Apr 23, 2019
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Sarah Verheul performs her dance routine in front of her dance class on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017. (Daniel Avalos/ The Collegian)

Ruth Griffin is ‘opening their eyes to all the arts’

Professor Ruth Griffin is teaching dance and the power of ideas this semester at Fresno State.

Griffin was raised in Ohio and majored in music on an opera scholarship during her college years. As a music major, she became interested in poetry and English. That led to her double major in music and creative writing.

Griffin said she became interested in dance through poetry and had always loved to move, she was a cheerleader between the ages of 12 and 18, but it was a choreography class that showed her a way to combine the various art forms she loved.

“When I took my first choreography class, it lit me up,” Griffin said. “I realized that within choreography I could use all my love of all of the arts – visual, literary, music and kinesthetic movement – and then I resolved to become a dancer and a choreographer.”

Griffin began teaching in New York as a graduate student. After she got her master’s degree in dance, she made something she loved to do into her job.   

“In New York City, you work part time jobs and then you go to the studio, so you’re not doing what you love all day long,” Griffin said. “And I thought, ‘I want to do what I love all day long.’”

She applied at Fresno State and began teaching the dance program.

This semester Griffin is teaching dance choreography. Her syllabus states that the goal of the class is to open creative channels.

Griffin said she is also interested in theater. She directs plays and said she brings this experience into consideration to for her choreography class. Students in her class can expect not only to look to dance for inspiration, but to other art forms as well.

“They’re going to, at one point, be looking at abstract art and they’re going to start from an abstract painting for the genesis of a choreography,” Griffin said. “And at one point they’re going to be inspired by a poem.”

Another assignment students can look forward to includes looking at the style of another choreographer and emulating their style.

“We really want to open their eyes to all the arts, so that all the arts become a place from which to generate dance composition,” Griffin said.

Griffin said a background in dance is needed for the course she teaches.

“If you don’t know the language of French, you can’t write a story in French,” Griffin said. “There has to be a sense of some vocabulary.”

Perhaps most refreshing in Griffin’s teaching style is her understanding that art is personal and each student isn’t doing something in a right or wrong way. Rather, they are simply addressing an idea in their own way.

“Ideas are free and freeing,” Griffin said. “Like, say the idea of Black Lives Matter, that’s an idea. Another idea, all men, and I like to say ‘and women,’ are created equal. That’s another idea. And so those ideas lead to processes. And so the love of ideas, I think, is available for people in college.”

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