University of South Florida


USF News

Dancing in the City of Lights

Dance students Leo Jeansonne and Dariaknna Reyes in front of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

By Barbara Melendez

     USF News

TAMPA, Fla. (March 1, 2016) – A semester dancing in Paris and experiencing the French capital through the lens of dance – that’s a dream come true for just about any dancer. The USF Dance in Paris Semester Program (DPSP), an immersive study abroad opportunity for dance majors and minors, provides all that and more.

In synch with USF’s drive to globalize every student’s college experience, DPSP expands participants’ historical, cultural and performance-based knowledge, distinguishing USF as the only American university to offer a fully-accredited study abroad program of this kind.

Students in the program have the opportunity to visit the Paris Opera, France's primary opera company founded in 1669.

“There’s a rich tradition of dance in Paris,” said Associate Professor of Dance Michael Foley who specializes in modern dance, dance history and choreography. “Between the curriculum and the excursions we take to some of history’s greatest dance sites, such as The Paris Opera and Théâtre de Chaillot, our students are being exposed to the cradle of Western dance civilization. And Paris couldn’t be any more of an international crossroads and of course, one of the most cosmopolitan places on the planet. Every dancer should try to spend some time there in his or her lifetime.”

An Impactful Program

As the founder of the USF Dance in Paris Summer Program, Foley is looking forward to celebrating its ninth anniversary this summer.

“This program has brought over 125 students to Paris where they have seen over 100 performances and have taken classes and workshops with some of the world’s top dancers and choreographers, as well as helping these students to help define their place within the global dance community,” he said.

Expanding to the spring semester is the result of an impressive joining of forces.

A dance class in Paris.

“The extraordinary show of support by the French Embassy with a two-year grant that will lower tuition cost for students, demonstrates how deeply integrative this program is, and how much value the embassy puts on having dance education be something that deserves its recognition. I have been humbled, as well, by the extraordinary support shown toward the realization of this program by the USF Dance faculty, the staff at USF Education Abroad, and USF President, Judy Genshaft. Their investments in this program and the students it serves will be rewarded in multiples; I can assure them of that.”

USF Dance students are also getting the opportunity to work with fellow dance students from another part of this country.

“Interestingly, the majority of students in this inaugural semester program are dance majors from Virginia Commonwealth University, which has a near-mirror program of USF’s dance program,” Foley explained. “VCU dance faculty member, Scott Putman, has visited the USF Dance in Paris Program on two occasions, and after many conversations between the institutions, felt that the time was right to open the USF Dance in Paris Semester Program to the eager VCU dance majors who have turned out in force with 10 dancers in Paris right now. We look forward to growing this unique relationship with VCU, as it benefits their students and our own through a beautiful global partnership of dance and cultural learning in Paris.”

A Long-Standing Global Outlook

Foley came to this project as quite a global educator in his own right. He has taught master classes and workshops at universities, institutions and private studios throughout the United States, Italy, France, The Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Mexico, Panama and at the prestigious National Ballet School of Cuba. He has also had a long relationship with the esteemed Bates Dance Festival in Maine where we served as co-director of its Young Dancer’s Workshop from 1996 to 2007.

His wealth of choreographic commissions includes setting choreography for the Cirque du Soleil organization as well as having his work performed at Lincoln Center’s Out-of-Doors Festival and Dance Theater Workshop, the Bumbershoot festival in Seattle, The Dance Place in Washington, D.C., The Grand Performances Watercourt in Los Angeles and many more.

A 2009 Fulbright Scholar, Foley is focused on research and teaching while making new repertory for Mexico’s internationally renowned dance troupe, Delfos Danza, on location in Mazatlan.

“Michael is one of the pillars of what I consider one of the premier dance programs in this country,” said School of Theatre & Dance Director, Professor Marc Powers. “All those students who are fortunate enough to study in Paris with him are in for one of the most exciting experiences in their college careers.”

Foley observed, “I see myself in the role, at this point in my career, of being a facilitator who brings students closer to the global dance community, which helps to concretize their own ideas of what it means to be an artist, as well as opening up the student consciousness to a world that is so much more vast than they ever felt possible.”

A Full Schedule Where Safety is First

The semester in Paris is filled with studio classes in ballet, modern, yoga and world dance forms, along with choreography workshops and lectures on historical perspectives in dance by distinguished European, African and Western dancers, choreographers and scholars.

Angela Mazziotta in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

Students are required to take courses in French language and dance history, but all remaining credits, up to 17, can be made up from courses in modern dance or ballet technique, choreography, yoga, world dance forms and cross-disciplinary arts and humanities projects.

“By their junior year, students are ready for a new set of experiences beyond the traditional classroom/studio setting and need to begin putting things into practice, making deeper connections and maturing within the artistic community,” Foley said. “A program like the Dance in Paris Semester Program integrates several courses that are usually quite separate and forces students to synthesize all this information at the same time. Students learn to see themselves as individuals who are processing all kinds of crucial stimuli and making sense of it on an artistic and humanistic level. The fact that they are doing this at the crossroads of so many beautiful global communities further steeps the learning in a way that no other place can do.”

On many minds is the terrorist attack of last November, yet Foley says, “Student safety has been the number one priority for this program even before the recent attacks. Along with an extraordinary staff of security personnel back at USF, we continue to evaluate what are the best procedures and mechanisms to make sure students feel secure while they are studying in Paris. All of our orientation meetings stress personal safety, as well as reassuring what steps for students to take if they do not feel safe.”