graduate courses 2010-present
Introduction to Dance Studies
This course introduces the history, development, and prominent debates within the contemporary field of dance studies. It exposes students to critical literature and choreography and trains students in the movement description and analytical writing necessary for success in their courses of study. It is required of all 1st year students in the PhD program in Dance Studies, preparing them for their qualifying exam, and 2nd year students in the MFA in Dance, who complete two components of their candidacy exams in this course. The course is designed as part seminar and part writing workshop, moving between theoretical considerations of dance and practical exercises in writing about dance.
Analyzing Movement: From the Cellular to the Social
This graduate course in dance studies will introduce students to historical and contemporary approaches to analyzing movement, beginning very close to the body with scholarship on sensuous perception and somatic practices, and gradually moving toward the choreographic analysis of movement at a societal scale. Topics of readings and discussion may include somatic awareness, expressive culture, documentation, transmission, infrastructure, and social movements. Students can expect literature to draw from cultural studies, performance philosophy, sociology, spatial history, philosophy of science, and media studies in combination with dance studies, which will be a consistent through-line. Assignments may include analyses of choreographies or movement practices, textual exegesis, discussion and scholarly critique, and class presentations.
Bodies on the Line: Politics and Performance
This interdisciplinary graduate seminar begins with the proposition that all politics are a politics of the body. We will therefore set out to examine how (human) bodies are framed and deployed for political functions, how they circulate or are constrained, and how people choose to put their bodies on the line as testimony of their political investments. We will draw from multiple fields of inquiry, including performance studies, critical cultural theory, political philosophy, as well as theater and dance performance. We will further consider how political and performing bodies negotiate identities, display themselves or are displayed for others, protest social inequality, and experience pain–even death. We will bring a choreographic lens to bear on each of these topics, along with a set of analytical tools attuned to the perils of having one’s body on the line. Final projects may be theoretical or applied research.
Ethnographies of Dance and Performance: Global Dance Studies
International in scope, this course considers seriously the question of what it might mean to pursue Global Dance Studies within the larger context of dance and performance research. It thus focuses on non-‐Western and/or non-‐concert dance forms. Readings include ethnographic histories, critical ethnographies, experimental ethnographic narratives, as well as texts that employ historical, post-‐colonial, trans-‐national, and other frames toward non-‐ethnographic ends. In addition to reading monographs by Adria Imada, Ramón Rivera-‐Servera, Priya Srinivasan, Diyah Larasati, and Lisa Gilman, as well as essays and book chapters selected by the professor, students will also determine some of the course content so as to better tailor the course to their own research interests.
Ethnographies of Dance and Performance: Affect and Sensation
This course is an experiment. Our investigations will be guided by a hypothesis that when combined, ethnographic thinking and choreographic thinking form a powerful creative and analytical force. This course is about an interdisciplinary conversation: choreography, composition, performance, ethnography. Each is attuned in its own way to the finer details of living—rhythms, sensations, sounds, and smells of everydayness, movements of bodies in their elements, meanings of proximity and distance, subtle and therefore profound differences in timings and spacings, and negotiations that take place in secret, invisible, or abandoned places. They each bring a richness of attention to the body as a cumulative history of sensuous experience, a repository of affect (feeling), a database of sensation, and, above all, a social relation.
Dance Improvisation: Being Here, Being With, Being Together
This course is for graduate and undergradues students who would like to deepen their own improvisation practice. Bringing artistic practices and philosophical discourses into conversation, we will explore improvisation as a practice of living and being through which we can encounter political and philosophical issues that face us now: Namely, how can we live together?
undergraduate courses 2010-present
Intermediate Ballet Technique
“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” Samuel Beckett, Westward Ho (1983)
This is an intermediate ballet technique course. Our focus is on further deepening our physical and intellectual understanding of ballet technique and finding opportunities for artistry and refinement. As the Beckett quote above suggests, we are not using this class to attempt achievement of an unattainable balletic ideal of aesthetic perfection. We will be engaging ballet as a practice, which is to say, a movement vocabulary that is not mastered so much as attempted over and over. In our attempts to “fail better,” we will be integrating principles of “deliberate practice”—a set of tools that assist in improving performance by focusing our attention and intention on our practice. This is not a class in which students can just “go through the motions.” Martha Graham famously said it takes ten years to make a dancer. More recently, Malcolm Gladwell has argued that it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to make an expert. This course does not aim at perfection, but it does aim at supporting students’ development of expertise as dancers, movers, and performers.
Spectacles of Agency and Desire: Digital Dance Histories and the Burlesque Stage
How do we do history digitally? Built around the Charles H. McCaghy Collection of Exotic Dance, this course examines the politics of women’s bodies on the popular stage in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in order to grapple with the methodological problems and possibilities of digital dance histories. The course will function as half-lecture, half-lab, grounding students in the study of erotic/exotic dance as forms situated in historical and cultural contexts. Showcasing the material in the McCaghy collection, final research projects will take the form of a collaboratively produced online exhibit, which will include historical and biographical material, visualizations such as maps and timelines, and other elements according to student interest and expertise. Final class project: http://scalar.usc.edu/works/spectacles-of-agency-and-desire/index
Dance in Global Contexts
This general education course surveys dance forms from around the globe. This course in no way attempts to be exhaustive, but rather offers insights into the religious, social, and political functions of dances in their historical and contemporary practices. Diverse dance forms are presented in a survey structure, chosen not as a buffet for sampling world dances, but for the specific questions they raise. What symbolic work occurs as dance figures into nation building? How and why are dance practices repressed, and how and why do they offer resistance? What role does dance play in recovering from the trauma of war? How does dance circulate through global tourism? Dance is not just a theater art. Though lovely and exciting to watch, dance does more than give viewers aesthetically pleasurable experiences. Dance does work in the world, and just what kind of cultural labor dance does is what we are setting out in this class to explore.
Ballet and Modern Dance Histories of the 20th Century
This course covers 20th century ballet and modern dance history, focusing primarily on choreographers in the United States and Europe. In laying out this history, we will consider canonical choreographers and works, but we will also analyze and trouble the history and the works of which it consists. We will locate choreographers and their works within larger historical and socio-‐political contexts in order to grasp not only their aesthetic or artistic importance, but also to understand how dance resonates with and responds to its social and historical situation.