Brave New Worlds

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KSU's Pulinkala bridges the worlds of academia and the arts Like a grand jeté, the dance…

Georgia (Jun 10, 2010)

KSU's Pulinkala bridges the worlds of academia and the arts

Like a grand jeté, the dance program in the College of the Arts has made great leaps forward since its inception in 2005, but rather than a grand finale like in many ballets, the curtain on the dance program is still rising.

    From its humble beginnings in a plus-size classroom with low ceilings at KSU Center, the dance program graduated to a studio in the Student Recreation Center, and this fall, the program will move into an 8,000-square-foot facility at Chastain Point that boasts one large instructional studio, one small practice studio, dance offices, showers and a student lounge.
    “We had 20 dance minors in 2005, and in 2008, we had more than 140 dance minors,” said Ivan Pulinkala, founding director of the program. “Students were asking for a dance major, which we started in 2009. We have 62 dance majors; we stopped counting minors.”
    Pulinkala came to KSU to build the dance program shortly after arriving in the United States 10 years ago from his native India with nothing more than two pieces of luggage and a love for dance.
    “I moved to the U.S. leaving behind a performance career, my family and essentially my entire past life to further my education in dance,” he said. “I jumped on a plane and headed west to a country I knew very little about. Everything that did not fit in my luggage was left behind and I set out to make a life for myself in a whole new world where I knew absolutely no one.”
    After earning an M.F.A. in dance from Mill’s College in Oakland, Calif., Pulinkala moved to New York City to study under nationally and internationally known teachers and choreographers before coming to KSU in 2005.
    “At KSU, I saw a great opportunity to develop a dance program,” he said. “There are not many dance programs in Georgia, and the administration has a strong commitment to support dance. I believed the dance program was poised for success.”
    Although still in its infancy, the dance program has already garnered regional and national recognition. In 2008, the KSU Dance Company won top honors at the regional American College Dance Festival held at the University of Florida. Their performance, “Incubus,” was one of 29 dances selected out of a national pool of 430 to be performed at the National American College Dance Festival held at the Arthur Miller Theatre in New York City.
    “A strong work ethic and high standards are the things we aspire toward and try to instill in our students,” Pulinkala said.
    With its “scholar-artist focus,” the dance program seeks to bridge the worlds of academia and professional arts.
    “Traditionally, professional dancers, especially ballet dancers, entered the professional arena at 18, which meant they didn’t go to college and that trend is changing nationally,” Pulinkala said. “The art form, even in ballet, has a more intellectual component, and a lot of dancers have realized a professional dance career is very short – like a professional athlete.”
    Courses include dance composition, history, criticism, kinesiology and pedagogy, along with African, tap, musical theater and social dance. Concentrations in the program include ballet, modern and jazz.
    “We want to develop dancers, choreographers, arts administrators and dance journalists,” Pulinkala said. “Graduates who can serve the field creatively and intellectually. This program is going to explode on this campus and into this community in a big way.”
- Jennifer Hafer


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