UC San Diego dance students held a meeting on Jan. 19 in Studio 2 at the Molli and Arthur Wagner Building in Roger Revelle College to express their concerns of the pending dance class cuts in the theater and dance curriculum to four full-time faculty members of the dance department and one adjunct faculty member.
The classes being cut include salsa, tap, West African, and jazz. According to John Muir College junior Astrid Espitia, the undergraduate dance student representative, these classes, which mostly are comprised of the world dance category, are the most popular and in high demand for students.
Espitia’s role as the undergraduate dance representative is to “give students a voice” in UC San Diego’s Theatre and Dance department, she helped organize the meeting with some fellow concerned dancers after learning through other students and adjunct faculty members about the class cuts.
“We received news from different students and professors and not from direct faculty that classes were being cut,” Espitia said to the UCSD Guardian. “We asked ourselves, why is this happening? When these are the most popular classes.”
“All of these (dance classes) haven’t been taken seriously,” Espitia stated. “Out of 350 or so students that walk through these doors of this dance building approximately about 300 of them are students in the world dance classes.”
Due to the popularity of these classes, waitlisting is common, explained Espitia.
“It is really hard to get into these classes. People plan their whole time and schedule for their careers just to get in — it’s really difficult,” she added.
A few weeks ago, before the meeting, Espitia and other dance students handed out surveys to students in every dance class to get feedback on whether they thought their voices were being heard in the department and their thoughts on the class cuts.
According to Espitia, the adjunct dance faculty, which includes all the world dance professors, “created some transparency, but even they don’t know all the information as to why this is happening.”
Present at the meeting were Head of undergraduate dance Yolande Snaithe, Head of graduate dance Liam Clancy, full-time faculty members Eric Geiger and Patricia Rincon, and adjunct dance faculty member Alicia Rincon. Students majoring and minoring in dance, and non-major students turned out to the meeting.
“We are trying to establish more of a community but that’s not really going to happen if more students aren’t involved,” Espitia said. “Something that we’ve seen is that many students who would be [majoring or minoring in dance] don’t want to because the curriculum is very geared toward contemporary dance.”
At the meeting, the full-time faculty’s explanation of the dance cuts to the students included funding reasons.
“UCSD is a STEM school. Arts and humanities get very little money, and out of those two, arts gets even less money,” Espitia explained. “And out of arts, the theater and dance department gets even less. Even though they say [theatre and dance] are united, that is not true. Theater gets a lot more money than dance.”
“We can’t even get small basic things. Our rooms are sometimes not very clean; we’ve gotten a few complaints about that. And we’re so far away, it feels like we are an afterthought,” Espitia added. The current world dance cuts come amid full-time faculty professors “not seeing these classes as the direction the department is going for,” according to Espitia.
A planned, independent board review of the theater and dance department is scheduled for March 1. Espitia and other concerned dance students are planning to meet with adjunct faculty next week once the Spring Quarter class schedule is published to discuss the official changes in preparation for their feedback to the board meeting, which they plan on getting as many students as possible to attend.
Espitia mentioned keeping in mind that the board meeting isn’t “just a place for students to complain.”
“I don’t think [students] would be there if they didn’t care about the department,” Espitia said. “Everyone cares a lot. I have friends and have found a very beautiful community here. I have been able to learn so many forms of dance. We just feel that and have seen that certain classes and worlds of dance are not being taken seriously and completely disregarded for what certain people believe is the future of dance, and that’s just not right because it is our dance education, and we are paying for this.”
More information can be found on the UCSD Theatre and Dance Diversity Facebook page or by contacting Astrid Espitia.