Dance Instructor Making Difference in Students' Lives

By Kathleen Corrigan
The Minstrel

Director of the DSU Dance Department, Tim Cowart, performs a solo titled Lightbulb Theory, choreographed by David Dorfman, in the DeSales University Dance Ensemble Concert.
One of the great aspects of college that students often overlook is the knowledge and experience that is passed down to them each day by their professors; professors who take the four years they have with students to instill them with all the knowledge they have gained throughout their entire lifetime. Tim Cowart, director of the DeSales dance department, is one of those professors.

Cowart first discovered movement at a young age. “I should say that my mother was a dancer, so I grew up around dance,” he states. Though exposed to dance from the beginning, his first experience with movement came from his studies of martial arts. “I began studying kung fu when I was eleven and through high school,” Cowart notes. At age eighteen, he even took over and ran the kung fu studio which he studied at. In high school, he also became involved with theater.

Cowart began his college career as a mass communications major at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, where he also took some theater classes. After some introspection, Cowart decided to take a different path.

“I wanted to dedicate myself to things that make life worth living which, to me, was the arts,” Cowart notes. As a result, he switched his major to theater and then eventually to dance. “I felt that I was able to communicate my ideas through dance.”

Cowart came to DeSales University four years ago and immediately felt like it was a good fit. From the start, he knew he would love the people he would be collaborating with.

“I love working with people—my students and my colleagues,” he says. In addition, Cowart was immediately drawn to DeSales by its philosophy of Christian humanism. “I love that I can speak of God without putting my job in jeopardy. I also like that I can encourage the spiritual side of students.”

Cowart spends a lot of his time at DeSales coordinating the visitation of guest artists; he arranges for successful people in the dance world to come in to teach or speak to students. He notes, “The fact that we bring in guest artists work is important. Students are challenged to do the work of professionals and they are rising to it.”

Students recently performed the work of guest artists Rennie Harris, Ben Levy, and Ashleigh Leite in this year’s Dance Ensemble Concert which took place March 13-15. Cowart comments, “I am so proud of the students in this concert. I couldn’t be prouder.”

Cowart also performed in the concert this year a solo titled Lightbulb Theory, choreographed by David Dorfman. The piece holds a personal meaning to Cowart. “When I first saw the piece, it immediately reminded me of my grandfather—fatherhood is really on my mind at the moment,” he says. He and his wife are currently expecting their first child.

Cowart comments that he thinks it is important for students to see their professors performing. “Students have a window into their professor’s creative process,” he comments.

While Cowart claims he enjoyed being a part of the process, he chooses to focus his career on more than performing. He notes, “Performance is not the main focus of my world. I am more interested in getting other people to perform.” Cowart is currently focused on choreographing, writing, and teaching.

In all his work, Cowart notes that his primary concern is the students. “[In my work] the bottom line is the students—is it good for them?”

In reflecting on his job he notes, “I feel like I’m able to make a difference for students and for the field itself.”

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