All the World's a Stage
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Mitoma, who subsequently took over the program, had been an undergraduate
dance major at UCLA in 1968 when anti-war protestors "were storming
down the Men's Gym doors." She earned her M.A. in dance ethnology
at UCLA and was asked to lead Ethnic Arts in 1982 at a particularly
rocky moment: The Academic Senate had just voted to disestablish
the program due in part to low enrollment.
a brief reprieve by the Senate, Mitoma set about revitalizing the
program. "We got political," Mitoma recalls. "We felt that Ethnic
Arts must be a degree because no one else was offering this curriculum"
-- which, from the beginning, focused on interdisciplinary education,
issues of diversity, community engagement and thinking globally
instead of locally. "These were new notions at the time," she continues,
"and we thought this should be the most important program on campus
because these were the most important ideas."
annual budget during Mitoma's first year was $300, a carryover from
the days when Hawkins had convinced university administrators to
green-light the program by arguing that it could be run on a shoestring.
But eventually the university proffered a $60,000 grant spread over
three years, and a vital cohort of new students began to join the
program thrived, and in the late 1980s, Mitoma suggested a name
change -- to World Arts and Cultures -- as a way to avoid the negative
connotations of the word "ethnic." But the new title also served
as a declaration of the curriculum's global aspirations: For many
students the program became a safe haven, providing a place to learn
about issues of diversity and how to become effective community
1995 merger of dance and WAC, then, amounted to a rejoining of the
original dance major with its spin-off ethnic arts program, with
the renamed offspring coming back to swallow its mother whole. At
the beginning of the 1990s, WAC had been on the rise with talk of
imminent departmental status, while the Dance Department was falling
into disarray. "You could feel the weight, the heaviness, about
the place," recalls Mitoma, who was called in to serve as interim
chair of dance.