Meet Ivan Pulinkala
Director of the Dance Program
By Lauren Highfill
Ivan Pulinkala smiles easily when he talks about his students. "They are a dynamic group of budding artists! I feel fortunate to work with the talent we have at Kennesaw State," he said. "My favorite time of the entire week is the choreography class I'm teaching. It is so powerful to watch the students grow and develop their own artistic identities through the medium of dance."
Originally from India, Pulinkala developed another aspect of his identity when he moved to the United States 10 years ago. "I moved to the U.S. leaving behind a performance career, my family and essentially my entire past life to further my education in dance. I jumped on a plane and headed west to a country I knew very little about; everything that did not fit in my two pieces of luggage was left behind and I set out to make a life for myself in a whole new world where I knew absolutely no one."
It wasn't long before Pulinkala started to make his mark in the United States. Among other accomplishments, he earned his master's degree, lived and worked in New York City and, three years ago, came to KSU to start a new dance program. "At KSU, I saw a great opportunity to develop a dance program. The university has a prime location in the Atlanta area—there are not many dance programs in the state of Georgia—and the administration has a strong commitment to support dance," he said. "I believed that the dance program was poised to be as successful as it has turned out to be."
Expanding from a dance minor to a major in just three years, the program's success can be attributed to a variety of factors. "This campus was and is hungry for dance, and my chair and dean gave me a great deal of support and encouragement,” said Pulinkala. “The dance program would not be successful without their support, and that of all my colleagues and the upper administration." Pulinkala also credits the “stellar dance faculty” for the program’s success. “This group of highly accomplished artists enrich our students lives on a daily basis and make my role as director of the program a pleasure to serve," he said.
However, many dance students believe that the popularity of the program has a lot to do with Pulinkala himself. Haleigh Brooks, a soon-to-be dance major who transferred into KSU's dance program, said, “He is a genius, in my opinion. His choreography shows off the strengths of each dancer. He has opened my eyes to movement as a whole and the art of dance. He loves and respects us as dancers and in turn we love and respect him as our teacher." Another dance major, Greer Yarbrough, said, Pulinkala “is very creative and has a unique perspective as a choreographer. He’s really helped me learn the creative process and technique of choreography in a manageable way.”
Although Pulinkala stays busy constantly developing and improving the dance program at KSU, he is also active as an artist off campus. Since he's been in Georgia, Pulinkala has served as a guest artist for several organizations including the Atlanta Ballet, the Alliance Theatre, Atlanta Gay Men's Chorus, Full Radius Dance, Middle Tennessee State University, Spelman College and the University of South Carolina. Pulinkala said, "It is important to me to be active in the field because it furthers my ability to be a good teacher, a good choreographer and a good citizen."
Pulinkala and members of the KSU Dance Company, speaking with students at the Cobb Energy Centre in April 2008.
Photo by Cheryl Anderson Brown
Community involvement is essential to Pulinkala, and he and his students are active through the dance outreach program. To expose local high school students to the art of dance, the KSU Dance Company performs at a large venue every spring. This performance, as well as others, contributes to Pulinkala's mission. "It takes the students out in the community and helps them network, get to know people and it's also another venue for them to showcase their work and art." The dance company will perform at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre next April, accompanied by the KSU Orchestra. The event will serve hundreds of students in the metro-Atlanta area.
Clearly, Pulinkala's passion is dance, but he does enjoy other activities like singing, visiting museums and hanging out with friends. Through artistic avenues like the Atlanta Gay Men's Chorus, he said, "I have really developed a sense of community in Atlanta. It's sort of my home away from home since my family still lives in India."
As evidenced by his many accomplishments and his appreciative and ambitious attitude, Pulinkala embraces new challenges and opportunities. And, with the burgeoning dance major set to launch in January 2009, he'll continue to be a driving force in dance at Kennesaw State and bring new challenges and opportunities to his students.