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UCLA Magazine Winter 2004
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Dance in the Time of AIDS
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Winter 2004
Art in the Time of AIDS
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“David has a great appreciation for the cross-cultural aspects of dance,” says Elizabeth Zimmer, dance writer and editor at The Village Voice. Zimmer and Gere co-chaired a Los Angeles conference that coincided with the L.A. Arts Festival and featured many ethnic performances. It was a perfect duet for Gere.

“He was always interested in diversity,” Zimmer adds. “He wanted to train (dance) critics to deal with diverse materials and cultures; to fight against the New York-centric attitude. In another life he might have been a minister. He’s a soother and a community builder.”

"Art is the perfect way to get a message across to anyone, from the most educated person to the most illiterate."

Even today, Gere pushes the definition of dance to include not only action that occurs in the traditional stage setting, but also street performances, where even protests become choreography. He addresses these themes in his book How to Make Dances in an Epidemic: Tracking Choreography in the Age of AIDS (University of Wisconsin Press, 2004).

Gere earned an M.A. in music from the University of Hawaii and then a Ph.D. in dance history and theory at UC Riverside. He first came to UCLA in 1993, invited by WAC founder Judy Mitoma ’70, M.A. ’75 to give a talk about Meredith Monk, a New York-based choreographer and the subject of Gere’s master’s thesis. The following year Mitoma invited him back as a visiting assistant professor. Academia, he found, was his calling.

“It was fun and exciting to be with a strong core of people focusing on dance,” he explains. And at a large university, there were many opportunities for cross-pollinating disciplines.

“David is a gifted and generous teacher,” says Chris Waterman, dean of the School of the Arts and Architecture. Gere, he says, easily blends art with scholarship and contemporary cultural issues. “He likes to find ways to get students to take theoretical knowledge and put it into practice.”

Gere has also been skillful at “connecting the diffuse pieces of the university, placing the arts at the center of the equation,” Waterman continues. “That’s the real power of this idea [of Make Art/Stop AIDS]. He enjoys crossing boundaries.”


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