Master's Student Ellen Bartel: A Dancer's Story

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For MFA in Dance graduate student Ellen Bartel, it all started with the movie Hair.

After watching Twyla Tharp’s choreography in the famous 1979 film, Bartel began a love affair with dance that has lasted throughout her life.

“Dance has given me a lifestyle that surrounds me with people I really enjoy being around,” she says. “It’s also very entertaining, sensual … a different way of telling a story.”

After earning a degree in Modern Dance and Philosophy from the State University of New York at Potsdam in 1993, Bartel packed up and moved to Austin, where she soon became entrenched in the city’s artistic community.

Bartel, who dances, choreographs and teaches, founded local Spank Dance Company in 2000. As the company’s artistic and executive director, Bartel has watched her dream blossom over the past ten years. What started out as a “project to project” dance company has evolved into an award-winning nonprofit arts organization with a yearly season of events.

“It has branched out to embrace the entire dance community,” she says.

This past year, Bartel went back to school. She says that enrolling in the Master of Fine Arts in Dance program at UT has extracted her from her “own personal rat race,” and offered new ways of approaching what has become such a familiar discipline.

“I feel the department's strengths are its pedagogy and developing the artist/scholar from its graduate students,” says Bartel. “They are interested in the academics of dance in the university setting.”

“The whole process of learning from another person by watching and teaching another person is an interesting dynamic about conversation and connection that we don’t get any other way.”

Bartel, who will complete her graduate studies in 2012, continues to teach, dance and produce at UT and across the city of Austin—and she isn’t planning on stopping any time soon.

“I can't say I’ve met my vision for myself just yet,” she says. “I feel like I haven’t reached my peak.”

“In some ways, I feel like I’ve just begun.”

October, 2010

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Ellen Bartel

Ellen Bartel

MFA Candidate in Dance

Fine Arts Internship Teaching Assistant

Artistic Director Spank Dance Company

Earned degree in Modern Dance and Philosophy from State University of New York at Potsdam, 1993

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