All the World's a Stage
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the idea of merging the two entities was first floated in 1994,
resistance was palpable, based on understandable fears of loss of
identity and the dilution of established programs. But Mitoma says
that she could see "that the remedy for what was ailing dance --
a lack of connection to community and the outside world, and a lack
of creativity, which was true of dance all across the country --
could come from the WAC Program. And I also thought that it was
time to inaugurate a dance department that was different from 98
percent of the dance departments in this country."
some may have thought it a betrayal, Mitoma adds, "I thought it
was an opportunity to again be at the forefront of the field."
of the most frustrating and formative rites of passage for new students
in the department is the frequent need to define what the field
of World Arts and Cultures stands for, a notoriously slippery task.
"When you study English, nobody needs to ask what that means," one
student offered in class last year. "But when you say you're majoring
in WAC, you get these weird looks, almost as if you were an academic
if a definition of WAC is difficult to pin down, this is due, at
least in part, to the fact that WAC is as much an anti-discipline
as a discipline. Fittingly, the three key features of the department
resound like a manifesto. In WAC, the popular and folk arts are
placed on equal terms with the high or classical arts. Ballet, for
example, is treated as just another dance genre, as part of a European
arts diaspora rather than the font from which all movement flows.
Secondly, the human body is the starting place in virtually all
WAC approaches. Even when the art being studied is of a material
nature, such as architecture or visual art, WAC attends to the process
through which the material is made, and the action of the bodies
that make it. Finally, community engagement is viewed as so crucial
that it transcends the separation between dance and cultural studies,
between theory and practice. All the WAC faculty, whether they be
ethnographers, theorists or choreographers, place enormous value
on the application of WAC studies to life beyond the university.