Dance school welcomes first class this semester

This fall, the Glorya Kaufman School of Dance will welcome its first class of freshmen majoring in dance.

Despite students’ presence, the Glorya Kaufman International Dance Center will not be open for another year. Instead, students will mainly practice in a renovated studio in the Physical Education Building.

Kaufman Vice Dean Jodie Gates said the building will be worth the wait.

“It is a beautiful space with ample light, high ceilings, a sprung dance floor covered with a marley flooring specific for dance classes,” Gates said. “This dance studio also includes a piano, new mirrors and ballet barres. We have also renovated an additional space in the Allan Hancock Foundation Building that serves Kaufman by providing a dance studio with a sprung marley floor, mirrors and new ballet barres for our non-major student population.”

Though having dance majors will be new this fall, the Kaufman School has served non-majors and minors for the past two years.

“Currently we have several programs and courses in technique, training and critical studies for non-majors,” Gates said. “Since the Kaufman School opened its doors in 2013, we have served the campus by offering theory and practical courses in a variety of dance styles and interests. We offer two minor programs including ‘Dance in Popular Culture: Hip Hop, Urban and Social Dances’ as well as a ‘Minor in Dance.’ Additionally, we offer General Education courses that begin in the fall and have over 1,000 students enrolled in dance courses each year and over 45 students minoring in dance.”

Rob Cutietta, dean of the Thornton School of Music and the Kaufman School of Dance, noted that not having the dance building has halted some non-dance major classes.

“The only disadvantage [of the Physical Education Building] is that we had to eliminate some classes for non-dance majors to make space for the majors,” Cutietta said. “We will bring those back when the new building opens.”

Cutietta further noted how Kaufman has partnered with both Thornton and the School of Cinematic Arts to help integrate its students into the greater USC artistic community.

“Dance majors will choose to work with musicians or filmmakers/animators in their junior and senior years to truly make great art. Also, all students will take one music and one cinematic arts class during their first two years,” he said. “These partnerships are very important and were embedded into the curriculum.”

This spirit of collaboration is something Kaufman has made one of its goals.

“One of USC Kaufman’s core values is to provide an interdisciplinary education within the four-year intensive program in preparation for a career as a professional dancer, a choreographer for stage or cinematic arts, or an artist exploring the relationship between dance and music,” Gates said. “USC Kaufman develops the artist, innovator and entrepreneur so the curriculum is designed to cross over with business and science as well as all the arts.”

Satori Folkes-Stone, a freshman majoring in dance, said that though she was nervous at first, talking to faculty and saw their determination to make the new dancers great.

“It was kind of scary for me in the beginning because I [didn’t] know what to expect,” Folkes-Stone said. “After time and after going to our first reception and meeting our faculty and hearing what their mission was for the school and program and us as dancers, I think I was really confident that because it’s the first class, we’re actually going to have the best experience because [the faculty is] so adamant about making us successful at the end of our four years.”

Though the Kaufman School has been serving dance students already, Cutietta noted that the pioneering freshman class is special because of how diverse and well trained they are.

“They are different because they are all gifted and trained artists in dance,” Cutietta said.“Much like the music majors, these students bring years of training with them that is unique to their major.”

Gates agreed, and also lauded the adventurousness, physical talent and boldness of these students.

“The first class of students all have a curious mind and are open to exploration. They have the obvious physical talent coupled with a unique signature style,” Gates said.“They are that hybrid dancer/athlete that will help us define the next generation of dance makers.”

Folkes-Stone said she feels like she made a good school choice.

“I feel very really confident that things are going to go well,” Folkes-Stone said. ”I feel like I’m in good hands.”

Sebastian Vega contributed to this report.