NACOGDOCHES, Texas - As soon as the music begins, it's like a switch going off. The laughter and inside jokes that filled the studio moments ago are gone, and professionalism takes the stage. Waiting for their music cues, dancers find their marks and strike a pose. With each note, the dancers move across the floor telling a story through movement of beauty and acceptance. 

Stephen F. Austin State University's dance program has experienced growth in recent years and for good reasons. SFA's dance program offers various academic and performance opportunities for students pursuing a Bachelor of Science in dance.

The program is housed in SFA's James I. Perkins College of Education and offers students two concentration areas - teacher certification and performance/choreography. The teacher certification degree plan trains students to become dance teachers for grades 8-12.

"Having the dance education certificate and the connection with the College of Education is a tremendous benefit," said Haley Jameson, dance program co-director. "We are one of few dance programs in the state that offers the dance teaching certificate."

Students seeking a performance/choreography-based degree focus on becoming professional dancers or continuing their education in graduate school.

"We get dancers from all different genres, and we want them to be proficient in all three major western dance forms - ballet, modern and jazz. We are looking to train professionals," Jameson said. "We want to take the level of technique up, and we are increasing the performance and choreography opportunities for students so they have a nice portfolio when they graduate. Also, if students are pursuing a teaching career, we want them to have teaching experience, not just theoretical knowledge."

The dance program is continually advancing its curriculum to be more competitive. As new faculty members, both Jameson and Heather Samuelson, dance program co-director, bring their knowledge and diverse dance backgrounds to the program. Samuelson has extensive technique training and professional dance experience while Jameson adds her theatre and performance experience to the mix.

"We are a very close-knit group of dancers," Samuelson said. "The dancers get a lot of one-on-one attention to really hone in on their technique and studies."

Program graduates have found success in a variety of careers, including as a performer, dancer, choreographer, dance teacher, personal trainer, model, clothing designer, studio owner and more.

"Dance is very flexible. You can use it for a number of careers whether it's science, theatre or business," Jameson said.

Technique classes are held in the studio and begin with stretches and warm-ups before working on a specified technique.

"One of the things I really enjoy about SFA is the small class sizes that allow faculty members to get to know our dancers," Jameson said. "When students are not in class, we ask about them and check on them. There is a personal touch."

Throughout each semester, dance students participate in various performance opportunities, such as the Danceworks concert, a senior showcase.

For more than 30 years, the dance program has sponsored the SFA Repertory Dance Company, an audition-only dance company comprised of SFA students.

"The Repertory Dance Company has a long tradition of being a brother/sisterhood. They are like family, and they are so close knit," Samuelson said. "Usually, these dancers are the first ones to give help in technique classes."

Students can audition for the company regardless of their classification. Samuelson said there are many benefits to being a member. For example, members perform two to three times a year on and off campus. Members also have the opportunity to network with industry professionals.

For more information about SFA's dance program or the SFA Repertory Dance Company, contact Jameson at or Samuelson at