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Winter 1999

All the World's a Stage
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In stairwells throughout the 1932 structure, plaster walls are riven with deep cracks -- decorated now with playful black-and-white photos of students dancing and performing, but ominous nonetheless. Ceilings are stained from a chronically leaky roof. Visitors would turn on their heels and bolt were they to know that, in 1978, the building was rated "very poor" as part of an investigation of seismic hazards throughout the University of California system. Of course, that assessment long predates the 1994 Northridge earthquake, which led to further weakening.

At a time when the department's curriculum is attracting ever greater interest in the undergraduate B.A. as well as the M.F.A. degrees in dance; when new M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in culture and performance are on the horizon; and when the number of ladder faculty has nearly doubled to 15, the decaying interior sends a disconcerting message.

The desire to bring physical resources into line with renewed curricular visions pervades university life. But at World Arts and Cultures, the wish to upgrade the Dance Building has long been deemed an impossible pipe dream, dismissed by faculty and administrators alike as too expensive or too unrealistic in a climate in which the arts must learn to live with less, not more.

Now, however, in a turn of events that has stunned most of all those who work and study within WAC: pronounced "wack," both lovingly and self-deprecatingly, the Dance Building is about to be completely refurbished with a combination of some $17 million in state and federal funds, targeted to repair the building seismically, and $18 million from a private donor, Glorya Kaufman, who has committed herself to the intercultural and interdisciplinary mission of the department.

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