World Arts and Cultures/Dance

Scope and Objectives

Defined by a dynamic blend of theory and practice, the Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance (WACD) is led by a renowned faculty of scholars, activists, curators, filmmakers, and choreographers dedicated to critical cross-cultural analysis and art-making. The department is the place to make dances, explore digital media, curate exhibitions, become an arts activist, and develop scholarly expertise in culture and the arts. Multiple disciplines and artistic approaches are used to encourage students to position their work within broad social contexts.

In the World Arts and Cultures BA arts activism, visual cultures, and critical ethnographies are emphasized. The Dance BA integrates composition, training, and improvisation, while challenging students to locate dance politically, culturally, and historically. The MFA in Dance promotes adventurous choreographic inquiry and engages with global discourses around the body and performance. The MA/PhD programs address theories of corporeality, performance, visuality, and culture, and offer interdisciplinary training that fosters independent research. The Art and Global Health Center enables undergraduate and graduate students to explore art as a life-saving activity.

The path-breaking programs of the department are committed to academic excellence, diversity, freedom of expression, activism, and social transformation through the arts.

The undergraduate program offers majors in Dance and in World Arts and Cultures.

The BA in Dance thoroughly integrates learning to dance, learning to make dances, and critical interrogation of dance as a cultural practice. Students study a variety of dance techniques from around the world throughout their studies. They enroll in a four-term sequence in dance composition, with additional opportunities to participate in the creation of their own dances, as well as working as dancers in the creation of new works by faculty members and visiting artists. Further, they engage in a core of four courses in the study of scholarly discourse around the body and dance, launching a critical inquiry into their own study of bodily practices, internalization of the embodied experience, and how bodily ideas and embodied experiences are interpreted and communicated outwardly and interpersonally, both locally and globally.

The BA in World Arts and Cultures highlights culture and representation as key perspectives for understanding creativity in local and global arenas. Three streams of cross-cultural and interdisciplinary study are available: arts activism, critical ethnographies, and visual cultures. These streams define the department commitment to a range of practices, including ethnography, activisms, visual and related expressive arts, documentary and short films, museum and curatorial studies, performance, and other creative perspectives and methods. Courses combine theory and practice and are grounded in culturally diverse artistic expressions.

All students are encouraged to complement the required set of core and elective departmental courses with others offered across campus, such as courses from ethnic and area studies programs, and may organize their course of study in relation to particular interests or professional goals (e.g., international comparative studies, intercultural studies, education, area specializations such as Africa, Asia, or Latin America, minority discourse, gender studies).

The graduate program offers Master of Arts and PhD degrees in Culture and Performance and a Master of Fine Arts in Dance, with an emphasis on choreography. Culture and performance students research communities, cultures, and transnational movements through heritage and globalization studies, multivocal ethnographies, dance and theories of corporeality and embodiment, visual and material culture, critical museum and curatorial studies, documentary practice and Internet interventions, as well as arts activism and interdisciplinary art-making. The MFA in Dance offers opportunities to engage multiple movement practices as students work on pioneering research in the form of new choreography. Students may focus on media, dance studies theory, and theories of the body as supplements to their work as choreographers. The Art and Global Health Center within the department presents further opportunity for learning and practice.

While operating with considerable independence, the two graduate degree areas are unified by the department’s common concern for aesthetic production, corporeality and performance, the dynamics of tradition, and culture-building in contemporary societies. Connections are forged between critical theory and artistic practices, and attention is given to the changing social roles and responsibilities of artists, practitioners, and scholars of the arts in the U.S. and worldwide.

Undergraduates and graduates have excelled in fields including technology and the arts, videography, documentary work, public service, education, theatrical/events production, performing arts, urban planning, law, environmental activism, public health, and medicine. They have made careers in community nonprofits and activist groups, government arts agencies, museums, and arts foundations. Potential careers for MA, PhD, and MFA graduates also include positions in research universities and colleges, and MFA graduates are active as choreographers/performers in their own companies or with other professional organizations.