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Body Language: UCLA Dance

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By Bekah Wright, Photos by Patrik Giardino

Published Apr 1, 2013 8:00 AM


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Let's Dance This Outside

Taking dance beyond the Kaufman Hall walls is actually a requirement for undergrads. Key to this element is the department's partnership with LAUSD. Nonprofits have also seen their share of student volunteers from the department, as has the UCLA Center on Aging, UCLA Lab School, UCLA Community School, women's shelters and prisons.

"Dance can sew a community together," says Marks. "It can contribute to a sense of identity that might be missing or lost, work against our anxiety over taboos, teach us our history and engage political ideas."

Contributing as well are guest artists in various affiliations, including the Residency Project for Movement (RPM) that includes such well-known dance figures as Bill Forsythe, Meredith Monk and Rennie Harris. Visiting RPM artists perform as part of the Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA (CAP UCLA), as well as deepening artists' relationships to the community by offering intensive classes to UCLA students and master classes to area high school students.

The Trisha Brown Dance Company's visit to UCLA this April is another example of this type of partnering, says Kristy Edmunds, CAP UCLA executive and artistic director, bringing with it collaborations between CAP UCLA, the Getty Center, the Hammer Museum, the UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture and WACD. The company will be teaching as well as having dance students perform the choreography of their Floor of the Forest exhibit at the Hammer.

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Renee Lee '14 Specialty: Chinese, Modern, Ballet

Edmunds says this is beneficial on many levels. "It's helpful to curriculum aspirations," she says. "It transfers knowledge from this incredible company into another generation of practitioners, and it's supported through a collaboration with the Hammer."

Projects from the Trisha Brown Dance Company involve dancers walking down the side of a building, dressing horizontally amidst sculptures and performing on the Getty's rooftops. With so much fun to be had with projects like this, it's not surprising that UCLA students extend their time by pursuing M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in culture and performance and M.F.A.s in dance with an emphasis on choreography.

Using What You've Got

As one would expect, there are as many different ways to use a UCLA degree in dance as there are dance students. Rea has gone on to produce festivals like the World Festival of Sacred Music. She's also well-known in the yoga world, often teaching large-scale movement experiences across the globe. She sees this as a natural extension of what she took away from her time with the department.

"Today's job market is for innovators," she says. "WACD is for people who see the interconnectedness of the world and want to be able to pass through a process that helps them speak to the interdisciplinary nature that the global landscape is requiring."

Or as faculty member Marks puts it, WACD graduates no longer see dance "as an ornamental or frivolous activity, but as an essential practice that can change things for the better. They're leaving us with a sense of purpose and conviction."

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