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About Dance Studies

The Dance Studies Program at California State University San Marcos (CSUSM) is committed to offering students an understanding of contemporary dance practices and performance within an ever-changing social and political context. Curricular offerings are committed to the convergence of: 

  1. Physical practice
  2. Critical analysis
  3. Cultural respect

Through performance projects, collaborative-based learning, and community engagement, students become more responsible citizens with a heightened awareness of the value of dance and embodied research. 

Dance Studies emerged in 2001, with the very first Dance Tenure Track faculty hire, Dr. Karen Schaffman in the position of "Collaborator for the Visual & Performing Arts Department. Upon her arrival there were just 3 courses listed in the catalog. We now have over 20 dance/special topics courses as part of our course offerings with 9-12 courses being offered every semester. In 2004, CSUSM created the opportunity for students to minor in Dance Studies and the Dance Studies program is continuing to expand into a dynamic and robust community on the CSUSM campus-in 2017, Dance Studies became a Program in the School of Arts. We are working diligently with the Dean’s Office to establish Dance Studies as a major within the next couple of years.  

Why "Dance Studies?" 

Dance Studies emerged as an academic field in the early 1980s in the U.K. and U.S. The need was to create a title that encompassed the intersections of the analysis and understanding of dance practice with regards to cultural studies, critical theory and identity politics.  At CSUSM, we apply this approach along with embodied practice to understand and appreciate dance as a creator and indicator of political, social and historical significance. This approach advocates for dance as a meaningful endeavor and the depth of dance as an experiential cultural phenomenon. Movement is knowledge. 

 At CSUSM, Social Somatics has been infused into many courses as the basis of learning. Social Somatics is a practice-based approach of understanding our unique identities with regards to our unique anatomies. Historical context is also central to dancing at CSUSM. In choreographer Deborah Hay's words, we invite the "the past, present and future at once." By honoring ourselves today and our ancestries of yesterday, we strive to cultivate an atmosphere that is open and deeply respectful of our differences. In this way, we can collaborate to build a better future-one that possesses a physical awareness and appreciation of the diversity of individual human experiences.    

CSUSM's Community and Philosophy 

Dance with the body you have is rooted in everything that we do. Our aim is to break normative assumptions about who a dancer, what a dancer looks like and who gets to be seen dancing.  Everyone and every BODY is welcome and invited to join us-we want students to realize that they are truly amazing and unique. Together, we can break the societal norms of what a dancer should like or how a dancer should move, no matter the size, no matter the color, no matter the sex, no matter the sexual orientation. 

 At CSUSM, we expand upon the typical definition of dance by inviting experimental and improvisational approaches to gain a deeper appreciation and create a deeper connection to dance. We invite the known and unknown, we embrace uncertainty as a space of learning. Whether the studio mirrors are used or not, we remind ourselves that the reflection is not the mirror, but the reflection is in the work is Collaboration, Creativity, Humanizing through Sensation and Somatic Awareness as well as Practice.  Collaboration is about learning and growing together. It requires deep listening and taking/giving/sharing responsibility. Creativity opens imagination and implements our visions. Somatic awareness can sensitize ourselves from the inside out. We manifest form rather than mimic form.  

 Dance offers life skills. Skills that provide for survival and potential change in this challenging world.