Cheng Family Fund supports collaborative BFA senior projects

April 9, 2019

two women speaking surrounded by dance photographs

For her senior project, Mary Mallaney collaborated with fellow classmates for a gallery experience at USC Kaufman.

USC Kaufman’s first class of BFA dance majors will graduate this May. In the inaugural installment of senior projects, each will present their own creation in mid-April. USC Kaufman Board of Councilors member Jennifer Cheng and the Cheng Family Fund support the class’ senior projects and presentations. The two established the Collaborative Projects Fund in 2016. Its primary purpose is to support culminating projects that involve collaborations.

Ideas of their own

The USC Kaufman senior projects have an unusual set of requirements. The projects must reflect both the BFA curriculum and the students’ career goals. Each student has explored a unique permeation of concentration units with the BFA courses, specializing their focus in dance. In addition, several students have obtained minors and even progressive degrees in other departments. With a wide spectrum of interests that span the university, opportunity for collaboration and project diversity is abundant.

Among the 33 seniors, projects have taken many forms. From software startups to mental health programs, each student has found a way to connect their non-dance passions with their movement studies. Students will present condensed summaries of their work in a TED Talk-style program this week. Each will give a brief overview of the projects they have been refining for the last year.

Supportive stipends

The Cheng Family Fund ensured that each student had a stipend to help provide resources for collaboration. Since the fund is endowed, future BFA seniors will continue to receive a stipend for these projects. Whether the project necessitates space rental, art supplies or even digital resources, the allocation of the stipend is left up to the individual student. The fund serves primarily to facilitate the collaboration, whether it be with students, artists or faculty from other disciplines and goes toward new work.

Jennifer Cheng has a history embedded in the interdisciplinary Los Angeles arts scene. She is quite familiar with the network of artists the city houses. As president of the Cheng Family Foundation and founder/artistic director of Dance Conservatory of Pasadena, she remains involved in the local dance community. Previously, Cheng was the executive director at DIAVOLO | Architecture in Motion. Her career experience as a former professional dancer and practicing attorney afford her a unique perspective on giving and the arts. She has also created an endowed scholarship fund at USC Kaufman.

Creation culmination

While some seniors host events that feature their own perspective on dance, others build websites and plans, and some even write and produce film content. In order to get a glimpse of each senior’s project, the USC Kaufman faculty will gather in the Large Performance Studio (along with friends and family) from April 10-12 for grouped presentations. Essentially, each student will share an excerpt of their creation and speak in-depth about the process and career relevance. In their last semester at USC Kaufman, these seniors will embody their own ideas about The New Movement, introducing the products of their soon-to-be completed BFA in Dance.

By Celine Kiner