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Rice Dance Theatre revamps their routine

Photo by Pin Lim | The Rice Thresher
Photo courtesy Pin Lim

By Emily Ma     8/24/21 11:16pm

The fall of 2021 marks the first semester in which Rice Dance Theatre will have professional dance teachers leading every class. Founded in 1970, RDT is the only organization on campus that trains students in modern dance technique and choreography. In the past, it has occasionally invited professional dance teachers from the greater Houston community to host classes, with fellow students leading the majority of classes. 

“This is the only opportunity students have on campus to really train, since Rice doesn’t have a dance major or dance program,” Lindsey Schirn, co-president of RDT, said “We really focus on student choreography, as well as connecting the Houston dance community to the Rice dance community, and that’s a really big part of what our revamp has been.” 

Schirn, a Martel College junior, said RDT reached out to several professionals in the Houston community to cover a variety of different dance styles.

“We cover everything from ballet, jazz, modern contemporary to a few fun categories [like] burlesque, street jazz [and] hip-hop,” Katie Kirkpatrick, treasurer of RDT, said.

Altogether, RDT will welcome five instructors for the fall semester: Alex Pandiscio, Joshua Manculich, Alissa LaVergne, Lori Yuill and Lindsay Cortner. Given that each has a unique background and style, RDT dancers anticipate receiving a well-rounded dance education. 

“One thing that we love is choreographing different styles of dance for our showcases, and learning different styles of dance through our classes,”  Kirkpatrick, a Sid Richardson College junior, said. “Everyone was really excited about having professional dancers—who have choreographed and taught for other companies—coming to work with us. In the past, most of the classes were taught by students. It is fun as a student to be able to teach classes, but I think that as a student taking a class from another student, we don’t get to learn as much.”

One of these teachers, Alex Pandiscio (Sid Richardson College ’14), will be stepping in as RDT’s resident ballet master. While the other instructors plan to teach on rotation, Pandiscio will hold a regular session every Sunday. Drawing from his experience dancing in prestigious companies including the Houston Ballet and San Francisco Ballet as well as teaching students in his own ballet school, the Bayou City Ballet School, Pandiscio hopes to integrate RDT dancers into the larger world of classical dance. 

“I hope to spark a love of ballet, since that’s my profession and my passion,” Pandiscio said. “Classical ballet teaches a certain focus and discipline from a young age [and] gives you an outlet for expression, which I think can be very healthy.”

Additionally, as a kinesiology major during his time at Rice, Pandiscio aims to teach the dancers how to gain a better awareness of their bodies in movement by exploring the connection between the body and mind. 

“With ballet technique, I want them to be aware of their alignment and posture, to hopefully reduce dance related injuries. That’s an emphasis I have in my ballet teaching: to create healthy joint articulation, and to look at dance technique as a form of injury prevention, so that it can be a nice lifelong activity,” Pandiscio said. “I love dance, because it uses all parts of the body and mind. Not only is it physically strengthening, but it’s intellectually very stimulating.”

RDT’s overall mission remains to connect the Rice dance community with the greater Houston dance scene. With the added help of regular professional dance instruction, this semester will be a new leap in the right direction. 

“This is really exciting that we’re forming this bridge between Rice and the Houston dance community,” Schirn said. “Having this space to look forward to the end of the day — you come back from classes, it’s hard, you’ve had a bad day, to think, ‘I get to go take this class with these amazing dancers and with these incredible teachers.’”

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