Stepping in to keep UArts dance robust

Richard Boyd Photography
Donna Faye Burchfield , who has spent 28 years building the dance program at Hollins University, will take over in Philadelphia from the retiring Susan Glazer.

Builder yields to a successor.

By Merilyn Jackson. For The Inquirer

The nation’s largest undergraduate dance program – now 15 staff musicians, 30 full- and part-time instructors, more than 300 students – has been steadily expanding at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts under the nurturing eye of Susan Glazer, who retires this month after 29 years.

Succeeding her as the program’s director will be Donna Faye Burchfield, who is dean of the American Dance Festival (ADF) School in Durham, N.C., and has been responsible for building the dance department at Virginia’s Hollins University over almost three decades.

Each of these steadfast women has been a fierce advocate for her vision, making incremental changes within glacial university timelines to build and reshape the way her community taught and perceived dance. The resulting programs now draw students from all over.

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About Merilyn Jackson

Merilyn is a guest contributor to the Dance Journal. She writes regularly on dance for The Philadelphia Inquirer since 1996 and writes on dance, theater, food, travel and Eastern European and Latin American fiction for many publications. More than 800 of her articles have appeared in publications as diverse as The New York Times, The Warsaw Voice, The Arizona Republic, The Phoenix New Times, MIT’s Technology Review, and Arizona Highways, Dance, Pointe and Dance Teacher magazines, Broad Street Review and www.exploredance.com.

She was awarded an NEA Critics Fellowship in 2005 and a Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Fellowship in 1999 for her novel-in-progress, O Solitary Host. A chapter of that novel, “A Sow of Violence,” appeared in the Massachusetts Review in the Fall 2004 “Food Matters” issue. In 2012 she attended poetry workshops at Colgate University and Sarah Lawrence College, working with poets Peter Balakian and Tom Lux, respectively. Several of her poems appear in Exquisite Corpse, The Rusty Nail and Broad Street Review. She likes to say that dance was her first love, but when she discovered writing she began to cheat on dance. Now that she writes about dance, she’s made an honest woman of herself, although, she also writes poetry. Much of her writing can be read on her personal blog Prime Glib.

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