The university will teach dance and musical theater students from a Christian perspective.

Oral Roberts University is adding bachelor's degrees in dance performance and musical theater this fall, strengthening all of its performing arts programs and giving its students another way to communicate their beliefs, leaders said.

ORU is developing the degrees in response to a growing nationwide interest in dance among Christians, said Ralph Fagin, ORU's executive vice president for academic affairs.

An ORU graduate and Oklahoma City minister, Mark Crow of Victory Church, recommended the programs to ORU President Richard Roberts because Crow wanted to send students from Victory's School of the Arts to ORU, where they could learn to use their talent for missionary work, Roberts and Crow said.

Many Christians have rejected dance as sexual, but Crow advocated for dance, such as ballet and jazz, as healthy, wholesome expression.

"I think with dance, we created a black-and-white scenario -- good or bad -- instead of saying this could be a very viable art form if we use it right, if we use it appropriately," he said.

"What we've realized is the power of movement, if it's done right, can touch a person's heart."

ORU will teach dance and musical theater students from a Christian perspective, setting the programs apart from the long-standing dance-degree programs at Oklahoma City University, the University of Oklahoma in Norman and the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond, said Laura Holland, chairwoman of ORU's Communication Arts Department.

The dance classes will prepare students for careers in dance, choreography, dance-studio management, tour-company management and religious performance, Holland and Fagin said. Students will learn ballet, modern dance, theater dance and jazz, without a focus on any one style. Dance majors must have previous dance experience, Holland said.

ORU also will form a dance company that will travel to competitions and festivals, she said.

The musical theater program will combine dance classes with ORU's existing drama and vocal music classes and will prepare students for careers as performers and educators.

ORU will develop the programs one year at a time, starting with groups of freshmen this fall, Holland said. The college plans initially to hire two dance professors.

Roberts said he expects 40 to 50 students to enroll in the majors the first year.

Dance classes will raise the quality of ORU's other performing arts programs, especially drama, by teaching students how to control their bodies and move gracefully, Holland said.

Dance also will give students an "international language," she said. "I think that will be a great way for students to witness and grow a Christian worldview in a dance culture."

Roberts said ORU has needed the degrees for a long time.

"The Bible says we are to go into all the world," he said. "Those two worlds (dance and musical theater) need Christ."


April Marciszewski 581-8475

april.marciszewski@tulsaworld.com


Auditions

ORU dance program auditions will be held March 24, April 7 and June 30 in the Mabee Center. Call 495-6861 to sign up. Online signup at www.oru.edu will be available soon.

For more information, call Communication Arts Department Chairwoman Laura Holland at 495-6870.

Musical theater program auditions have not been not scheduled.