Marcus Hayes became the first professor of dance at APSU and has since made his way up the totem pole and has made great strides for the theatre and dance department at APSU.

Hayes started his career in dancing at Beloit College in Wisconsin, where he double majored in both history and dance, and Hayes is now the chair for the department of theatre of dance at APSU.

“I studied history and dance. It’s weird how the dance thing happened, because when I went to college I was going for business,” Hayes said. “I think I changed my major twenty something times but it’s interesting because all of those majors kind of overlapped in subject matter.”

Like many college students, Hayes found the pressure to decide on a major complicating.

“There’s all this pressure to choose a major and it’s also kind of ridiculous,” said Hayes.

Hayes had always had a fascination for dance, but it wasn’t until college that he acted on that wonder, opting to finally become a dance major, in addition to his history major.

“I had taken a little bit of dance in high school. I went to a performing arts high school,” Hayes said. “All my friends were dancers, and I was so intrigued. I kind of fell in love with it, and I wanted to learn more about it. I didn’t think I would major in dance in college, but I wanted to be at a college that had a dance program so that I could take the classes.”

During his time at Beloit, Hayes managed to earn degrees in both his fields of study. Following his graduation, he moved to Chicago.

“After I graduated and I moved to Chicago, and I was working, like, all these different jobs,” Hayes said. “This was 1999, so that was like a great time to be a young adult. I was living in Chicago, living the dream.”

Following his time in Chicago, Hayes returned to Beloit college to work as a professional staff member in resident’s life.

“So, then I had that student affairs background. I did that for three years, and I was ready to go to graduate school,” Hayes said. “I couldn’t decide if I was going to go for counseling, or if I was going to go for dance, which is where my heart was.”

While Hayes worked in resident’s life at Beloit, he also danced in a professional dance company.

“During that time, I was dancing in a company called Without Shoes, modern dance, which is out of Rockford, Illinois, and I was teaching all over the place,” Hayes said. “I was like, ‘well, these knees still bend, so I should go to graduate school for dance.”

Hayes went to graduate school in California at Mills College, where he received a master’s degree in dance.

Hayes came to APSU as the first dance instructor the campus had seen, and he essentially paved the way for the program to become what it is today. When Hayes started, dance was still part of theater and communication.

“I started here [at APSU] in Fall of 2006. This is my 14th year teaching at Austin Peay,” Hayes said. “I taught the very first dance classes. Dance was the number one request for students calling admissions. They wanted to know if we had dance. When I got here, they were finally able to say yes.”

In addition to his duties as a teacher of dance, Hayes in the last year has also started to teach African-American studies.

“In the last year, I have transitioned more into teaching African-American studies. I’m still associated with theatre and dance,” Hayes said. “That’s another part of my job, teaching African-American studies and providing some leadership for them.”

Including the separation of theatre and dance from communications, Hayes has also led APSU in hosting three different dance conferences, including the Tennessee Association of Dance Conference twice.