Dancing With the UCLA Dance Faculty

In Part 1 of this article, Choreographer/Dancer/Educator Sharon Took-Zozaya recalls her studies with several members of the UCLA Dance Department Faculty from 1972 to 1975 as an undergraduate student, and during her graduate studies in Kinesiology between 1977-1978.  In Part 2, she writes movingly about the evolution of her long artistic relationship with dance artist, mentor and friend Gary Bates.

Part 1.   UCLA Dance Department – personal impressions and appreciations

I transferred from UCSB to the UCLA Dance department as a sophomore in order to focus on choreography.  It turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life. The comments below are written from memories of my own direct experiences and reflect teachers and events whose impact still reverberates in my life. My apologies to anyone I may have missed…the intervening years have been very full.

At that time, in addition to an exceptionally strong faculty, UCLA’s guest touring company list represented the “who’s who” of nationally revered modern dance luminaries. They included such artists and companies as: the Jose Limon Company, Merce Cunningham, Murray Louis, Alwyn Nikolais, Martha Graham, Alvin Ailey, (who told my junior class that despite his company’s myriad accolades, most of his dancers lived on unemployment for half the year), Jennifer Muller, (whose speedy free flung movement quality derived from Limon’s style), Dan Waggoner, Lar Lubovitch and influential resident faculty choreographers. Together they provided us students with a living education in our chosen art medium.  We students took this enriched environment to be the norm, when in reality it was the peak of NEA funding and perhaps the apex of modern dance popularity.

Faculty who made indelible impressions on me included:

Gary Bates   See PART 2 below.

Gloria Bowen taught ballet with verve and inspiration well beyond her diminutive size. She really cared about her students and always had time to explain and demonstrate for those of us who needed more information. (I have one very vivid memory that occurred after she had been Rolfed. During a side stretch at the barre, Gloria gently laid her hand somewhere on my body for a placement or tension correction. Suddenly there was an energetic shift and my right leg appeared to soften into a conical mist and extend energetically into space. )

Jack Cole, who spent the last years of his life teaching at UCLA, was a perfectionist. He dug deep into his material, sometimes teaching only three floor based sequences in a ninety-minute class. His graphic images, used in order to inspire correct use of the pelvis, really worked.

Sally Fitt, our kinesiology professor, lead us into a world of body learning that integrated science and art exquisitely. Through her inspiration, I went on to earn an MS Degree in Kinesiology, which was both a fascinating study and a passport to much of my later work.

Kathe Howard was an inspired and inspiring dancer. Though I never studied with her, I loved watching her perform. It seemed to me that her hands could symbolically embrace the whole world.

Susan Lovell, was my dance therapy teacher. Her kindness, patience and acceptance created a learning environment that allowed me to find my way through personal struggles toward integration. This early exposure to dance therapy provided valuable experiences and models for practice. Years later, they provided fertile ground for the creation of workshops in which I integrated dance improvisation with Psychosysnthesis at the Findhorn Foundation and elsewhere.

The fiery Margalit Oved Marshall had unique cultural and personal perspectives on everything. Her duet about Adam and Eve and her group work about Cinderella were haunting works interweaving Western European influences with Middle Eastern imagery and sounds.

Marion Scott was a teacher who always encouraged us to source movement material from our inner lives and whose own work eloquently demonstrated her own connection with the light at the center of human experience.

I was fortunate to witness the developmental stages and final performances of Mysterium, her duet for faculty members Gary Bates and Kathe Howard (Copperman). This piece explored archetypes of masculine and feminine power in a sculptural and ultimately tenderly moving work. For me, the choreography and the performers’ ability to imbue it with sensitive, yet primal meaning epitomized the values at the heart of my UCLA education.

Carol Scothorn taught modern dance technique with precision, and choreography with an emphasis on understanding tools and structure. Her analytical approach to movement helped me to learn how to communicate clearly with students and dancers as I progressed in my career. Assisting her with reconstructing Doris Humphrey’s Passacaglia and Fugue was a high point. Years later, as a graduate student at Arizona State University, I finally was able to perform in this master work along with Repertory Dance Theatre from Salt Lake City.

Madeleine Scott was a graduate Teaching Assistant during my first years at UCLA. She taught me to shift from focusing on isolated visual shapes to using the flow of weight and internal rhythmic sensing in order to learn dance phrases. She also taught me how to start on the count of one, by insisting I lead the line going across the floor. I loved her energetic classes.

Doris Einstein Siegel, our lighting design and dance production professor, was always calm and ladylike. She wore dresses and heels almost always. Yet she taught us to use wrenches, climb ladders, focus lighting instruments, create and use cue sheets, run light boards, stage manage, and ultimately to create aesthetic magic with lights.

I took her required lighting design class reluctantly, but unexpectedly gained inspiration and skills that provided a major part of my livelihood and artistic expression for several years. Thus early training continues to be vital to my successes as a choreographer, teacher and producer of dance events.

Alma Hawkins was the Dance Department Chair for most of my time as an undergraduate student at UCLA. However, it was not until years later that I actually experienced her teaching directly when I attended a Laban-based workshop she offered. I was astonished to discover that the broad based, humanistic philosophy of dance which permeated every aspect of the UCLA Dance Department and therefore my own dance education, had originated with this insightful dancer and teacher. As my later teaching expanded beyond the limits of ‘dance’ to include a wide variety of approaches to movement and healing, I was grateful for her influence.

Part 2.      Gary Bates

We first met in the fall of 1972, when I transferred into his sophomore class at UCLA. This means I’ve known him for most of my adult life. Although we started out as teacher and student, he later became a respected mentor and trusted friend.

Gary’s choreography has always come from a deeply felt numinous place where heart and mind intersect. Movement vocabulary based on detailed internal and external observation and kinesthetic experience have resulted in works that evoke a range of rich inner landscapes, as well as playful character studies. A truly inspired improviser, Gary would often emphasize a point in class by suddenly jumping up, rolling on the floor and instantly creating a movement phrase with no evident premeditation. He also encouraged students to fearlessly discover our own movement material by improvising. His approach to teaching was truly extraordinary for the way he successfully encouraged each student to develop his or her own unique ‘voice’ as a dance artist.

A powerfully expressive dancer, Gary spent several years touring with the Lewitzky Dance Company while also completing BA and MA degrees in Dance. Following this, he was a founding member of Eyes Wide Open Dance Theater, a collective whose original members included Kathe Howard (Copperman), Fred Strickler, Karen Goodman, Patrick Marca Registrada, and Melanie Snyder. Later on additional dancers joining the company included Martha Morrison, Maryann Kellogg and Mary Duval. I was their Lighting Designer.

After teaching at UCLA for a few years, Gary moved on to teach at Scripps College in the spring of 1978 and took over as Dance Program Chair that fall. It was here that he helped me to get my first teaching job, as I was hired to be one of two part-time faculty. This was the beginning of an informal, yet richly nourishing, mentorship that supported me to develop my ‘voice’ as a teacher and choreographer.

Gary left Scripps in 1981 and moved Florida, where he taught in several Miami and West Palm Beach dance academies.  After returning to Scripps in 1984 for two more years, he then taught at Loyola Marymount University from 1987 to 1990. Gary has also taught at a variety of other educational institutions, including: University of California Irvine, Cal Arts, and Santa Monica College. In 1993 he was honored with a Lester Horton Award for Sustained Achievement In Teaching. The Lester Horton Award committee subsequently created a ‘Gary Bates Service to the Field Award’ to honor those, who like Gary, had contributed significantly to the development of dance in Southern California.

As a scholar, Gary is fascinated with the interplay of information and concepts. His lightening quick mind integrates seemingly disparate ideas, weaving them into a complex fabric. His MA thesis on the dance critic and writer John Martin is evidence of this.

Over the years I’ve seen Gary both succeed and fail, as all of us must at times. He has repeatedly demonstrated that improvisation applied to life can lead to unexpectedly positive futures, even when a challenging, but enticing past has dried up and blown away. This is a life lesson that goes beyond the dance studio, yet is somehow embodied in the mysterious and delightful activity we call dancing.



For more biographical information, see: www.artistswithaids.org/artforms/dance/catalogue/bates.html

© Copyright 2012   SHARON TOOK-ZOZAYA   All rights reserved