Becoming a dance minor: the process, performances, and perks

February 13, 2020

Dancers in brightly colored pants hitting a pose onstage

Students perform in "Baw Diggy," choreographed by Achinta S. McDaniel, at the Elective Experience | Photo by Benjamin Peralta

The Glorya Kaufman International Dance Center is not only home to USC Kaufman dance majors. Step into the building and you’ll also find hundreds of non-major dance students who have enrolled in one of the school’s many technique and lecture courses. Whether you’ve been dancing your whole life or you’ve yet to try your first step, USC Kaufman offers a wide range of levels and styles.

“Our faculty share a deeply-held philosophy that dance is for everyone, regardless of their background or previous training,” said dance minor artistic advisor Jennifer McQuiston Lott. “We work hard to create inviting, safe and creative spaces for every single student to build a relationship with dance.”

Many non-major dance students build this relationship with dance at USC Kaufman. One step further than a non-major course, there are several options for minor programs to accommodate personal preferences. Options include the Dance Minor; the Hip-Hop, Street, and Social Dance Forms Minor; the Dance in Entertainment Minor; and the Choreography for Stage and Screen Minor, with more on the way.

Declaring your dance minor

Declaring a dance minor is a relatively simple process. Students fill out a declaration form and select their program of choice. Then, they’ll meet briefly with Leanna Bremond, USC Kaufman’s minor program advisor. During the meeting, you will discuss the requirements of the program, discuss the perks of being a declared minor, and ask any questions you might have about the program.

Each minor has a unique focus and its own upper division/total unit requirements. Apart from these, dancers can select which USC Kaufman courses will count toward their elective requirements. In this respect, each minor can be personalized to a dancer’s style and interests. This also allows flexibility to work around the students’ major course load and schedule.

“The school has many courses available to non-majors and minors. From four-unit GE courses to technique classes across a broad spectrum of dance forms, including ballet, contemporary, hip-hop, jazz, tap, Bollywood, Gaga, international-style ballroom and Afro-Cuban,” said Lott.

Aside from technique classes, USC Kaufman offers several lecture courses that focus on the anthropological aspect of dance education. Lectures also include discourse on dance in technology, dance on the screen, and more.

“I was so excited by the robust selection of courses that were being offered in the school,” said dance minor Emily Lu. “I was particularly excited about the ones that are focused on history and theory. These were topics that I wasn’t quite exposed to in my previous dance education.”

Courses for minors and non-majors are listed in the USC Course Catalogue, as well as on the USC Kaufman website.

A dance minor’s role in the USC dance community

Once declared, dance minors can reap the many benefits of USC Kaufman’s minor programs. Students enrolled in dance technique courses will perform with non-majors in the Elective Experience. This showcase displays what the students have learned in the dance course throughout the semester. With minor standing also comes casting perks. An exclusive Facebook group provides collaboration opportunities between students in the School of Cinematic Arts, Thornton School of Music and the School of Dramatic Arts. Advisors post casting and choreographic opportunities from the LA dance community here as well, along with master classes, workshops and intensives. Ultimately, USC Kaufman aims to keep minors engaged in the USC dance community, while also serving as a bridge to the Los Angeles dance community, through this group.

Minors can also sign up for priority orchestra tickets for USC Visions and Voices events. And perhaps the most coveted perk: dance minors can reserve studio space in the Glorya Kaufman International Dance Center. There, they can work on course projects and continue to perfect their craft.

Advisor helping student with paper

Cameo Beard with non-major students at Open Floor | Photo by Cecile Oreste

A wide range of dancers and abilities

In offering these resources, USC Kaufman aims to support dancers of all backgrounds and experience. Dance’s physical benefits may be a minor’s motivation for choosing USC Kaufman classes.

“We all know that regular physical exercise improves our overall mental and physical health,” said Lott. Dance offers all of the benefits of physical exercise, while also engaging our ability to problem-solve and improving our balance, coordination and memory.”

USC Kaufman also supports dance minors at the pre-professional level, who chose not to major in college but still want to continue dancing. Lu, who came to USC with a lifetime’s worth of dance training, knew she wanted to continue in college. She particularly enjoyed Jazz B with Professor Saleemah E. Knight. The course, she says, encouraged her as a dance scholar as well as technician.

“Although I’d been doing jazz for many years at that point, I was completely unaware of the dance style’s history, and how its various influences it directly shaped trends in movement,” she said. “Learning jazz dance’s origins and characteristics really clarified my understanding of the dance form. It also proved to be greatly helpful when I took DANC 333: History of Jazz Dance, last semester.”

Weaving dance into major studies

Lu, whose major is in Media Arts + Practice at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, has also found ways to incorporate her dance minor curriculum into her primary field of study.

“When Professor Alison D’Amato showed William Forsythe’s Synchronous Objects in DANC 342: International and Historical Perspectives in Dance, I remember being completely in awe of how the project incorporated other forms of multimedia. It’s a cross section of video, code, 3D modeling and more,” she said.

She found the same intersections in Professor Dawn Stoppiello’s DANC 363: Dancing on the Screen course. Stoppiello explores the symbiotic relationship between dance and media.

“My various dance courses have played a tremendous part in my growing interest to create multimedia works dealing with concepts of space and movement,” said Lu. “My experience at USC Kaufman has revealed to me how multifaceted this art form truly is.”

Auxiliary clubs and communities

Lu is also an active member of Chaotic 3, a dance club on campus that produces high-level hip-hop choreography through evening workshops, rehearsals and competitions. USC houses numerous student dance organizations on campus, across several different styles. Some even travel internationally to present work. Bremond works with student representatives from these dance clubs to form the Dance Club Council, which brings together over 15 groups to promote the spirit of dance to the University Park Campus community.

Chaotic 3 is one of these clubs, and one of many ways to get involved in dance on campus. By working together, USC Kaufman and the Dance Club Council give the dance community at USC space for abundant growth.

“The opportunity to dance is a gift that we give ourselves,” said Lott. “I regularly witness how a little training, mixed with creative and physical challenge, can go a long way to improve a person’s posture, confidence and carriage. It’s great to see students discover that their bodies are malleable and capable, beyond what they may have expected.”

Learn more about USC Kaufman’s dance minor curriculum.

By Celine Kiner