Dancers compete for annual scholarship award

When she came to TCU, Laura Barbee was uncertain how long her stay would be.Dealing with her father’s recent death, Barbee and her family thought she may need to take some time off from school. This all changed when she received the Nordan Fine Arts Award Scholarship.

This weekend, TCU dancers will compete once again for the Nordan Award which, if they win, could give them $8,000 to $10,000 per year toward their TCU educations.

The award was established by Lester Nordan and his wife in 1965. Nordan received an honorary law degree from TCU in 1964.

Students in all four departments of the College of Fine Arts vie for the award. For students in the dance department, only two out of 70 to 80 auditioning dancers receive it each year.

Ellen Shelton, chair of the ballet and modern dance department, said winning the Nordan takes a special type of person.

“The award goes to someone who is a passionate dancer and shows a high level of expertise,” Sheltonsaid.

The recipients are expected to be role models in the department. If their performance or grades slip, the award can be retracted, Shelton said.

“It’s kind of a probationary thing,” Barbee said. “You have to re-audition every January.”

If the award is renewed after a recipient’s freshman year, the student advances to the status of Nordan Scholar.

“I was totally relieved and excited,” Barbee said. “Getting the scholarship was reassurance that ‘Yes, I was in the right place, at the right time.'”

Before dancers may receive this award, they complete a three-hour audition process consisting of both a ballet class and a modern dance class. The department’s faculty members observe these classes and discuss the students’ capabilities and talents.

“Students come to audition from all over the United States,” Shelton said. “About 26 to 27 states are represented.”

Before auditions, the students send in VHS or DVD solos for the faculty to consider. The faculty members also look at the students’ strength of technique and whether they have strong ballet backgrounds, Shelton said.

“I really, really hoped that my best was good enough,” Barbee said. “Thankfully, it was.”

Now a 2006 graduate with a degree in ballet and modern dance, Barbee can look back and see that winning the Nordan Award was a key factor in her decision to stay at TCU.

“In my heart of hearts I felt that I’d made the right decision,” Barbee said. “Receiving the Nordan was another answer in the right direction.