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Winter 1999

All the World's a Stage
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It is not unusual for WAC grads and undergrads to feel that they've lost their moorings in the swirl of experimentation and anti-disciplinary thinking that characterize the department. But this is also a place where students -- Parijat Desai, for example -- can make big breakthroughs.

As an M.F.A. choreography student, the Indian-born, American-bred Desai worked to find a bridge between her Indian heritage and her modern-dance training. For her final M.F.A. concert, she created a new hybrid choreographic form that gestures toward Bharata Natyam, a classical dance of India, even as it incorporates notions of narrative structure and movement exploration from postmodern dance. The Los Angeles Times took note, describing Desai at her recent performances at Highways in Santa Monica as "a major talent who bears watching."

As Peter Sellars, the famous director of opera and theater and a professor in WAC, has asserted, "We have to insist that art retain its complexity, because in our society now all the social questions that confront us don't have simple solutions anymore." Appropriately, then, WAC is a very complex place indeed.

The stream of fresh energy bubbling up in the department might have gone unnoticed within this sprawling university were it not for two things: Kaufman?s generous gift and the salutary choice of Moore Ruble Yudell as the firm to redesign the building?s interior. Larger endeavors than this have failed to establish homes capable of supporting their visions. But for WAC, with its focus on the body and on breaking down the walls between disciplines and cultures, the physical interpretation of the department?s mandate emerges as particularly crucial.

When at a recent faculty retreat Waterman announced that architectural firms were being solicited to bid on the job, many faculty were crestfallen, assuming that without magical intervention on the part of the university we would be doomed to live in the architectural equivalent of a parking garage. But the university, Dean Daniel Neuman and the chair have done right by the department, hiring a company headed by a serious thinker who essentially wrote the book on the interaction between bodies and architectural space.

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