Southern Union State Community College’s Dance Department making national impact

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Special to the
Opelika Observer

From Hollywood to Broadway; from Radio City to Disney; from professional ballet companies to the local dance studio, the impact of the dance department of Southern Union State Community College is undeniable.
When the curtain rises on the national tour of Hamilton, SUSCC alumnus Desmond Nunn will be onstage. When people tune in to watch Ellen DeGeneres, SU alumnus Stephen “tWitch” Boss is smiling at them. As students arrive at college dance programs or private dance studios across the Southeast, former SU dancers are there to greet and instruct them.
These are just a few examples of the successful students whom the Southern Union dance department has produced. Under the direction of Sonja McCord Fincher, who is in her 24th year as head of the department, the program consistently boasts transfers to four-year colleges such as Chapman, The University of Alabama and Troy University, to name a few.
Former dance students praise Fincher for her leadership and drive to make not only the department as a whole, but the individual, a success.
“Sonja always believes in her students; inspiring us to go beyond our comfort zones; challenging us, pushing us to become better version of ourselves,” said Ja’Morris Rivers, a member of the SU Dance Department from 2001 to 2003 who is currently a ballet and jazz instructor at the University of Alabama.
Casey Simmons, who was an SU Dancer from 2004 to 2007 and then went on to dance at the University of Alabama, perform on the Royal Caribbean Cruise line, and now is a local teacher and choreographer, echoed that sentiment.
“Sonja and the Southern Union Dance Department together are the crown jewel of the college, but also the best-kept secret of SU. What the public sees and enjoys is simply a taste of the dimensions of the program offered to its students. Her eye for spotting talent and ability to make students see it in themselves is unmatched. Any dancer who spends multiple semesters in Sonja’s classes is leaving with personalized coaching in every discipline dance offers.”
Alumni of the department celebrate the impact that Fincher made on their dance careers by giving back to the program to ensure its continued success. On any given day, you will find alumni of the department in the studio teaching a class to current students. Or, if they can’t get to the SU studio, alumni offer other opportunities for study. Last summer, three SU dancers attended a summer intensive at Sanspointe, a Birmingham-based contemporary dance company, where SU alumna Anna Walker Foshee is the artistic director.
Fincher said that attending Sanspointe gave students a collaborative learning experience, a catalyst to experiencing the art of dance.
“It is a good experience for students to see where our alumni end up and know that they can accomplish their dreams as well,” Fincher said.
The theme of giving back and making an impact on the community is ongoing. This fall SU Dancers went into 10 schools in five counties in east Alabama and west Georgia to expose elementary students to dance through an outreach program to enhance the study of the arts in elementary schools. The dancers also host “Chance to Dance” each fall as a fundraiser for Children’s Miracle Network.
“It’s really about encouraging our students to contribute positively to society and to be the best version of themselves that they can,” Fincher said.
The dance program is only one of the acclaimed fine arts offerings at Southern Union. Scholarships are available via an audition process in dance, music, theater and technical production. Auditions are scheduled for March 9 and 10. For more information on Southern Union’s dance department, contact Fincher by email at sfincher@suscc.edu.

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