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Miami ballroom dancers given opportunity to tour Italy

By Emma Kinghorn, The Miami Student

For the first time in the university's history, Miami students will have the opportunity to travel and perform abroad as dancers on tour in Italy.

After learning dances choreographed by former Broadway dancer and Miami adjunct professor, Michael Scoggins, Miami dancers will travel to Rome, Naples and Sorrento from May 17 to May 29, giving performances in each city.

The first-of-its-kind tour was driven by Scoggins' desire to share his past experiences with students.

"I wanted to show the college kids what it's like to be a professional dancer on the road," he said. "It's such a wonderful experience and really rare to go on tour like a professional, with retired professionals."

"There's not an opportunity like this (tour) for college dancers period," agreed Miami professor Leah Wasburn-Moses. "When you are a dancer and you work as a team, you will learn skills applicable in any career."

The benefits of touring abroad include more than just dancing or professional experience.

"Being international, seeing how other people live, is extremely important to education," Scoggins said. "It's better to go to a foreign country with a purpose and with a group of people instead of just going somewhere. Then you have a purpose for being there. You get to be a performer and entertain people."

Junior Miranda Mason is excited for the experience.

"I think I'll learn how, like, busy it is to be a professional ... the life of a professional, working all day and practicing all night and that kind of thing," she said.

Mason said that sharing the international experiences will add to the fun.

"Basically I get to go dance abroad with all my friends."

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While traveling and performing, students will also complete two courses, an Introduction to Dance Pedagogy and A Dance Performance Tour of Italy, as part of the Miami global perspectives requirement. These courses will include content such as professional dance etiquette.

"When you are a dancer and you work as a team, you will learn skills applicable in any career," Wasburn-Moses said. "The tour is a lot about taking leadership and helping guide the team."

One of the courses taught by Wasburn-Moses in conjunction with the tour, Introduction to Dance Pedagogy, covers the techniques used to teach dance in diverse populations.

"[It is] learning to teach different types of dance to different types of people," Wasburn-Moses said. "It helps them connect with others in a deeper way ... How we can use something like dance to improve quality of life."

The location, content and format of the trip were largely driven by the results of a student survey taken by Scoggins' students during the past spring semester. This information allowed Wasburn-Moses and Scoggins to create a unique, student-driven experience.

"We were able to build the courses around what the students said they wanted to learn," Wasburn-Moses said. "We already knew what they wanted and we were able to design a tour around that instead of guessing and choosing for them."

This trip may not be the only one of its kind available to students in the future.

"I hope that we can do this biyearly," said Scoggins. "I have contacts in so many different countries, that used to be professionals and can help us find stages and locations."

"We would love to see this program expand in the future, but right now it is the very first time and we aren't sure where it is going to go," added Wasburn-Moses.

This study abroad experience is open to any Miami student who has taken a dance course. Any student who hasn't yet taken a dance course still can register for Social Dance or Intro to Ballroom Dance and fulfill this requirement. In addition, any student with prior dance experience may apply via the Miami study abroad website. A drop-in information session will be held 10 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, September 13 in the Phillips Hall gym.

"It is an experience that will never be matched," said Scoggins. "When the students are back in the U.S. they'll wish the tour was longer."