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Dance Program

Dance Department Instructor
Colleen Callahan-Russell


Welcome to Southwest High School Dance Program!  As a 31 year veteran of teaching dance in the Minneapolis Public Schools, I am entering my 16th September at Southwest.  I began my career teaching dance at Minneapolis North High in 1982 and transferred to Southwest in 1997.  Go Polars...Go Lakers!  Love them both.   

I began my own dance training at age 6 at a local dance studio in W. St.
Paul Minnesota.  Rhythm was my thing.  Tap and Jazz dance in all of it’s 
presentational glory was what fed me.   I couldn¹t sit still and my mother
 thought this would be an answer for my excess energy.  Little did she know 
it would be a life long journey.

  The journey deepened as I attended Brigham Young University and witnessed  
Dee Winterton teaching a class while accompanying it himself on a drum.
   People were moving across the floor and into the air and smiling and
  sweating and reaching far into space and he was coaching and encouraging from
 the sidelines!  I wanted to be a part of that.  I knew I wanted to move that 
big.  My local studio had a small rehearsal space with a low ceiling and we had no room to move.  As a child I always loved watching the  “Carol
Burnett Dancers”and remember saying to my mom:  “I want to move all over 
the stage and on and off the stage like they do”!  That began my entrance into
 a modern dance major where I discovered that it wasn’t just dancing “big”  physically
 that I would encounter, but  it was the big picture of dance in all of it’s dimensionality that I would begin to see.  Intellectual ideas and artistic concepts and 
processes and historical information that created context for so much I was
 unaware of would be the beginning.  What is art? What is quality dance making? What’s important enough to make work about?  Taking anatomy and developing a pedagogy of delivering and creating classes that had principles of progression behind them changed my life.  This dance major fed my body, mind and spirit and why was I just finding out about it now? I remember looking at the copyright of “The Art of Making Dances” by Doris Humphrey and being amazed that it was 1953!  If these ideas and thinkers had been around so long, why had I heard nothing about it?  It was then that I set up my own 
personal mission to make sure that no  high school students in my path would
 go unexposed to dance as an art form.

Mission Statement
The Dance Program at Southwest High School is committed to the development of students physically, intellectually and creatively as they journey through Dance as an Art Form. Students have the opportunity to:  
  • Study with local and national choreographers (Past guests: ToniPierce-Sands (Alvin Ailey Am. Dance Theater), Karla Grotting(Flying Foot Forum), Carl Flink(Black Label Movement), Eddie Oroyan, Laura Selle, Stephanie Fellner, Kenna Cottman, Aneka McMullen, Paricia Brown, Marieusz Olzewski, Lewis Whitlock, Baraka de Soleil, Ralph Lemon, Urban BushWomen, Bebe Miller, Tap Dogs, Judith Howard, Aparna Ramaswamy, Ananya Chatterjea, Melissa Brown, Patrick Scully, Julia Sutter,  April Sellers, Roxane Wallace, Brian Sostek and Megan McClellan).
  • Perform in two major concerts a year
  • Choreograph their own work
  • Gain a reverence, discipline and understanding of the body in motion
  • Meet and make lasting friendships.
Dance Course Descriptions
Dance at Southwest is offered in the form of these courses:
Beginning Dance (grades 9-12)
This course is open to any student and has a concentration on movement fundamentals through the dance elements of time, space and energy. The intent is to give students an awareness and reverence for the physical body and its athletic and expressive capabilities.  Students experience these elements through a variety of genres and techniques including modern dance, partnering techniques, dance omposition and introductory elements of performance.( Physical Education or Fine Arts Credit)

Dance Company 1 (grades 9-12, instructor permission; year-long course)
This course is for the student with more experience in dance and gives students more opportunity to create and perform. A deeper focus on dance technique, improvisation and composition is explored. National and local artists assist in exposing the student to the world of dance. Students perform in the school wide dance concerts.
*This course serves as a prerequisite to the Arts Standard(Arts and Literature: Create, Perform and Respond).
Dance Company 2 /Adv.  IB Dance  (grades 9-12, instructor permission; year-long course)
This class is for students with more experience in dance that want to work on their movement technique and develop their own artistic voice. This class gives students the opportunity to work with guest choreographers(both local and national) and perform in a range of dance work.  Modern dance is the basis for this class though other genres are included. Dance Composition and Improvisation as well as numerous performing opportunities make up the bulk of this course. The focus on Creating and Performing is strong and discipline and leadership are developed. The course can be taken for IB Standard or Higher level credit in the Arts.
*Fulfills Arts StandardCreate, Perform and Respond
New Moves (Physical Education credit)
This course is an elective physical education course that is an alternative to traditional competitive sports. Some units of study are canoeing/kayaking, rock climbing, pilates, yoga, tai chi, la crosse, swimming and dance.
For more information, email