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Winter 1999

All the World's a Stage
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Born of the tumult of the '60s, today's World Arts and Cultures program has evolved into a unique cultural resource. Now, an $18-million pledge will ensure that the department's physical resources are as world-class as its ambitious mandate

By David Gere

Each winter quarter, in a scene echoed all over campus, fresh-faced applicants pay visits to UCLA's newest department with the delightfully screwy-sounding name: World Arts and Cultures. And although prospective students continue to apply each year in ever greater numbers, what they find when they arrive at the department's home in the Dance Building can too often stop them in their tracks.

Dancers, who comprise roughly half the department's target group, are initially attracted by the fact that World Arts and Cultures students are encouraged to take not only modern and postmodern dance, but flamenco, Argentine tango and the dances of Guinea and Senegal as well -- a range that, among university dance programs in the U.S., remains unparalleled. Students applying in cultural studies -- the department's other focus -- are drawn to a curriculum designed to train community arts activists, astute observers of culture and facilitators of intercultural communication. What all the department's undergraduate students hold in common is a desire to study art-making, either as practitioners or as scholars, and to do so within the largest possible framework, transcending traditional boundaries of culture and discipline.

But at the moment the prospective student walks through the dramatic portal of the Dance Building -- which, with its Romanesque rose windows, cuts a stunning first impression -- expectations can turn to disappointment and befuddlement. Why? Because the building's interior is depressingly dilapidated.


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