Why do I dance? It’s hard for me to answer because I feel like it’s so easy. It just make me happy.
BFA student Jobel Medina says this with a smile as afternoon light through the windows of Dance Studio 5 glistens off his face and chest following a dance demonstration. Studio air conditioning is deliberately kept at a minimum to prevent dancers’ muscles from tightening from the cold.
For aspiring artists like Medina, Cal State Long Beach’s Department of Dance—one of the nation’s best in degree offerings and caliber of faculty and facilities—is a dream program.
It hasn’t been an easy road for the Filipino immigrant, who came with his family to California when he was 13, eventually settling in Long Beach and attending Cabrillo High School. Inspired by watching his sister dance in shows, “When I got here, I didn’t want to be in physical education classes, so I decided to join the dance studio classes in my high school.”
Transferring from community college, “I knew I wanted to be a dance major, so I looked at different schools and, when I first visited Cal State Long Beach, just seeing the studios and the space and the dancers blew me away, and I knew that I wanted to be here,” he recalled.
The department has become a comforting place for Medina, surrounded by faculty and students who embrace and nurture his dreams.
His parents hoped he’d go into what they consider a more stable career. Two of his sisters are nurses, a third sister attends fashion school and his younger brother just graduated from high school. “It’s very challenging with my parents,” he said. “Still to this day, I don’t think they’re very supportive of dance. They’d ask me to consider other options—‘What about this or that? What about medical school?’ I think I’ve learned to toughen up and really believe in myself and in the things I can do.”
College is a fiscal stretch for Medina, who has financial aid, a student loan and multiple jobs in Long Beach. He tutors for the Campfire and ICES Education programs and teaches dance classes for children and adults at En Pointe Dance and Fitness, but it’s work he enjoys.
“Sometimes when I do freeze dance and stop the music, some of the children can’t hold still because they really want to dance,” he said. “You see them light up when they dance; you see them smile. That’s one of the things I see often in studio classes when I work at ICES or Campfire. And it’s not just children. When I see adults dance, I also see laughter and joy.”
His dedication shows, according to Dance Department Chair Andrew Vaca. “I do believe that all of our studio faculty would agree that Jobel is going to be a true dance artist, invested in performance and choreography.”
Moreover, “From my years of experience in education, I could tell immediately that Jobel has, as my Aunt Lenore would call it, ‘the gift’ when it comes to working with elementary students,” Vaca added. “I hope to have him in my Dance for Children class in the spring and know that he will be a natural at teaching creative movement.”
After what he hopes will be a successful career as a professional dancer in traveling companies and in commercial dance with name artists, Medina wants to earn his MFA and become a dance professor.
“Dancers provoke something,” he noted. “They can cut people’s hearts, and sometimes words or other forms of art can’t do that. Dance is created for a reason, and I hope that maybe they would see and understand and appreciate this form of art more.” ▲
CSULB’s Department of Dance
- The first CSU to offer a B.A. in dance. Now offers five dance bachelor’s and master’s degrees and a dance minor.
- Accredited by the National Association of Schools of Dance, with professional dancers as faculty.
- Housed in the 90,000-square-foot Dance Center including the Martha B. Knoebel Dance Theatre, seven studios, dance clinic, Pilates trainingfaculty, costume design shop and sound production studio.