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This professor a step above the rest

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By Erin Tobin

By Erin Tobin

Rita Chenoweth is one of the many Riverside Community College instructors that know part of teaching is letting go.

This is her role during the annual production of Celebrate Dance, the dance concert where the college’s students are the choreographers and instructors just take a seat on the sidelines.

For Chenoweth this is all just a part of the dance journey she said she is happy to help people travel down. In fact, instead of world domination, Chenoweth says her goal is total world transformation, through dance and the arts.

“I just want people to find the magical quality that comes from appreciation of the arts,” she said, “we can all tap into the universal expressive experience either as a creator or viewer.”

In order to help people tap into that experience, Chenoweth teaches jazz dancing for all levels at RCC in the classic styles of Jack Cole, Bob Fosse as well as other greats of the genre. She also teaches a lecture class called Dance Appreciation that examines what dance is and why people choose to participate in it. She has a commitment to the college outside the classroom as well; choreographing for, or taking her turn being in charge of running, one of RCC’s other dance concerts.

“All of this has a great deal of diversity, so my schedule enables me to continually have a variety of experiences and student contact,” Chenoweth said.

Teaching dance is something that just developed for this instructor, whose beginnings are very humble.

“I don’t think there was one clear moment or a light bulb going off in a bubble above my head,” she said.

She said she remember performing, teaching and choreographing since high school, and always enjoying experience which was, as she put it, “way back in the disco era.” One of the teachers she says made a tremendous impact on her was her high school dance instructor, Greta Wetherill. According to Chenoweth, Wetherill did amazing job of giving students a varied dance education regardless of the short amounts of time high school scheduling allows. Chenoweth also said an English teacher, Julia Thielman, made an impact by displaying incredible leadership, organization and genuine passion for teaching.

These teachers may have made an impact on Chenoweth, but it is fellow RCC dance instructor Jo Dierdorff that Riverside Community College can thank for Chenoweth’s presence at the college. The two met while both were teaching dance in Redlands, and later, Dierdorff encouraged Chenoweth to take a part time position at Riverside Community College.

“I found I loved teaching at the community college level,” Chenoweth said, “I love the tenacity of the RCC student. Despite obstacles of all kinds, most persist and many succeed in becoming educated beings.”

Chenoweth sought out her Master’s of Fine Arts from the University of California in Irvine. Near the end of this process, she was hired in a full time position at Riverside Community College, where she has remained for the last 13 years.

She said she’s impressed with the students she is working with now.

“I’m blessed to be part of their process,” Chenoweth said.

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