Dance Program Ranked on National List

According to, the Belhaven Dance department comes in at 16th amongst 100 schools for “Most Popular Schools for a Dance Major or Degree”. This list represents schools from across the nation that possess a general program that prepares individuals to express ideas, feelings and/or inner visions through the performance of one or more of the dance disciplines, including but not limited to ballet, modern, jazz, ethnic, and folk dance, and that focuses on the study and analysis of dance as a cultural phenomenon. These schools also include instruction in technique, choreography, Laban notation, dance history and criticism, and dance production in their programs. Belhaven comes in just behind schools such as New York University (#1), The Ailey School (#5), and Florida State University (#11), though we rank above many of our competitors, such as Temple University (#19), The Julliard School (#33), and the University of Southern Mississippi (#97).

Spring Semester Dance Highlights

The Dance Department has much going on this semester! Below are a few highlights:

  • The department accepted 31 talented dancers for Fall 2017 enrollment from the auditions held last semester.
  • 18 students and 1 faculty member traveled to the Alabama Dance Festival in January, being invited to present two pieces in the New Works Concert and engage in an audition for prospective students.
  • On February 17, they are hosting an “exchange day” with Ballet Magnificat Trainees, who will share a ballet class with upper level BU dancers and present choreographic works.
  • On Thursday afternoons prior to dance concerts, there will be free Open Dress Rehearsals for dance students from Power APAC, MS School of the Arts, and Hinds Community College to attend.
  • During Spring Break (March 13-17), 21 students and 3 faculty will travel to the American College Dance Association Regional Conference at Auburn University to present 3 dance works as well as take classes and attend performances.
  • For the Spring Dance Concert (March 31, April 7-9), dance students have the opportunity to learn from 3 world-class guest artists who are creating original dance works for the concert.

Dance Professor & Student Recognized as William Winter Scholars

Several dozen outstanding Humanities Division students, faculty members, and professionals from Mississippi’s universities, colleges, and community colleges are honored each year by being named William Winter Scholars at the Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration. Each is chosen by his or her educational institution as the Humanities Division’s most outstanding student, faculty member, or professional.

This aware allows winners to attend most of the NLCC free of charge. The annual award also carries with it prestige and public acknowledgement of how highly the person is regarded by his or her institution.

Ms. Emily Wright, Associate Professor of Dance, will be recognized and represent Belhaven at this year’s NLCC. The celebration will take place on February 23-25, with the opening ceremony on Friday, February 24th. Ms. Wright was also given the opportunity to nominate an outstanding student to be recognized alongside her, of whom she chose Catherine Hampton, a junior BFA Dance and English double major.

The winners are honored publicly at the opening and closing sessions, in the printed materials, and in publicity. The group is photographed with former Mississippi Governor William F. Winter, after whom the scholarship is named. Winter has served as Director of Proceedings for the Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration each year since the event began in 1990.

Dance Professor Completes Doctorate

Ms. Emily Wright, Associate Professor of Dance, successfully defended and filed her dissertation with Texas Women’s University! She will give a special presentation on her dissertation research, “Dancing Christian: Narrative, Embodied Action, Choreography in American Evangelical and Emergence Christianity” on Friday, February 24, 2017 at 2:30 p.m. in the VADC Studio Theater. Congratulations to the new Dr. Wright!

Dance Professors Present at National Conferences

Krista Bower, Chair and Associate Professor of Dance, will present “Dance for Parkinson’s: A Merging of Minds and Bodies” on Saturday, October 8, 2016, at the National Dance Education Organization Conference in Arlington, Virginia. Bower is a founding instructor of the Dance for Parkinson’s program in Jackson, MS. By providing practical information about the foundation and development of the Dance for Parkinson’s program, Bower’s presentation seeks to answer the following questions: What are the benefits of inviting able-bodied college students and medical professionals to dance side-by-side with individuals struggling with Parkinson’s Disease? What is this diverse population learning in, about, and through dance? What institutional and funding structures are needed to support a Dance for Parkinson’s program? What challenges arise in order to sustain and promote such a program? Personal reflection, participant interviews, and movement examples will inform the presentation of this in-practice research. The outcomes of this research add to current knowledge and practice regarding the value of dance as a tool for serving diverse populations, building community, and fostering inter-disciplinary relationships within universities.

Emily Wright, Associate Professor of Dance and MFA Program Director, will present “Consider It All Joy: The Embodiment of Struggle in American Evangelical Dance” on Thursday, November 3, 2016, at the joint conference of the Congress on Research in Dance and the Society of Dance History Scholars at Pomona College in Claremont, California.

New Arts Faculty & Staff for 2016-2017 School Year

As the departments within the fine arts continue to change and develop, the needs of these departments also change. Several of our departments are proud to present new faculty and staff members – from Administrative Assistants, to Specialty Instructors, to added professors! Below you will see the list of these talented professionals who have joined or been promoted within the Belhaven Arts family.

Dr. Owen Rockwell has been named Specialty Instructor of Dance and Music, previously serving as an adjunct faculty member for several years at BU. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (BM, MM) and received his Doctor of Musical Arts in Percussion Performance and Pedagogy from the University of Southern Mississippi. He was formerly on the music faculty at Jackson State University and the New England Music Camp, and has worked as a freelance performer and music educator in Central Illinois, Nashville, Washington, D.C., and New York City. He also performs regularly as a percussionist with the Mississippi and Meridian Symphonies, as well as serving as the drummer for First Baptist Church of Madison and the Vibe Doctors jazz trio. Owen accompanies modern dance technique classes and provides leadership for the musicians in the Dance Department. He also teaches applied percussion, percussion ensemble, percussion methods, and popular music within the Music Department.

Dr. Rebecca Geihsler, a native of New Orleans, has served as an Adjunct Music Professor in Voice, Popular Music and Music History since 2009. This year, she has been named as Specialty Instructor in Music. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Music from Centenary College of Louisiana, a Masters of Music in Vocal Performance and Doctor of Arts in Pedagogy from the University of Mississippi where she held a University Fellowship and an Assistantship in Opera. Dr. Geihsler has been a finalist in both State and Regional NATS Student Auditions and represented the University of Mississippi in performances at the National Opera Association Convention and the Midwest Opera Festival. She is a member of Pi Kappa Lamda and the National Association of Teachers of Singing. Being superwoman, Dr. Geihsler not only teaches voice and music history at Belhaven, but also does Crossfit and takes care of her six children.

Mr. Christopher Phillips has named Specialty Instructor in Music. He is a native of Alabama, studied church music at Samford University in Birmingham, and continued there to complete his master’s in music education; both degrees included a vocal performance emphasis. Chris serves as Director of Worship at Lakeside Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Brandon, MS and has been leading worship in local churches throughout the Southeast for the last 25 years. With energy and joy, Chris seeks to invite the people of God to exalt their Lord and Savior and to edify one another. One of his greatest passions is the cultivation of corporate worship that is deeply rooted in Scripture, covenantal focused, and wonderfully creative. As a teacher, Chris employs a student-focused, collaborative philosophy. He believes every classroom or rehearsal space should be an environment of joy and safety in which both talking and listening are equally valued. Chris’ genre of choice for page and screen is science fiction. His musical interests range from Bluegrass to Beethoven with an occasional dose of Mongolian Throat Singing. He practices moderate coffee snobbery. Chris continues teaching voice and worship arts, and will conduct both the Concert Choir and Chorale.

Mrs. Erin Scheiwe Rockwell has been named Associate Professor of Dance, previously serving as Specialty Instructor and prior to that as adjunct at BU.  Erin earned an MFA in Dance from California State University, Long Beach and a BA in Dance from St. Olaf University.  She obtained her comprehensive Pilates teacher training with dance specialization through Body Arts and Science International and taught Pilates and modern dance at CSULB. Her choreography has been presented nationally by several dance companies, schools, and festivals. Throughout her career, Rockwell’s interest in technology has inspired her to direct and edit several short dance films and to fuse screendance within her stage choreography. Erin is co-founder of Front Porch Dance, a Mississippi based contemporary dance company. She teaches both undergraduate and graduate courses including modern dance technique, improvisation, choreography, and dance-and-technology. Also, she and her husband Owen also had their first child, Isabella, this summer. Congratulations to the Rockwells!

Mrs. Elizabeth Sweatt has been named Specialty Instructor of Dance. She served as an adjunct in the Dance Department from 2010-2012. Elizabeth received her BFA in Dance from Belhaven University and performed professionally with Ballet San Antonio and TALK Dance Company. She recently returned to Jackson after living and teaching in Japan where her parents were missionaries. Elizabeth will teach ballet, pointe, and modern dance courses and will co-direct the BU Dance Ministry Ensemble. Come see the Dance Ministry Ensemble in concert on February 10 and 11. Welcome back, Elizabeth.

Ms. Mia Whitehead has been named Specialty Instructor of Dance, previously serving as an adjunct. Mia danced professionally with Ballet San Antonio, TALK Dance Company, and Front Porch Dance.  She also served as the dance instructor for the USA International Ballet Competition’s outreach program, CityDance, in Jackson for several years. Mia teaches ballet and pointe technique courses and co-directs the Dance Ministry Ensemble at Belhaven. Come see the Dance Ministry Ensemble in concert on February 10 and 11.

Ms. Amy Smith just completed her sixth year as Box Office Manager at New Stage Theatre. She now joins Belhaven as the Administrative Assistant for the Theatre, Graphic Design and Arts Administration department. She stage managed shows such as Almost, Maine and Five Women Wearing the Same Dress for New Stage’s Unframed Series, Rabbit Hole (2010 SETC Winner) for Actor’s Playhouse, and Die Fledermaus for Mississippi Opera. Amy also directed The Light in the Piazza for the Belhaven University Music Department. She recently played “Liddie” in the world premiere of Running Mates, written by Beth Kander and is a founding member of the Misfit Monkeys Improv Troupe. When not at the theatre, Smith is playing with her three Weimaraner dogs, Dutch, Lily Belle, and Batty, and is a member of Bellwether Church.  Amy loves returning to Belhaven, having such fond memories from when she was a theatre student here. She is enjoying getting to know the faculty in each of her departments and is looking forward to when the students return!

Hearty and well-deserved congratulations to all!

New Chair of Dance Department

Belhaven University has named Mrs. Krista Bower the new chair and associate professor of its dance department.  Her excellence in dance is attributed to a background in arts management, countless performances, choreographing compositions as well as her work with the USA International Ballet Competition (IBC).

Mrs. Cynthia Newland, former chair of dance, expressed her excitement over Bower’s appointment. “She brings a sincere relationship with God, great love for Belhaven and a passion for the field of dance to this position. She faithfully demonstrates her eagerness to leave a lasting mark in the world of dance. I believe she will diligently lead the department through the next season as she whole heartily serves her fellow faculty members and students under her care.”

Bower previously served as specialty instructor for four years and adjunct for five and a half years at Belhaven. She is the owner and director of the Yazoo City School of Dance, and she is the co-founder and co-director of the Front Porch Dance Company, a Mississippi-based contemporary dance company that collaborates and performs with dancers, musicians and visual artists throughout the state.

Her experience with the USA IBC began in 2006; she served on their staff till 2010. Later, she was the dance school administrator for the 2014 USA IBC Dance School and Teacher Training Program.bower

Bower just recently received a Performing Arts Fellowship from the Mississippi Arts Commission, a merit-based awards given to professionals producing works of high artistic quality, and was awarded the same fellowship in 2011. She performed with Living Water Dance Company in Jackson, Mississippi from 2005 – 2006.  She is also a founding instructor of the Dance for Parkinson’s program in Jackson. In 2013, the Mississippi Business Journal named Bower one of Mississippi’s 50 Leading Business Women.

She earned an M.F.A. in Choreography from Jacksonville University/White Oak and a B.F.A. in Dancefrom Belhaven University. She was a recipient of the Jacksonville University Dean’s Award for Excellence in 2011 and 2012. As a student at Belhaven, she received the Bezalel Award for outstanding artistic achievement and the Daniel Award for outstanding scholastic achievement. She has presented her research at the Congress on Research in Dance, Society of Dance History Scholars and National Dance Education Organization conferences.

Dance Majors Represent Mississippi & Belhaven on National Stage

Several dancers under the instruction of Ms. Cynthia Newland were selected out of over 400 students from across the U.S. to perform on June 11th in the National College Dance Festival at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. During the festival they competed against 30 different colleges and universities, performing an original choreographed dance, “I Am Not A Plastic”. The dances to be performed at this national festival were chosen for their artistic excellence from each of the American College Dance Association’s (ACDA) 12 regional conferences around the country. The adjudicator’s feedback on the final evening recognized the exceptional work of the BU students, noting it was surprising to see the caliber of dance presentation found at the collegiate level. Belhaven has attended the ACDA festival for many years, but this is the first year we have been selected to perform in the closing event. Congratulations to the dancers!

Dancers Perform with Modern Art

A group of dancers performed on Friday, April 29 at the MS Museum of Art in the Trustmark Grand Hall. The Modernist works from the exhibition “When Modern was Contemporary: Selections from the Roy R. Neuberger Collection” were projected across the stage as dancers interacted and responded to the work through contemporary and Modernist-era styles. The performance took place from 7 – 7:30 PM, and the exhibition was open until 8:30 PM