A Brief History of My Adventures in Dance Based in Los Angeles

Dance artist/educator Linda Gold writes about creating the Dance Department at Santa Monica College, dancing and performing in Los Angeles, her international work, her long association with Dr. Alma Hawkins, and her research on the work of Jack Cole.  Ms. Gold is currently finishing her doctoral dissertation in Helsinki, Finland.

A brief history of my adventures in dance based in Los Angeles

UCLA masters work brought me to Los Angeles in 1972.  I had read about the Graduate Dance Center (GDC) and its innovator, Department Chair Dr. Alma Hawkins. Accepted into the GDC, I studied with outstanding dance artists, was a UCLA teaching assistant, and having danced all my life, learned new approaches to choreography and performance.

I found sponsors who upon graduation supported the beginnings of Dance/L.A., a new company with a core group of GDC alumni.  I stayed in Los Angeles to continue performing, touring, and making new work with them.  I also got a job as the first full time instructor in Dance at Santa Monica College (SMC).

The college wanted to see if a Dance Program would catch on, and it did.  I got to implement and develop a Dance Major, dance curriculum, live music for classes, guest artist series, student and faculty concert groups, children’s classes, community outreach, and any other idea that seemed interesting and exciting.

At the same time, I dabbled in commercial work and formed my own foundation to promote the arts in the community.  After sponsoring other artists’ programs (in music, dance, drama, poetry, and gallery shows), the foundation’s efforts were refocused to promote Linda Gold in Concert/Concert Ensemble.  I worked with carilloners, puppeteers, textile artists, sculptors, computer animators, reconstructed historic works, then concentrated on developing movement from my own inner imagery. My concert repertory also included the choreographies of other dance artists, and enjoyed the creations of composers, designers, poets and photographers.  I presented lecture-demonstrations, and taught master classes, choreographies, and residencies in Southern California, New York, and other cities throughout the U.S., Canada, England, France, Switzerland, Sweden, Taiwan, and in Hong Kong.  I received enthusiastic audience response and favorable critical reviews.  I adjudicated dance and film festivals, and have been fortunate to continue performing my work in my own concerts and as part of other presenters’ programs.

I shared what I was learning at the college.  I took students “on tour” throughout Los Angeles, Southern California, England, France and Switzerland.  I took them to dance conferences in California, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, New Jersey and New York.  We did interdepartmental projects and intercollegiate consortium.  I initiated transfer agreements with Dance Departments at NYU, UCLA, and Cornish College of the Arts.  I compared what I was learning with professional colleagues, participating in presentations at the Congress on Research in Dance (CORD), the American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA), International Imagery Conference, and the Council of Dance Administrators (CODA).

As Professor and Director of the Dance Program (now Department) I was able to provide opportunities for Los Angeles dance professionals, and bring in artists from out-of-town and abroad, to teach on the faculty, conduct master classes, run residencies, and create new choreographies.  The list is long (almost 1000), including Gene Kelly, Stanley Holden, Bella Lewitzky, Alonzo King.  The styles were varied, ranging from Baroque dance to American Indian pow wows.  The Artists of Dance Series presented artists during the school week, the First Friday Series produced one or two Los Angeles based artists once a month.  I founded and directed the student contemporary dance ensemble, Synapse, and brought the work of five or more professional artists to the Los Angeles community (and beyond) every semester.  Soon we sponsored alumni concerts, programs of our most advanced students in the Mentor Program, and informal programs for students’ performance experience.  I made dances and experimental dance videos.  I collaborated with other artists.  I did fund raising.

I tried to make a place where anyone could take a class and dance/learn/grow, where professionals could share their art and work in their field, where students could discover a dance world more expansive than the one they had known before.  I helped other schools build their departments, degrees, and courses.  This was a worthy cause, promoting dance and dancing.  It was incredibly busy.  It was fun.

The UCLA legacy continued at SMC, especially through the dignified presence of Dr. Alma Hawkins.  I asked her to come to SMC when she retired from UCLA to teach an Introduction to Dance Therapy course.  Soon, a new course was in place.  It was experimental, bringing together her ideas on creative process and dance making.  It may well have been a graduate level course, but our eclectic student population soon discovered its value and became committed participants.  She taught at the college for the next 17 years.  The work spawned Hawkins’ 1991 book (Moving From Within) and her approach continues to be taught by those who worked with her, in courses at SMC and at universities as far away as Helsinki and Hong Kong.  Besides being a professional mentor, Alma was my friend.

Hawkins had an international reputation and received numerous awards and accolades for her contributions to dance education, administration, therapy, creative process, and promoting dance as art in the universities and on the concert stage.  I also got to know her better as a person: her family, her history, her interests and concerns, her on-going intellectual curiosity.  She was also kind, caring, and supportive.  She and her sister Alice became my west coast family.  They were living examples of steady strength, keen intelligence and insightful clarity.

I recently retired from SMC to complete projects started long ago.  My dissertation is almost ready to submit, (Doctorate in Arts in Dance, Helsinki Theater Academy, one of four Finnish universities in the arts).  In the spring of 2011, I taught Jack Cole technique at Jacob’s Pillow as part of a National Endowment of the Arts grant to recover and codify his methods.  I was asked to be part of this project because I worked with Cole for a year and a half at UCLA.  The venture continues in the show Heat Wave, the Jack Cole Project, recently opened at the Queen’s Theater in New York with hopes of being Broadway bound, and in classes I teach with other guest artists at Steps on Broadway in New York City.  And then, there are my unfinished choreographies that are germinating, and almost ready to be performed…

My friends and associates from my early days in Los Angeles continue to be a part of my life, as are the artists, educators, and dance aficionados I have worked with since.  Being based here has allowed me to explore and put into action new ideas, and tap the tremendous talent and energy that moves through the city.   As always, it is a place rich with possibilities, stimulating, and fun!

© Copyright 2012 Linda Gold All rights reserved