Home Campus Musical departments: The department switcheroo

Musical departments: The department switcheroo

In an attempt to centralize student services in the Hyrum Manwaring Student Center, the Dance Department was moved into the John W. Hart building. The move emptied space, allowing the Career Center to move to a more easily accessible location in the MC across from The Crossroads.

When BYU-Idaho originally planned the construction of the BYU-Idaho Center, it was going to be a performance venue for the Dance Department. Housing the Dance Department in the MC right next to their venue made sense until plans changed according to Gary Larsen, Dance Department chair at the time. Larsen was directly involved in the process.

President Gordon B. Hinckley wanted it to be more than just a performance hall, and the BYU-Idaho Center became the large conference center that campus enjoys today. These changed plans for the Dance Department and delayed the demolition of the Oscar A. Kirkham Building until 2019.

In an attempt to centralize student services in the MC and limit offices being hidden in obscure old dormitories across campus Larsen was approached with a plan to move the department into the Hart Building.

“In a way, we didn’t really fit in the MC, and that’s one of the reasons that precipitated the move, although the main reason really was this move to centralize student services,” Larsen, now dance faculty, said.

Even while the department was housed in the MC, dance classes could be found in the MC, the Hart Building and the Kirkham Building. With many of the dance classes, changing into dance clothing is required, but buildings like the MC aren’t built to accommodate those needs.

“When they made the proposal to move to the Hart, I said that’s a logical decision because this is a building where people change clothes to do something active,” said Larsen.

Academically, dance doesn’t quite fit with the exercise physiology courses taught in the Hart Building. While they have some similar characteristics, the Dance Department identifies more with the arts — though changing requirements wouldn’t be available in the Eliza R. Snow Building.

Many dance majors at the time of this decision felt misplaced, as though they were being kicked out of the MC.

“I sent an email out to all the dance majors; we’re gonna be fine, in fact, it’s going to be better for us,” said Larsen in an interview. “But growing pains are always hard. Anytime you’re asked to do something that’s inconvenient, it’s going to be hard.”

Larsen explained that the original plan was to finish construction in the Hart Building piece by piece and move the Dance Department over a little at a time. That is, until the COVID-19 pandemic struck, closing down campus. Without students on campus and no classes in the buildings, construction finished quickly, and the department moved over during the remote semester in spring of 2020.

Preparing the Hart Building was just the first step in the plan. After the Dance Department’s move, construction could begin in the MC to prepare the space for the Career Center. While the Career Center was already housed in the MC, it wasn’t in an easy-to-find location, and moving it across from The Crossroads makes it more easily accessible to students.

Construction on the new Career Center offices finished earlier this semester, allowing the Career Center to start its move upstairs across from The Crossroads on Feb. 19.

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