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Winter 1999

All the World's a Stage
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To translate these principles into the classroom, the faculty of WAC brings to the program a diverse wealth of experience and a global perspective. Christopher Waterman -- chair of the department -- has, for example, focused his life's work on the popular arts of sub-Saharan Africa and has conducted research on popular music of the Yoruba people of Nigeria. Peter Nabokov teaches courses in vernacular architecture, studying everyday structures in Native America and South India rather than more obviously impressive edifices. Overall, the department might best be described as eclectic, comprising scholars in folklore, anthropology, political science, art history, art criticism, choreography, dance ethnology, education and therapy.

The overlap of dance and humanities also means that dance training in WAC is regularly buttressed by serious attention to cultural context.

"Many dance genres taught at WAC belong to cultural complexes that include not only other arts, such as music, poetry, song, imagery and drama, but also particular secular and sacred philosophies," WAC professor Marta Savigliano explains. "We are committed to teaching our students the historical, cultural and political background associated to the dance techniques of their interest."

The environment created by this loose set of shared principles and by the focus on cultural context has been salutary in attracting dynamic new humanities faculty who do not want to be confined by the traditional walls inhibiting communication between fields of study. Virtually all the new faculty identify themselves as misfits in their established disciplines, and that's the way they like it.

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