Troy dance faculty welcomes seasoned professional

Lacey Alexander

Staff Writer

The dance department at Troy University welcomed an internationally experienced dance professor to its list of faculty this semester.

Preston Swovelin, a native of Los Angeles, signed on as an adjunct dance professor at the beginning of this semester. Swovelin teaches ballet, contemporary, improvisation and composition classes at the University. He will also be choreographing and performing in Troy’s spring dance show “Shine On.”

Deborah Hicks, coordinator of dance at Troy, said that Swovelin’s hire will help the dance department immensely for the semester.

“Preston began the semester ready to contribute in every way he could,” Hicks said. “His professional background allows him to teach not only the contemporary classes he had to take over for Tracey Shillabeer, who is on maternity leave, but he is also able to teach ballet.”

Hicks said another advantage of having Swovelin at Troy was that the male dance students would get some special attention.

Swovelin, who is currently the only male dance teacher on staff, has specifically been helping dancers who dance in pairs, or dancers who are “partnering.”

“His ability to partner and to instruct partnering has been immensely beneficial,” Hicks said. “It is really hard for a female teacher to explain to a male how to partner if she has never been on the lifting end.”

Swovelin first learned about the Troy opportunity from Deborah Hicks’ daughter, Adrienne Hicks, whom he danced with at Bad Boys of Dance in Baltimore, whom he toured with in Europe for four months.

Swovelin has been dancing professionally since he was 16 years old, and is mostly a freelance performer, having performed with a multitude of dance and opera companies around the world. His international credits include the Setsuko Kawaguchi Ballet in Japan and Bad Boys Dance in Europe, where he played Romeo in a dance concert version of “Romeo and Juliet.”

Swovelin has taught master classes, but said that this is his first job as college faculty.

“It requires a different level of approach,” Swovelin said. “Coming into teach collegiate-level classes, I have to think of a long-term game plan… I have to invest more in people.”

Swovelin never earned a collegiate degree, and said there are vast differences in how dancers with and without degrees are trained.

“Typically dancers who start right out of high school like I did get thrown into the wild earlier,” he said, “where in the collegiate setting, there’s an amazing bubble world where you’re protected.”

Neely Aaron, a sophomore dance major from Franklin, Tennessee, said learning from a teacher currently working in the industry was beneficial.

“Talking to him and taking his advice about the industry is super helpful,” Aaron said. “His strength is ballet, but he has a variety of methods and teaching.”

Aside from teaching and performing at Troy, Swovelin is still doing jobs across the country while being employed at the university.

Ashley Pettit, a senior dance major from Atlanta, said Swovelin always brings a positive atmosphere into class and rehearsals.

“He’s super positive, which is nice,” Pettit said. “He has that hunger for artistry and for investing in people . . . He’s just a very uplifting person while keeping professional.”

Swovelin said his advice to graduating seniors would be to not give up, even though the industry is a difficult one to navigate.

“Expect disappointment, but don’t let that defeat you,” Swovelin said. “Always project positivity . . . They’ll see you as an individual.”

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