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USC Kaufman School of Dance unveils unique curriculum

School takes a big step forward

The USC Kaufman School of Dance is taking a major step forward as it unveils its groundbreaking curriculum on the school’s website.

Founded in 2012 with a transformational gift by philanthropist Glorya Kaufman, USC Kaufman is the first new school to be established at USC in more than 40 years. A state-of-the-art dance complex will break ground on the University Park Campus this spring, and the first cohort of Bachelor of Fine Arts dance majors will enroll in fall 2015.

The school combines a conservatory environment with the academic rigor of a major private research institution. Its new four-year Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) professional degree has been designed to prepare the artist, the innovator and the entrepreneur. The degree, while developing dancers and choreographers, includes classes in new media and career skills for the 21st century.

Interdisciplinary study is assured through two unique partnerships, allowing students to collaborate with faculty and students at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and the USC Thornton School of Music. Students in the BFA program will be able to select a specialization in cinematic arts or music during their junior and senior years.

A third campus partnership with the Brain and Creativity Institute at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences will investigate the cognitive and neural aspects of dance. Founded by world-renowned neuroscientists Antonio Damasio and Hanna Damasio, the institute has become a leading center for the study of creativity in the arts.

USC Kaufman also will collaborate with off-campus institutions through partnerships with the Cedars-Sinai/USC Glorya Kaufman Dance Medicine Center, dedicated to dance medicine, and Glorya Kaufman Presents Dance at the Music Center, one of the leading presenters and commissioners of dance on the West Coast.

Students will have unprecedented access to visiting dance companies in residence at Glorya Kaufman Presents Dance at the Music Center in downtown Los Angeles. Thanks to an exclusive partnership with that organization, each visiting dance company will work with students in master classes covering professional development and artistic performance. By the time USC Kaufman students graduate, they will have interacted personally with many of the world’s leading dance companies.

Three guiding beliefs

USC Kaufman’s motto is “The New Movement,” which incorporates three guiding beliefs. First, dancers will immerse themselves in a variety of dance styles and stay abreast of technological changes, such as animation, that will impact the dance world in the future.

“We want a dancer to develop a curious mind about an evolving and dynamic art form,” said USC Kaufman Dean Robert A. Cutietta.

Second, the school offers a conservatory quality of dance instruction embedded in a broader liberal arts education.

“The vibrant liberal arts education provided by USC, among the best in the world, will help develop dancers who have a depth of understanding of the human condition,” Cutietta noted.

And third, USC Kaufman is grounded in the realities of the physically demanding dance profession in which performing careers are often cut short by injury.

“Understanding the means of staying healthy will prolong a performing career, and understanding the workings of the industry will allow dancers career options long after they have left the stage,” Cutietta said. “A lifelong career in dance will begin here.”

Jodie Gates, an internationally respected dancer, choreographer and educator, is the school’s vice dean and director. Gates, who holds the academic title of professor, joined the school in August  and was primarily responsible for imagining and creating this new approach to dance scholarship.

She said that knowledge in cinematic arts, multimedia platforms, career entrepreneurship and musicality is increasingly as important to the dancer as exposure to choreography, technique, repertory and performance.

“Dancers today have to be versatile hybrids,” she said, “able to connect the dots between ballet and urban folk dance [hip-hop], and learn how to apply choreography to stage, film, television and mobile devices.”

Gates said she was energized by the opportunity to create a program from the ground up, unencumbered by previous requirements. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime creative opportunity,” she said.


Interdisciplinary study is assured through two unique partnerships, allowing students to collaborate with faculty and students at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and the USC Thornton School of Music. (Photo/Ian Evenstar)

In addition to this interdisciplinary approach, a core value of the school is to provide opportunities for the entire student population to learn dance. USC Kaufman currently offers individual classes open to all USC students in technique, performance, choreography, production, theory and dance history. These courses accommodate dancers at all levels and abilities. New dance minors will be offered soon and will include dance in entertainment and dance in popular culture, which includes urban folk dance history and dance on film.

Prospective BFA students may start applying to USC Kaufman in late summer. Applications can be downloaded from the website.

The school’s full curriculum is on the site.

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USC Kaufman School of Dance unveils unique curriculum

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