New director is pro dancer



AACC’s new dance coordinator has more than two decades of dance experience.

Dominic Salacki, Contributor

A professional dancer with more than two decades of experience became AACC’s new coordinator of dance last semester.

Robert Kleinendorst, an alum of the prestigious Paul Taylor Dance Company in New York, began working at the college in August.

Along with directing the AACC Dance Company, he taught two independent study classes; an online dance history course; and an on-campus section of Beginning Modern Dance 1 in the fall.

Some of his students said they enjoy his teaching style.

Kleinendorst is “really great,” Margot Anthony, a first-year education student, said. “He always encourages us to loosen up, break out of our shells and to not worry about if we’re perfect.”

Anthony called Kleinendorst “adaptable” to the various levels of experience his students bring to his classes.

Kleinendorst said he enjoys working with AACC students, calling them “super open” when compared with the dancers he taught in the past at four-year colleges.

AACC students, he said, “have to work jobs and they have family responsibilities, so I find the students to be really down to earth and easy to work with.”

AACC’s former dance coordinator, Lynda Fitzgerald, chaired the hiring committee that brought Kleinendorst to the college.

The committee “narrowed it down to four [candidates], and we had them teach virtual classes to the students in my classes, so that was pretty cool,” said Fitzgerald, who retired from AACC in September after 33 years.

Fitzgerald started AACC’s Dance Company in 1989.

Fitzgerald said the committee chose Kleinendorst, in part, because “his background is incredible.” She described the new coordinator as “incredibly talented [and] a genuinely nice guy.”

She added: “He’s a natural teacher. He’s encouraging and he’s [teaching at AACC] for the right reasons. He wants [his students] to improve and be their best, and he’s [working with them] to help them in that regard.”

Kleinendorst began his career in the arts when he was cast in a leading role in a production of the musical “Once Upon a Mattress” in his sophomore year of high school, playing Prince Dauntless.

When he enrolled in Luther College in Iowa, Kleinendorst decided to pair his love of singing and acting with an education in dance.

“If I’m going to go into Broadway,” he recalled thinking, “there’s always going to be a dance element, so I started taking dance classes in college, and it blew me away.”

Melodie MacKall, a first-year undecided student, said Kleinendorst is a “fresh and fun” teacher.

“This class is really fun, and we get goofy,” MacKall said. “Towards the end of class, we always get really giggly and laugh a lot at all the mistakes [we made], so it’s a lot more fun to learn when we’re laughing about it.”

Ray Bradley, a first-year plant sciences student, said Kleinendorst is “not too uptight about doing things exactly, which is nice.”

Fitzgerald said she is “thrilled” that Kleinendorst has taken over dance at AACC partly because the “experience that he had could translate to academia.”

“I feel that with his experience, [he has] a lot of connections, and I think that’s going to be really beneficial to our students as they [are] continuing dance,” Fitzgerald said. “I don’t think I could have left the program in better hands.”

Professor Ian Wardenski, chair of AACC’s Performing Arts Department, said he was “incredibly impressed” after learning about Kleinendorst’s professional background.

“I wanted to get a chance to talk with [Kleinendorst] and meet him, and I came out of that meeting feeling very confident about [having] a new person taking over the dance department,” Wardenski said.

Kleinendorst prepared the Dance Company for a December performance at the Chesapeake Arts Center in Brooklyn Park.

He choreographed and wrote music for the event, Fitzgerald said.

“He does it all,” she said. “I’m so impressed [because] there were things that I didn’t know about [Kleinendorst] that I’m learning now that make me even more thrilled that he’s here.”