Professor Terence Duncan, coordinator of the dance program at County College of Morris, counts himself among the fortunate ones. At an early age, he discovered a passion for dance that he turned into a successful career both on the stage and in the classroom where he can guide others in reaching for their dreams.
“I enjoy the energy of people learning,” says Duncan. “I also like that we have a very close-knit community at CCM. It presents lots of opportunities for partnerships among students from different disciplines. Here we have students studying in such fields as electronic music working side-by-side with students studying choreography. There is such great potential for some wonderful and informative exchanges.”
In addition to serving as program coordinator, Duncan teaches Dance History, Ballet Technique, Modern Technique and Choreography.
Before joining the CCM faculty in 2010, Duncan taught dance at Florida State University, the University of Hartford and Hofstra University, and in a number of professional and pre-professional programs, including the Ballet School New York. He has performed as a principal dancer with the New York Theatre Ballet in The Dream Ballet from Oklahoma!, Jardin Aux Lilas, Judgment of Paris, the Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty, and as a company member with the New York Baroque Dance Company, Suzanne Farrell Ballet and David Parker and the Bang Group.
A native of Louisiana whose family moved to New Hampshire when he was 13, Duncan initially struggled with the cultural differences of the north. He was an ardent musician, singing and playing woodwinds, and he loved sports. But it was not until he merged his interests in music and physical movement that he found true purpose and meaning.
“I wanted something musical and I wanted something physical. Then I discovered the ballet and everything fell into place,” recalls Duncan, who now lives in New York City with his wife, Christina.
He received his BFA from Towson University and MFA in dance from Florida State University. He was driven to pursue a higher education in dance, he says, because of the difference he saw in dancers who had attended college.
“Once I was actually working in the field, I found that those who had been college students had a much broader experience to draw upon,” he says. Along with having a broad perspective, dancers also need to develop a commitment for “honestly expressing themselves,” says Duncan.
“The best performances are given by those who make themselves 100-percent vulnerable to their audience. It’s stunning when you see that happen. It’s a giving of one’s self.”
Also central to a student’s success, says Duncan, are strong communication and problem-solving skills.
“Students need to know how to communicate a fully developed thought in order to succeed professionally,” he notes. “When they have that mastered, they also can look at something like the choreography of a dance and recognize whether it has a clear beginning, a strong middle and a solid conclusion, and where a period, comma or exclamation point might make it better.”