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Dance Program Steps Up Profile at College

October 22, 1998|ANDY SAMUELSON

Since taking over Moorpark College's dance program last year, Daniel Berney has tried to maintain the level of excellence his predecessor developed, while slowly bringing in new ideas.

By the time she left, Stella Matsuda, the department chairwoman from 1980 to 1997, had established a solid curriculum and coordinated strong dance concerts that collaborated with other performing arts departments, Berney said.

Maintaining that foundation, Berney said, he introduced ethnic dance to the program and an outreach program for local high school students.

"He's been great," said Les Wieder, who teaches theater at the college and was part of a faculty search committee that helped hire Berney. "The program's expanded and he's brought a lot of energy to it."

Before coming to Moorpark College, Berney taught part time in the California State University and community college systems for 10 years. He also performed professionally in New York and Los Angeles.

Teaching in Los Angeles exposed him to the diversity of ethnic dance, which he has brought to the school.

In March, the program's dance concert "Rhythms" incorporated Brazilian African, Chilean and Spanish traditions.

Next year, he said, the program will offer a world dance cultures class that will teach students about different ethnic styles, including American Indian and Brazilian African.

Berney hopes the college's outreach program will encourage local students interested in dance to enroll at Moorpark College. As part of that program, he has invited area high school students to perform at the school's dance concert in the spring.

Increasing enrollment will allow the department to offer more classes.

"Money is tied to enrollment, and my job is to show administrators that we are growing," he said.

Berney said the department has about 350 students, an increase of about 50 over the previous semester.

Berney said some of his long-term goals are to add another full-time instructor, develop a strong relationship with a four-year university that could happen when Cal State Channel Islands is built and add another dance studio.

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