American Vernacular Dance Major at D&E


Originally posted on the Davis & Elkins College website here.

Date Posted: 

Friday, August 23, 2013

ELKINS – Davis & Elkins College will launch a new dance program beginning with the fall semester, and has selected Emily Oleson, assistant coordinator for Augusta Heritage Center’s Dance Week for the past seven years and founding member of Good Foot Dance Company, to lead the project.

Oleson will serve as Program Coordinator for Dance and Assistant Professor of Dance in the Fine and Performing Arts Department. Adjunct Instructor of Dance Laurie Goux and Adjunct Instructor Matt Kupstas will also instruct courses in the program.

“I am terribly excited to join the faculty at Davis & Elkins College,” Oleson says. “I love the mission statement of the College and the emphasis on social responsibility and global citizenship. I love the fact that the administration is open to new ideas and experimentation. I have encountered a real culture of listening and problem solving to a degree in which I’ve never had the privilege of participating before.”

The mission of the D&E Dance Program is to support students in developing and nurturing a sustainable, socially responsible and life-long dance practice for their own holistic well-being and for the health of their community. Students will engage in rigorous technical training and theoretical inquiry, and have the opportunity to perform, choreograph, compete, produce and teach dance.

Three emphases will be offered for dance majors – Sustainable Dance, American Vernacular Dance and Contemporary/Postmodern Dance.  Students selecting a minor in Dance must complete 18 credit hours of dance curriculum.

Oleson attended the Dance Works Showcase at D&E in May and met with some members of the D&E Dance Club and dance students.

“There seems to be much more of a focus on the individual, which is so rare and special,” Oleson says. “Students are recognized by name and not a long number. All the students I have met are wonderful, seem to have empowered attitudes about themselves and the world, and seem genuinely enthusiastic about D&E – that makes me so happy to be joining the community.”

Oleson, along with her husband, Matthew Olwell, serves as co-artistic director of Good Foot Dance Company. Established in 2005, the company ranges from a percussive traditional dance theater trio into a collective that performs with traditional musicians of various styles.  Since its inception, Good Foot has appeared at festivals, produced semi-annual dance concerts, and provided lecture demonstrations, workshops, summer camps and other educational opportunities in central Virginia and beyond.

Oleson is also one of several Artistic Directors with Urban Artistry, a collective of interdisciplinary artists pursuing a broad and authentic practice of urban dance, music, poetry and visual art.

Oleson earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in Dance in 2012 from University of Maryland, where she danced for many excellent choreographers including Pearsonwidrig Dance Theater, Gesel Mason and Liz Lerman. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Theatre and Dance with a dance concentration and minor in French from James Madison University in 2004.

At Augusta Heritage Center, Oleson instructed Afrolachian Roots of American Vernacular Dance in 2011 and 2010, and Hip Hop Dance from 2008 to 2011. She has taught at various other workshops and camps in the United States and Canada including Boxwood Flute Camp in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia; Blue Ridge Irish Music School in Charlottesville, VA; and Lake Eden Arts Festival in Black Mountain, NC.

She has choreographed nearly a dozen works and also has experience in other areas of performing arts including lighting design, set and costume design, and stagecraft.

Among Oleson’s other performances are appearances with The Chieftains, Lunasa, and the Carolina Chocolate Drops; in Performatica, a dance festival in Cholula, Mexico; Apollo’s Fire at Cain Park in Cincinnati, OH; and with Malcolm Dalgleish at Strathmore Music Center in Bethesda, MD.

Related to the Presbyterian Church (USA), Davis & Elkins College is located in Elkins, 2 hours east of Charleston, 3 hours south of Pittsburgh and 4 hours west of Washington, DC. For more information, please visit the College website at or call 304-637-1243.

Photo by Kwame Shaka Opare


~ by matthew olwell on September 1, 2013.

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