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Popular class topics range from dancing to film

Nov. 16, 2006


If you want to learn some fancy footwork, direct a film or look closer at marriage and family relationships, you might have to take a number. Social Dance, Directing and Marriage and the Family are three of Baylor's most in-demand classes.

The only thing Social Dance students need to buy is a good pair of dance shoes, Ruby Olar said.

Olar, who co-teaches Social Dance, said students in the class learn different styles of dance, including swing, cha-cha, rumba, waltz, fox-trot, and the tango.

Olar said the majority of his students each semester have never taken a dance step, but he said if they can walk into his classroom he can teach them to dance.

Corsicana senior Kate Edwards said learning how to dance in many different styles was the best part of the class.

Preconceived notions about which dances will be the most fun abound among students, Olar said.

"They're afraid of cha-cha and tango but excited about fox-trot and swing in the beginning," he said.

Most students change their minds by the end of the class, he said.

For those looking to get out of the spotlight and behind the camera, Directing offers students a chance to direct their own short films.

Audrey Lecker, The Woodlands junior, said she never had to think hard about directing. She just went through the motions of finishing projects. As an aspiring student looking for work in film, Lecker's experience in the class has been for the better, she said.

Directing students are required to work for a few class sessions with theater professors.

Working with a theater professor to learn the nuances of acting has helped Lecker understand how actors think, and she said she is better attuned to their goals as well as her own.

The class is very hands-on because of its size, and Professor Chris Hansen said it's popular with the students. The limit for a directing class is 15 students because of the limited equipment. Throughout the semester, students work on a silent film to master telling stories visually, do static camera exercises and end the semester with a short film project, Hansen said.

Hansen said the short film project will let students pick their own actors and write their own script.

In the spring, Hansen will teach "Topics in Media Genres: Mavericks of the '70s American Cinema," which will focus on filmmakers like Francis Ford Coppola -- famous for The Godfather and The Conversation -- as well as director Stanley Kubrick.

It will be more like a production class than a directing class, Hansen said, focusing on their films in a research setting.

Students will study Kubrick and Coppola because they made films which were different than the "Hollywood blockbuster" type of film, he said.

Those students who would rather not study the life of an Italian mobster can investigate human behavior in Marriage and the Family.

Professor Preston Dyer and his wife, Genie, make Marriage and the Family a far more interesting class than it would be if it just had a "male voice," Preston Dyer said.

The class gets a male voice, a female voice, and, most importantly, the voice of a married couple, he said. Dyer began teaching the class in 1969 and his wife joined him in 1990. They have been married for 47 years.

Dyer said the 3000-level class is required for social work majors, but other students choose to take it as an elective.

The class's flair comes from the different academic interests the students have, he said.

Marriage and the Family focuses on relationships, communication and intimacy.

Hannah Belk, a Spring senior, said students had to make a list of 10 characteristics they wanted in a spouse, put stars by three "essentials" and strike off three they could stand to live without.

Belk said before this exercise they had read an article for the class that said people were looking for "unrealistic things" in relationships.

People can learn to love each other, she said, and the Dyers' relationship, for her, has been an eye-opener.

"They're huge proponents of marital counseling, even before the engagement," Belk said.