After over 20 years of hard work, the department of theatre added a dance track to the BFA degree in theater.
The department has hired guest artists to come in and teach dance classes for the past five years. Lily Balogh was a guest artist last fall and again in the spring, but was recently hired as the new theatre department guest artist in residence for the next two years. She is originally from Queens, N.Y., and lived in Belgium for two years.
Balogh studied at the School of American Ballet as well as the Broadway Dance Center.
“We are so excited to have someone of Lily’s caliber and grateful for our former chair, Adam Hester, in moving the dance program conversation along,” said Dawne Swearingen-Meeks, chair of the theater department. “Because of his vision and trust, God finally moved us to a place where the dream aligned for me to complete the final phase.”
While Balogh was living in Belgium she got an email from Meeks, asking if she wanted to teach at ACU for a semester.
“It just felt like a perfect fit and such a God thing for me to be here, but then I went back to Belgium,” Balogh said.
Then she received another email about teaching for another semester due to the generosity of a private donor and landed back at ACU for what the department hopes will be a long time.
In Belgium, she worked for a professional dance company and even opened her own ballet school.
“I felt I wasn’t really at the right place in my life to be running my own institution and I really wanted to get a few more years of teaching under my belt before I tried to do that. This just seems like a really great opportunity to do that,” Balogh said. “I don’t think I’ll be returning to Belgium. I think I would like to just stay here for a long time.”
Balogh teaches five dance classes in a new studio, the funding for which was provided by a private donor. Meeks said the department administration desires to invite more guest instructors to teach classes such as hip-hop and ballroom, but for now, Balogh teaches them all.
Balogh said her favorite style of dance is tied between ballet and tap. She was trained in ballet, but tap “just has her heart.”
Last year, Balogh was the assistant choreographer for CATS, Sense and Sensibility and James and the Giant Peach. This year she is choreographing the homecoming musical, Wonderful Town.
Balogh has been attending auditions in Dallas and Amarillo, working on “planting seeds” in communities to help grow the program. She also taught a high school master class, which Meeks said helped advertise the program as well as give students an opportunity to audition.
There are 10 students in the program including two freshmen.
“Watching this expansion, we are not where we need to be, but I am really excited about what this will mean for the future as God has blessed us.” Meeks said. “What we are doing here is missional, we feel like our students have been called here by name with a purpose.”
Balogh said her best piece of advice for students comes from her mentor Peter Frame, a former New York City Ballet principal dancer: “In the words of my recently deceased and very beloved teacher and mentor, he said, ‘just show up. You will never know what happens, but if you just show up something great might.’”