Many years have come and gone, however Stanford’s Social Dance courses are as well-liked as ever. The courses often see a 200-person lengthy waitlist, and within the pre-internet period, lengthy strains of scholars camped exterior of Roble Arts Gymnasium to enroll in the courses every quarter.
Richard Powers M.S. ’70 has taught social dance at Stanford since 1992, after turning down two earlier affords from the College. The primary supply got here when he was engaged on a miniseries for Warner Bros. The second time, he was engaged on a big efficiency on the Smithsonian. However third time’s the allure — he lastly agreed to show in 1992, starting his 31-year journey.
Few know that Powers’s historical past on the College started even earlier than he began instructing. He acquired his grasp’s diploma in product design at Stanford and went on to work in product and graphic design. At present, Powers holds patents for eight merchandise, together with the leak-proof hand sprayer, the tampon inserter and the childproof cap.
Powers grew to become involved in dance at 27 years outdated. At the moment, he took an Asian calligraphy class and began to be taught tai chi as a way to higher “perceive the breadth and the movement of huge calligraphy.”
“It was a revelation to me,” Powers mentioned about tai chi. He sought to be taught different types of motion and dance, like nation dance, folks dance and Japanese kendo.
Learning dance piqued Powers’s curiosity in historical past. In 1981, he based Flying Cloud Academy of Classic Dance, a gaggle in Cincinnati that recreates historic balls. Powers had additionally choreographed dance sequences for movie and varied stage productions, comparable to Warner Bros. miniseries “North & South,” set through the American Civil Warfare.
However Powers’s favourite occupation thus far has been instructing social dance at Stanford.
“What now we have cherished, others will love, and we’ll train them how,” Powers mentioned, quoting William Wordsworth. “It was my want for others to find what was great about dancing. That led me to show.”
In line with Monica Shen Knotts ’93, former member of Stanford Classic Dance Ensemble, Powers’s arrival remodeled the social dance scene on campus.
“He actually builds a tremendous neighborhood on campus,” Knotts mentioned.
After graduating, Knotts stayed at Stanford to assist Powers train his courses. In line with Knotts, Powers had a particular method to instructing: He targeted on fostering connections between dance companions quite than solely instructing dance guidelines.
Powers has made many modifications to the curriculum since 1992. Because the outdated cassette tapes of ballroom dance music have been changed by the “music of as we speak,” he tried to restructure the category to make social dance extra related within the lives of scholars.
“He’s all the time trying to enhance his instructing, which is actually great, particularly for somebody who’s been doing it for many years,” mentioned Emily Saletan ’24, a instructing accomplice for Social Dance I. “He’ll come as much as me or Annika and he’ll say, ‘I’ve been eager about how I phrase this, and the way saying it barely in a different way is perhaps higher or may get the idea throughout to extra folks.’”
Annika Mauro ’23 M.S. ’24 is the opposite instructing accomplice for the course.
“Powers is continually eager about new methods to innovate and train in a extra ergonomic manner,” Saletan mentioned.
Powers integrated “half time dance breaks” in courses, the place everybody gathers round a display that normally shows a quote about dancing. Throughout half time, college students take heed to Powers discuss social dance’s sensible relevance.
“To have a dance kind the place your focus is on different folks, your accomplice, and wanting them to have enjoyable, wanting them to have a superb time, when you find yourself dancing with them, once they’re dancing with you… that’s what I’m obsessed with,” Powers mentioned.
“He connects social dance to different components of your life in methods it’s sort of humorous or entertaining; a variety of them tie again to relationships in a manner,” mentioned Emily Dickey ’23 M.S. ’25, a present scholar in Powers’s class.
“He undoubtedly curates an area in school that’s very encouraging of attempting new issues. It’s okay should you fail, and nobody actually cares,” Dickey mentioned.
Some college students take social dance as a result of they wish to discover ways to dance, and others take it on pals’ or classmates’ advice.
“Everybody informed me it was a category I wanted to take,” Dickey mentioned.