UCLA Department of World Arts/Dance, located in Los Angeles, CA, was founded in 1995 from the merger of the World Arts and Cultures Program and the Dance Department. With undergraduate BA, MFA, MA, and PhD programs, students have gone on to excel in a variety of fields including, but not limited to, performance, education, law, public health, and research. Under the current direction of Angelia Leung, the department can be defined by a “dynamic interdisciplinary approach that encourages intercultural literacies and repertoires, including and transcending geography, ethnicity, class, and other distinctions of identity.” The Department of World Arts/Dance strives to promote interdisciplinary exploration and encourages students to combine creative practice, scholarship, and experiential learning within their studies.
Describe your organization’s mission and its work in 3 adjectives. Please explain the adjectives you selected.
Thoughtful. Active. Engagement.
Our goals for our students are that they are thoughtful, active, and engaged in whatever they choose to study. We strive that our students are able to problem-solve and work creatively with the tools they learn from their studies and to be engaged in and contribute to the communities in which they wish to take part.
How does the Department of World Arts/Dance promote a cross- cultural understanding through the arts?
Our curricular programs seek to combine an understanding of history and the discourses that are at work in dance. As a result, our students are finely attuned movers and innovators in the field. They are urgently aware of the purposefulness of dancing as the necessary expression of experience and ideas.
Dance Majors combine a personal movement practice with composition and dance studies. Students have opportunities to study with masters of many contemporary movement practices which currently include Odissi dance, West African dance, Bharata Natyam, tango, Cambodian dance, hip hop, post-modern dance, ballet, among others. Our composition series: Vocabularies, Processes, Impacts and Locations engage student exploration to understand ways in which we experience and deploy movement, the ways in which dances can unfold through time, as well as the ways in which we can create embodied engagement with audiences in a variety of locations (the theater being only one of these).
What is unique about UCLA’s dance curriculum?
The B.A. in Dance aims to thoroughly integrate learning to dance, learning to make dances, and critical interrogation of dance as a cultural practice. The Dance degree offers courses in a wide range of idioms from throughout the world, including a special emphasis on dance composition. Opportunities for performance, production, videography, and movement studies are augmented by courses in the study of the body and of bodily identity from historical and cultural perspectives; dance theory; and dance in the public sphere, including arts pedagogy. Four cornerstones anchor the program:
Students tend to move together throughout their four-year of undergraduate studies, developing strong ties with each other as well as with the faculty. The Department encourages students to engage in their undergraduate student organization, WACUS. WACUS provides opportunities for students to develop student-run events and programs such as an annual student-produced program WACsmashD!.
This program differs from those offered at a BFA or conservatory-based program in that the Department engages students with a liberal-arts sensibility, along with a discipline-specific foundation in dance. The Dance BA program is housed in a multi-disciplinary department with several programs that is mutually beneficial. While operating with considerable independence, our degree programs are unified by WACD’s common concern for aesthetic production, corporeality and performance, the dynamics of “tradition,” and “culture-building” in contemporary societies. This makes UCLA’s dance curriculum especially unique in relation to other dance programs elsewhere.
Where do you see dance in the future and how does your organization fit within that vision?
We encounter dance as embodied and also culturally specific knowledge. We see how dancing changes experience, and provides us with the ability to visualize new experiences as it also affirms familiar ones. It is a vital way of connecting us to others. We aim to graduate students as change-makers, ready to innovate in the field and to engage new audiences.