When Poughkeepsie, New York, native and aspiring professional dancer Rachel Repinz visited Buffalo State for the first time, she received more than a cursory meeting with the dance program coordinator. Joy Guarino, who also serves as an associate professor of theater, invited Repinz to join her and a group of students in a tour of Shea’s Performing Arts Center, followed by dinner at a local restaurant.
“Joy made me feel really comfortable. I didn’t get that at any other school I visited,” said Repinz, now a Buffalo State senior. “I also really liked the diversity of the campus. I’m from such a diverse area that Buffalo State felt like home to me, but it was also new and exciting.”
Although Buffalo State doesn’t offer a dance major, students can major in arts and letters with a concentration in dance or they can add a dance minor to another major such as theater.
“What I like about the program here is the focus on individuality. Other dance programs I considered had the mindset, ‘Here are the classes you take. Here’s what you’re getting out them,’” Repinz said. “At Buffalo State, I feel like the faculty caters to what you want to do. Some students want to focus on dance therapy; others want to perform or teach. The faculty helps you tailor your classes and gives your opportunities that fit what you want.”
Repinz, who grew up studying ballet, modern, tap, and African dance, discovered she wants to be a choreographer and eventually teach at the college level. She came to that decision after taking the courses Dance Composition and Teaching Dance. The latter also connected her to the community through a service-learning component that enabled her to gain experience teaching a variety of age groups.
Additionally, she found plentiful opportunities to hone her craft, performing with the Buffalo State Dance Company, which she joined her first year. This past spring, Guarino asked her to choreograph two pieces for the annual dance concert Movers and Shakers: Dance as Activism.
One of them, “Common Ground,” a six-member modern dance performance that celebrates diversity, was chosen for inclusion in two international conferences this coming summer—in Australia and Barbados. Repinz will travel to both locations with her dancers.
Repinz also has gained administrative experience, serving as secretary and president of the Buffalo Dance Association, which houses the National Honor Society for Dance Arts and offers events and master classes for the campus.
“This past year we brought in a girl who danced on Broadway with Hamilton to teach a master class,” she said.” It was super exciting and lots of people came out for it.”
The confidence Repinz has developed as a dance student propelled her to apply to graduate school. She just learned she’s been accepted into the master of fine arts (MFA) program in choreography at Temple University for fall 2018.
Guarino, who also earned her MFA from Temple in 1986, said this is quite a coup.
“It’s a well-respected program,” Guarino said. “Many of the graduates are majorly involved in the dance performance and dance education worlds.”
In addition to making her a more skilled and confident dancer, Repinz said Buffalo State has genuinely made her a better person.
“It’s made me more conscious of the world around me.”
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