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Tom Truss

New Dance Instructor Helps to Shape New Dance Minor


From the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange in Washington, D.C., to San Francisco, Calif., where he was certified in the Alexander Technique, and from the New Zealand Conservatory of Dance to Jacob’s Pillow in Becket, Mass., Tom Truss III brings to campus a wide range of experiences that not only shape the classes he teaches, but also MCLA’s new dance minor.

Like some of his students, Truss started dancing in college. As a junior at the College of Wooster in Ohio, he was asked to play the piano by a dance teacher who wanted a live musician to play for her modern dance classes. “And, I fell in love with it right away. After a few weeks, I knew I had to take this class.”

Later, he joined the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange, whose members share the viewpoint that anyone can dance. It’s a philosophy Truss shares. Over the years, he’s worked with people of all ages and abilities, who created dance in a wide variety of places, “whether it’s a parking lot, in a field or an abandoned factory, or in a dance studio,” he explained.

In addition to this semester’s “Intro to Dance,” Truss will teach a 200-level dance course in the spring, as he also helps to create the curriculum for MCLA’s Dance Minor, through which, he explained, “students will learn how to create ‘real dance in the real world.’”

“Our curriculum is for the student who wants to round out their dance education,” Truss said. In addition to those who may want to teach dance in various community settings, or an arts management student who enjoys dance, the new dance minor is “for the actor who loves musical theatre and wants to get some good steps going. They could easily do that with this minor.”

College is one of Truss’s preferred settings in which to work. Before teaching at the New Zealand Conservatory of Dance, he taught at the University of Texas-Austin, and also at Texas State University-San Marcos.

In Truss’s “Intro to Dance” class this semester, “I’m impressed by the students. They are focused and very engaged. For some people, it’s their very first dance class. Others have been dancing since they were 3. Everybody who is in there is serious about it, which is very refreshing.”

There’s an acceptance among MCLA dance students for those of all abilities, Truss said. “They are not looking for the typical, and the tried and true. They are in pursuit of something different. They are open to the material I’m teaching them, whether it’s their thing or not.”

Truss holds a Master’s of Fine Arts (MFA) in choreography from the University of Iowa in Iowa City, as well as an MFA from the University of Texas-Austin. Here at MCLA, he hopes his students learn from him how to facilitate change on a personal level, and also how to utilize the Alexander Technique.

That is, “how to have conscious control of your body as you walk through life, and your interaction with your community. Supporting all of that is how to be self-reflective and how you get across your message of what you want, and what you need. That’s the basic thing of the arts – there’s something that people want to say, and they just want to figure out a way to say it.”