Thea Vandervoort

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Thea Vandervoort


Thea's research project prompted her desire to pursue a career as a university professor, continuing research in dance and anthropology throughout her life. Her research was a materialization of her passion for dance history. She is working towards using the product of this research to aid fourth graders with their learning of California history. Thea gained valuable insights into the process of research and its rewards, which will benefit her during future research endeavors. Her advice to undergraduates pursuing research is: "Never, ever give up, always persevere towards your goals and have faith in yourself that you will achieve what you have set out to accomplish." triangle.gif (504 bytes)




The dances of early California are social figure dances that took place during informal parties (fiestas) popular in Santa Barbara since the 1820s. This research documents three of the most popular dances through reconstruction, video filming and production, musical and costume specification, descriptions of historical style and choreography, and notation of movement and floor patterns. A general history of these dances within the Rancho Period of California history (1828-1868) is presented. Specifically, details concerning their performance, social connection, and importance to the Santa Barbara community are explored. The primary research of dance reconstruction is supported by readings on the general nature and history of early California dance. Further exploration includes extensive interviews and examination of official archives and personal collections from Santa Barbara. The purpose of this research is to preserve and perpetuate a significant aspect of California cultural history, while tangibly establishing physical, artistic, and social connections to the past.triangle.gif (504 bytes)

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Faculty Mentor                                                                                                                
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Deidre Sklar

School of The Arts

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Nancy Ruyter
School of The Arts

Thea Vandervoort's project sheds light on a phenomenon relevant to both dance history and California cultural history. Through original research and careful reconstruction of three dances practiced in nineteenth century California, Thea has unearthed an aspect of cultural heritage that would otherwise be lost. The publication of "The Dances of Early California in Santa Barbara" represents only the tip of a larger project that included oral history and archival research, reconstructing dances from the Rancho Period of Santa Barbara's history, and documenting the dances on video. Her project helped to instigate a renewal of interest in historical dance in Santa Barbara and will introduce this unique social history to public school children in Orange County. Thea's professional level of work in each aspect of this project is truly remarkable. Thea has gained skills in research design, fieldwork, documentation, and the rendering of her findings in both video and written format.triangle.gif (504 bytes)

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Copyright 1999 by the Regents of the University of California.  All rights reserved.