A "Julliard West" for Los Angeles? Maybe, Starting with a Dance School

No longer will Los Angeles dancers have to flee to New York for a quality dance education. Philanthropist Glorya Kaufman recently announced she would be giving a multimillion dollar donation to the University of Southern California to help start a dance school. (See Higher Education Grants for Performing Arts). The funds will go towards a new building, named (appropriately) the Glorya Kaufman International Dance School, and the endowment of a bachelor of fine arts program. This will be the first new endowment-funded school at USC in over 40 years.  

In a step towards building a possible "Juilliard of the West," the degree curriculum will consist of conservatory-style dance instruction and business training.

In a recent interview with the New York Times, Kaufman said she chose to donate to a dance program because "this is something that brings joy, and I don't think we have enough of it. I wanted to make a change. I wanted to make kids and people happy, because I was happy."

Kaufman has previously donated to the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, the Juilliard School, and the Music Center in Los Angeles, which helps bring famous dance companies to the L.A. area. (See Grants for Dance). She also donated to University of California, Los Angeles in 1999, but has since claimed that this project was less than successful. "I don't like to talk about it," Kaufman said. "Let's just say I was disappointed with UCLA. They weren’t able to realize my vision. They couldn't have a BFA [program]. That really tells it all."

But the philanthropist doesn't have the same doubts about working with USC. "With a private university I can accomplish what I couldn't with a state university," she noted. "We can hire anybody from anywhere to teach.  We can get the best students in the world." Although some may argue that UCLA still retains some of the most talented faculty and some of the brightest students (with the high GPAs to match), USC will now certainly edge out the competition with this new arts program.

Robert Cutietta, the current dean of the Thornton School of Music at USC, will head the Glorya Kaufman School of Dance. In an interview with ABC 7 News, Cutietta said, "It is so important not just for USC but for the city of Los Angeles, because this is a major commitment to train dancers here, to train very, very selective high-quality dancers. We're looking at being the leading school on the Pacific Rim for dance."

The program is slated to begin in two years. So those dancers better start working on their jetes now.