Garth Fagan Dance partnership opens with a spirited first act

A. Sue Weisler

Natalie Rogers-Cropper, center, school director for Garth Fagan Dance, leads a master class of RIT students as part of a partnership with RIT/NTID.

RIT students are already benefitting from a new partnership with Garth Fagan Dance. RIT Performing Arts Scholars Program students are taking master classes and students are working on a semester-long arts management capstone project to deliver suggestions for the internationally known dance company to potentially implement.

RIT and its National Technical Institute for the Deaf announced in February 2021 the partnership with Garth Fagan Dance for a cooperative-creative-connection to begin in August.

Since then, more than 30 RIT students began taking master classes with members of Garth Fagan Dance in their downtown Rochester studio.

“The students are wonderful,” said Natalie Rogers-Cropper, director of the Garth Fagan Dance School. “One or two could one day be pros.”

In addition, five students with diverse backgrounds took a semester-long executive MBA capstone course in RIT’s Saunders College of Business in the fall, learning arts management and the business side to running such an endeavor.

One of the students, George Rodriguez, of Dallas, said his team didn’t know what they would be working on when they started the course, but they were allowed to select their project.

“Each member of my team felt that helping a nonprofit dance organization would be challenging, yet the most rewarding,” Rodriguez said. “After digging into the details of Garth Fagan Dance and eventually their relationship to RIT, we knew we made the right decision to help a performing arts studio achieve its goals of teaching the community a style of dance that should be preserved and shared with the world.”

This spring will see RIT students engaged in co-ops at Garth Fagan Dance, helping with its business and computing needs. A new special topics course, “Garth Fagan Dance Technique Perspectives,” will be offered through the RIT Dance Program.

Founded in 1970, Garth Fagan Dance is an internationally acclaimed contemporary American dance company based in downtown Rochester. Its founder, Garth Fagan, may be best known for his Tony and Olivier award-winning choreography for Disney’s Broadway Production of The Lion King.

“We’re extremely excited about the Garth Fagan Dance-RIT/NTID Cooperative-Creative-Connection, an innovative, interactive academic and artistic partnership to enhance and expand the educational experience through the intersections of technology, science, design, and performing arts,” said Thomas Warfield, RIT’s director of dance.

The partnership will allow collaboration on mutual projects, which may include social justice and community outreach, gaming and film animation, and music programming collaboration.

Warfield said NTID is specifically identified in the partnership because NTID is where RIT’s dance program and lab was founded and is based.

He said more than 500 RIT students are currently involved in dance classes and clubs, and that number is likely to grow with the partnership and RIT’s Performing Arts Scholars Program, which already has 72 dance scholars.

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