January 18, 2019

UCR celebrates 25 years of dance and scholarship

A Feb. 9 event commemorates the Department of Dance’s critical dance studies program. The day-long celebration will feature performances, talks, and roundtable discussions

Author: Sandra Baltazar Martínez
January 18, 2019

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Since 1993, when UC Riverside’s Department of Dance became one of the first in the U.S. to establish a doctoral program in critical dance studies, faculty have challenged students by teaching them the best of both worlds: scholarship and creativity.

To commemorate the program’s 25thanniversary, the department will hold a day-long celebration with the theme “Looking forward, looking back” on Saturday, Feb. 9. The UCR community and the general public are invited to attend the free talks and performances, all set to take place at the Barbara and Art Culver Center of the Arts in downtown Riverside. The celebration will conclude with cocktails and a DJ dance party.

“What’s unique to this department is specifically dance studies, as opposed to performance studies. It intertwines scholarly research and performance,” said Taisha Paggett, an assistant professor of dance and co-organizer of the event along with Anusha Kedhar, also an assistant professor of dance. “This is a celebration of the graduate program as a whole. We have an MFA and a Ph.D. that very much speak to each other.”

The department has achieved world-class status as the pre-eminent site for intellectual inquiry into dance, corporeality, movement, choreography, and performance. Its doctoral program was previously known as dance history and theory.

“Twenty-five years of the doctorate in critical dance studies means UCR’s Department of Dance has positioned itself as a world leader with a signature program like few others,” said Milagros Peña, dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. “This means our students are taught by a distinguished faculty who engage across borders broadly defined and filtered through critical lenses, offering perspectives and experiences that challenge students in thought and spirit.”

Having a day where many great minds join to discuss what dance studies has to teach academia and beyond, is definitely something worth the time, said Paggett.

Roundtable discussions include topics such as dance and humor, folk dance in the Soviet Union, and embodied performance practices in post-conflict Colombia. Other discussions will cover navigating careers in dance studies; the role dance studies can play in addressing political and environmental crises; borders, sexuality, identity, and migration. Artists and scholars come from the United States, Mexico, the Caribbean, South Korea, among other countries.

The day also includes performances from emerging and established artists. UCR’s current Department of Dance Chai, Joel Smith, will be performing.

UCR faculty published books
Books published by UCR Department of Dance faculty. (UCR)

Both Paggett and Kedhar said because every dance step is a form of expression embodied by history and culture, the celebration’s theme offers an opportunity to visit the department’s past achievements, while setting goals and new visions for the field at large.

“Dance is not just a form of entertainment. It has deep implications for society, for politics, for culture,” Kedhar said. “This celebration is an opportunity to watch dance, but also to think about what dance reveals about our world, and how it might help us re-imagine it.”

Department of Dance faculty highlights:
  • 1993: UCR establishes doctoral program in critical dance studies. Founding faculty include Selma Jeanne Cohen, Susan Foster, Sally Ness, Susan Rose, Christena Schlundt, Fred Strickler, Linda Tomko, and Heidi Gilpin.
  • 1995: Marta Savigliano wins the Congress on Research on Dance’s Outstanding Book Award for her book “Tango and the Political Economy of Passion” (Westview Press, 1995).
  • 1995: Fred Strickler is named the Distinguished Humanities Research Lecturer by the Center for Ideas and Society at UC Riverside.
  • 2003: Wendy Rogers joins the Danspace Project Commission with the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
  • 2008: Jacqueline Shea Murphy wins the De la Torre Bueno Prize for best book in the field of dance studies, Society of Dance History Scholars, for “The People Have Never Stopped Dancing: Native American Modern Dance Histories” (University of Minnesota Press, 2007).
  • 2010: Linda Tomko receives the American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship.
  • 2013: Priya Srinivasan wins the Emory Elliott Book Award from the Center for Ideas and Society at UC Riverside for her book “Sweating Saris: Indian Dance as Transnational Labor” (Temple University Press, 2011).
  • 2015: Taisha Paggett receives the MAP Fund for “School for the Movement of the Technicolor People” via Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (2015).
  • 2016: Anthea Kraut wins the Association for Theatre in Higher Education’s Outstanding Book Award, the Congress on Research in Dance’s Oscar G. Brockett Book Prize for Dance Research, and the Biennial Sally Banes Publication Award from the American Society for Theatre Research for her book, “Choreographing Copyright: Race, Gender, and Intellectual Property Rights in American Dance” (Oxford University Press, 2015).
  • 2017: Jose L. Reynoso receives a UC MEXUS-CONACYT Postdoctoral Research Fellowship to conduct research and writing activities in Mexico City, Mexico.
  • 2017: Imani K. Johnson is awarded a Woodrow Wilson Career Enhancement Fellowship.
  • 2019: Ni’Ja Whitson receives a Creative Capital award.

Visit the UCR Department of Dance to view an entire history of awards, fellowships, and grants.

If You Go

What: UCR Department of Dance – 25thanniversary of doctoral program in critical dance studies

When: Saturday, Feb. 9. Registration begins at 9:30 a.m.

Where: Barbara & Art Culver Center of the Arts, 3834 Main St. in Riverside.

Tickets: Event is free, but early online registration is encouraged.

Full schedule: 25th anniversary

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