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20th-century Bruins
All the World's a Stage
The Character Question
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Winter 1999

All the World's a Stage
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That's a whopping $35 million to carve out a network of state-of-the-art studios, classrooms, arts laboratories, offices and a pair of theaters -- a 299-seat flexible indoor performance space as well as a 99-seat outdoor pavilion. This level of research-and-development funding rarely comes the way of the arts. Even more significantly, the newly designated Glorya Kaufman Hall will be the first of UCLA's academic core buildings named for a woman.

A bastion for women within the university in the pre- and post-World War II eras, the dance segment of Physical Education served as the seed of the current Department of World Arts and Cultures -- housed in what was then known as the Women's Gym. In 1953, Alma Hawkins was hired to head the dance "unit" and to extend its reach.

With a doctorate from Columbia University Teacher's College and 20 years of teaching and curriculum development under her belt, Hawkins had been recruited by UCLA because of her groundbreaking work in creativity (with educational philosopher Harold Rugg) and a strong background in modern dance. A contemporary of Martha Graham and Doris Humphrey, she had studied at the Bennington School of the Dance in Vermont, the direct progenitor of the famous American Dance Festival.

According to an interview conducted for the UCLA Oral History Project in 1981, Hawkins arrived at UCLA without "any big dreams about dance. I just knew that I was supposed to come in and help develop [the dance unit]."

By 1957, however, this small but famously forceful woman, who believed in joint decision-making through the then-novel concept of "group process," had spearheaded the creation of a lively dance major, albeit still under the aegis of physical education. When in the early 1960s a new College of Fine Arts was formed as an umbrella for Theater, Art and Music, the campus Committee on Education Policy invited Hawkins to bring along dance as well. Thus, in 1962, UCLA became the first university in the U.S. with an autonomous dance department.

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