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Ann Lacy School of American Dance and Entertainment Interview with Jo Rowan

DancersThe Ann Lacy School of American Dance and Entertainment at Oklahoma City University is American’s premier musical theatre dance program.   They prepare students for exciting careers in performance, management, teaching dance, and choreography. Everything they do is focused on preparing graduates to work in the entertainment industry.  Established in 1981, they have a strong track record of continued graduate success, because a commitment to the value of professionalism in the entertainment industry.

The Ann Lacy School of American Dance and Entertainment is not just about teaching dance steps or management and teaching skills. They are there to instill character that will serve graduates in their professional careers and personal lives. Their staff, faculty, and administration strive to infuse all of the performances, courses, and activities with Responsibility, Reliability, Respect, Motivation, Ethics, Courage, Accountability, Focus, Commitment.

In the opinion of Prof. Jo Rowan, Chairman of the Dance Department, their dance program is different from other dance programs for the following reasons:
(1) Their focus on tap, jazz, and musical theatre dance with ballet as supporting technical base. (Traditionally university dance programs focus on ballet and modern.)
(2) A philosophy of preparing students to work as performers, teachers, and managers in the entertainment industry.  Everything about their curriculum and structure is designed to support this goal.  They regularly make changes to adapt to the needs and trends of the entertainment industry.
(3) The philosophy of character value . . . Their primary goal is not teaching dance steps.  They are here to develop graduates of strong character.  Strong character leads to professionals who are a premium in the entertainment industry.
(4) Their focus on values leads to a supportive environment between students, faculty, staff, and alumni.  They have an incredible network of alumni helping each other and their current students navigate the ever changing world of entertainment.
(5) Their experience in preparing students for employment in the fields of dance and entertainment.  They have been successfully training triple threat performers and managers since 1980 when they instituted degrees with an emphasis in tap, jazz and musical theater commercial dance styles.

They are very proud to have honored many of the great tap artists with their “Living Treasure in American Dance” awards and the “Honorary Doctorates of Dance.”  They honored these outstanding artists because they were a part of the creation of an American dance style, Tap.  Since the early 1980’s, their students have had the opportunity to interact with the creators of Tap through performances, classes and lectures.  These great dancers are not only a part of their students’ dance history courses; they are also a part of the students’ personal memories.

Living Treasure in American Dance Award Recipients include Tommy Sutton, Honi Coles, Al Gilbert, Gus Giordano, Buster Brown, Maceo Anderson, Peg Leg Bates, Harold Cromer, Henry LeTang, Jimmy Slyde, Dianne Walker, Cholly Atkins, Leonard Reed, Marion Coles & the Silver Belles, Bunny Briggs, Jeni LeGon, Fayard Nicholas, Prince Spencer, Ernest “Brownie” Brown, Arthur Duncan, Deborah Mitchell, Debbie Dee, Avi Miller and Ofer Ben, and Germaine Salsburg.

Honorary Doctorates of Dance include David Howard, Donald O’Connor, Cholly Atkins, Bunny Briggs, Buster Brown, Jeni LeGon, Henry LeTang, Fayard Nicholas, Leonard Reed, Jimmy Slyde, Prince Spencer, and Arthur Duncan.

Their seniors are much more comfortable auditioning than the freshmen.  This is due to the structure of their program which includes components of auditioning in various dance technique and dance academic courses.  Additionally, students must audition each semester if they wish to be considered for any of The Ann Lacy School of American Dance and Entertainment performing companies.

Additionally, their seniors know how to find work. The Ann Lacy School of American Dance and Entertainment teaches the students the business side of the entertainment industry which includes knowing resources to find out about auditions, internships, teaching and management jobs.

They are excited to launch a new curriculum approach in 2015-2016. Students selected through the audition process enter as dance majors instead of immediately being placed in a degree track.  They take a foundation curriculum of dance technique, teaching dance, choreography, dance history, music fundamentals, arts management and production, and general education courses in the first two years. Students are placed in one of the three dance major degree tracks (Dance Performance, American Dance Pedagogy, or Dance Management) for their junior and senior years.  Placement in the degree for which students are best matched is based on the students’ interests and faculty evaluation of their skills, knowledge, and accomplishments.

This coordinated approach gives students a broad base of dance and production knowledge to improve their career marketability no matter which of the three degrees is their final placement.  It also takes the pressure off of freshmen to make a choice of a major before they have a real understanding of all the dance degree and career opportunities available with each.

The school has been a leader in developing curriculum for dance, teaching, and management in the entertainment industry. They were the first to offer a tap, jazz, and theatre dance degree focus. They were the first to offer a dance management degree. They are leading the way in dance pedagogy focused on the entertainment side of dance.

Dancers from Oklahoma City University are working throughout the entertainment industry. Their alumni have performed in over 75 Broadway shows; over 38 have become Radio City Rockettes; over 18 have performed in and/or managed Rockette productions; have become Broadway choreographers; over 80 have performed on national or international tours; over 175 entertainment companies have employed their graduates; 100’s have performed on cruise ships around the world; have danced for Cher, Janet Jackson, Mandy Moore and others; and much more.

The Ann Lacy School of American Dance and Entertainment stresses application of theory and technique learned in both dance and academic classes.  Performing opportunities for their students include The American Spirit Dance Company, Spirit of Grace Liturgical Dancers, OCU Pep Dancers, Student Choreography Show, and various musical theatre productions.

When students are not performing, they participate in co-curricular activities to apply their management and production knowledge.  Students work backstage, front of house hospitality, organizing auditions and dance workshops and more.

They have state-or-the-art moving lights and digital sound equipment that enables students to learn the most current techniques.

They are so proud to now have thousands of their students working in the entertainment business as performers, managers, teachers, choreographers, administrators, and mentors/role-models for future dancers.

If you would like more information about The Ann Lacy School of American Dance and Entertainment, visit their website at, call them at 405-208-5322 or email Jo Rowan at You can also “Like” them on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, find them through Google and connect with them on Instagram.

Please post a comment if you have had any experience with Jo Rowan of Ann Lacy School of American Dance and Entertainment.

Written By Cyndi Marziani

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