Breaking the Dance Stereotype

Diane Oh | New University

A showcase of upcoming dance projects and a look at some 0f UCI’s very own dancers.

For too long dance has suffered a variety of stereotypes, ranging from frilly costumes, men in tights and obsolete music to more dramatic clichés like catfights and bizarre sexual politics offstage (“Black Swan,” really?). Insiders know that the dance world has improved considerably on all fronts over the last several decades, and local artists (hint: fellow students) are up to some amazing projects that could use a spotlight. So, over the coming year here at New U, you will be shown a daring, truer, greater vision of dance that transcends stereotype, all from showcasing the incredible dancers our university has and the projects underway here at UCI’s Dance Department.

What will happen when we begin to look at dance as an intensely athletic art form rather than toothpick pixies flitting about? Or if we saw dance as a rich and complex language, or a profound intersection of space, time, geometry and physics (the timing of music, the space of the stage, the lines created in the choreography and the way the dancer uses gravity)? Or what if it was just a different and creative substitute for the go-out-to-dinner-and-a-movie routine? A well-thought, well-danced show offers something to everyone across the demographic rainbow. As it so happens, UC Irvine produces shows of such quality every quarter, all for prices friendly to broke college students.

Some introductions must follow, thus, to members of UCI’s flourishing dance community. We decided to interview a wonderfully diverse group of undergraduate and graduate students about their plans and projects in the coming year and their advice on what to keep an eye out for. This being the first in a series, the New U will continue to feature these dancers again (and others too), exploring how the undergraduates focus on becoming versatile, stronger and better artists, while the graduates go about their research, teaching and choreography.

Name: Caitlin Hicks
Year: Sophomore
Level (out of 5): 4
Hometown: Encinitas, CA

New U: Why did you choose UC Irvine’s dance program as opposed to that of another schools?

CH: “Firstly, Irvine’s dance program has amazing resources – beautiful studios, amazing accompanists, wonderful teachers with varying backgrounds, etc. Secondly, it stood out among other dance programs because of its balance between classical ballet and modern/contemporary dance — often, universities favor one strongly over the other. Finally, it came wrapped up in a great UC school, which meant I would be guaranteed first-rate academic opportunities as well.”

Name: Karen Wing
Year: Senior
Level (out of 5): 5
Hometown: Penngrove, California

New U: Could you explain to New U readers what Etude is, what it’s like to dance in Etude and, if you know anything, something about Etude’s upcoming projects?

KW: I am now going into my third year with Donald McKayle’s Etude Ensemble. It is a student-based modern dance company at UCI that performs Donald McKayle’s new choreography and works from his repertoire. Working with Mr. McKayle has been truly inspiring, as he is both a dance legend and just a wonderful person. (Donald McKayle is a nationally renowned “Dance Treasure” and has been honored multiple times during his career for his contributions to dance). He pushes his dancers to find meaning in their movements and always reminds us that dance is more that just the steps. This year, the Etude Ensemble will be performing in the faculty dance show “Dance Visions,” as well as several other showings throughout the year.

Name: Jackie Kopcsak
Year: Graduate, entering final year of MFA
Hometown: Seattle, Washington

New U: What projects do you have planned in the coming year? Could you tell us a little about them? Which one(s) are you most excited about?

JK: Fall quarter will be the start of my second (and hopefully final) year in the MFA Program in Dance. For the 10 of us “dance grads” in the Class of 2013, this means it is also thesis year! In addition to a written thesis paper, the majority of us will also be presenting a Thesis Concert. I’m really excited about putting this performance together; I’m planning on presenting a one-act story ballet in the Claire Trevor Theatre sometime in May 2013. It’s going to be a lot of work, but I’m really looking forward to getting started!

Name: Vincent Hardy
Year: Graduate, entering final year of MFA
Hometown: San Diego, California

New U: What projects do you have planned in the coming year? Could you tell us a little about them? Which one(s) are you most excited about?

VH: I’m really excited about my thesis concert. Mainly because it’s my life story, all fit into one (work): everything from birth to now, fitting it in with my beliefs, my faith and putting it on stage. To share that with other people, I have to take time and research to package it really well, to offer it as a gift to people.