Podcast | Setting the stage for UW’s dance revolution

Western European forms have long dominated dance education in the U.S. Journalist Marcie Sillman tells us how the University of Washington is changing that. 

A teacher snaps fingers as students dance.

Graduate student and teacher Abdiel Jacobsen counts steps with University of Washington students in a new “Street Style” class. (Amanda Snyder/Crosscut)

The University of Washington dance department has placed itself in the vanguard of a movement to open, or maybe knock down, academia's ivory towers.

Starting this past fall, the small department has remade itself in an attempt to decenter European perspectives in its course offerings, like many other departments on campus. At the same time, it has made another change that in some ways seeks to reevaluate what an undergraduate degree in dance even means. 

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For this episode of the Crosscut Reports podcast, host Sara Bernard speaks with longtime Seattle culture reporter Marcie Sillman about the changes and challenges that still face those who aim to further diversify a department that has long been built around Western and European forms such as ballet and modern dance. 

At the core of this conversation are questions facing administrators at UW and beyond: What is mastery? Who are its gatekeepers? And with the rise of all forms of virtual learning, what is the goal of a higher education in the arts?

Read our full story about changes in the University of Washington's dance department here.

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