’s the best way to get to know people and get involved in productions,” Garant said.

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