Mini-courses invite students to dabble in different cultures

Students can take courses as diverse as guitar playing and belly dancing.

Elizabeth Cook

With weather advisories suggesting people stay indoors because of high temperatures, some women found a way to soak up the air conditioning in Coffman Union and get some dancing in, too.

Eleven women learned to shake their hips and move their arms to Middle Eastern music as part of a belly dancing summer mini-course. The class is one of four summer courses offered by the Minnesota Programs and Activities Council.

Belly dancing instructor Catherine Liska said what’s hard and tiring about the dance is the strict muscle control and isolation. Because the purpose of the dance is to express and interpret the music, the legs might be dancing to the percussion, while the arms flow to the melody.

Mini-courses are offered throughout the year, said Tricia Schweitzer, a student activities adviser.

This summer’s offerings included mosaic art, belly dancing, guitar and massage therapy.

In fall and spring semesters normally there are 10 to 13 courses in areas such as salsa dancing, yoga, calligraphy and photography, with anywhere from 15 to 30 people in a class.

All classes meet once a week for three to five weeks and are nongraded, noncredited courses.

Laura Jaeger, a speech, language and hearing sciences junior, decided to take belly dancing, her first mini-course, because of the Shakira video “Hips Don’t Lie.”

Jaeger said she also dragged her friend Monica Booe, a sociology junior, along to learn the fluid movements. Both said they liked the course, but were surprised by how much muscle control it takes to belly dance.

Priya Sachdeva, a human resource development graduate student, said that even though the muscle isolation is difficult, she is interested in continuing to learn belly dancing and would like to take other dance courses the council offers, such as salsa.

Her friend Sara Stearns, also a human resources development graduate student, said the course was a great alternative workout and plans on using some of the dance moves she learned while adding her own twist to them when she goes out dancing.

Even though about 80 percent of those who take mini-courses are University students, the courses are open to anyone. Students who pay activity fees get a discount on the course and pay between $20 and $30. Non-students pay between $10 and $20 more.

St. Paul resident Karen Cui said she took the course because of the cheap cost. Cui said she liked the course and hopes to be able to take more, but the price for other classes might make it a challenge for her.

“I need to know more about the cost,” she said. “This is cheap; it’s affordable.”

Down the hall on the third floor, 11 men and women busily strummed guitars learning scales, rhythm and how to read tablature.

Nathan Gallus, a recent neurology science graduate, was in the room with the instructor 15 minutes early to ask a few questions.

Music always has been in his blood; he started playing the drums in third grade, he said. But he said wanted to learn guitar because it’s something he easily can bring to a friend’s and play a song people can identify. It’s harder to do that with drums, he said.

Thomas Sorensen, a postsecondary enrollment option student, also was in the class, taking advantage of the student discount he’s entitled to. He said he’s played guitar for a while, but not in a formal way, so he came here to learn more. Last week he learned a scale.

After his experience with his first mini-course, he already looks forward to the classes he can take in the fall, he said.