Anna Kaiser

1. What is your specific area of research (include the name of your faculty and/or laboratory)?
Under the direction and guidance of Professor Donald McKayle, the UCI Etude Ensemble has had the opportunity to partake in research regarding marketing and performance as professional dancers. In this field, technical training as well as exposure to the community of dance is essential in order to succeed. By traveling as a pre-professional dance company, the ensemble has had numerous opportunities to perform for/with top professionals in the field, take classes from master teachers, and audition for professional companies, increasing our marketability as dancers for the years following graduation.

As chair of the Bare Bones Dance Theater, I am also heading research pertaining to concert performance and choreography. With the generous help from UROP, we are able to produce a dance concert, completely independent from the Claire Trevor School of the Arts. This project includes finding a theater, stage managers, lighting designer, publicizing the event, auditioning the dancers, auditioning the pieces once the choreography is completed, raising extra money through fundraising for scholarships, creating a gala evening, obtaining music rights, and learning how to produce a professional dance concert. This is the fifteenth year that this project has been active in the undergraduate community and it continues to grow and improve each year.

2. When and how did you first get involved in research?

Two years ago, I wrote my first UROP Proposal and received a grant for the Etude Ensemble to attend the International Blacks in Dance Conference, in Dallas, Texas. We prepared one of Mr. McKayle's works to be performed in the professional showcase at the conference. We were the only semi-professional dance company asked to participate in the showcase of established companies from around the United States. In our four days at the conference, we were invited to take classes with numerous master teachers, attend honorary banquets, audition for summer programs, as well as professional companies, meet and have conversations with some of the most prominent dancers/choreographers of our time, and
watch performances from the other companies attending the conference.

I began performing as a dancer in the Bare Bones Dance Concert my sophomore year. Through this experience, I got an idea of the process that was required to produce a dance concert. My junior year, I was fortunate to be selected to serve on the committee and take part in the development of the project. I also won the scholarship for my choreography in the show that year, encouraging me to produce more work as a choreographer. This year, I have been working with nine other committee members since day one of the current quarter to organize an anniversary concert to commemorate the work of so many undergraduates who preceded us in this journey, and created a basis for our research today. We just finished auditioning the dancers for the 23 interested choreographers, and we will hold auditions for the final casting in the seventh week of winter quarter. The Bare Bones Dance Concert for the 2002 season is entitled "Raw" and will be presented Mar. 14-16th.

3. How has research enhanced you education?

Through my experiences with the Etude Ensemble, I have not only had invaluable exposure to some of the top artists in the field of dance, but I have had the opportunity to perform, audition, and travel with the esteemed Donald McKayle, as part of a pre-professional dance company. As a student at the university, I would normally focus my attention only on the technical and performance aspects of dance, and rarely get an opportunity to experience life out in the field - to dance as a professional among colleagues. This is real-life application of our art form - applying the skills we learn in the classroom and discovering the expectations of a career professional. In regards to being prepared technically, the UCI Dance Dept. is outstanding. However, without the addition of this research, I would not be prepared to enter into the world of professional dance.

The Bare Bones Dance Theater adds knowledge of the theater to my repertoire. Through the UCI Dance Dept., undergraduates are only presented with one opportunity to choreograph and perform in an all-undergraduate concert. The faculty is in charge of all the technical aspects that accompany our artistic creations, from selection of the pieces, to booking the theater, to lighting each individual piece. Moreover, there is a five-minute time limit for each piece auditioning. Through Bare Bones, I have been exposed to the intricate details required to produce a concert (lighting, costumes, fundraising, correspondence, grant writing, etc). We also have no time restrictions for pieces and we present two scholarships (costume design, choreography) to choreographers, voted on by their colleagues. It not only allows us individually to become aware of the attributes necessary to complete a production, but it creates a strong community of undergraduates who will continue to support and grow with one another throughout their years at the university.

4. What has been you favorite experience with research (include any interesting stories or specific events)?
This past summer, the UCI Etude Ensemble was granted a research award from the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program to attend an international modern dance conference in San Luis Potosi, Mexico. I cannot describe how amazing this week was! As one of the only American dance companies to be invited, we were completely immersed in the historic culture of the city. There were performances twice each evening where we could compare and enjoy the traditions of Mexican modern dance to the American aesthetics. We lived in a completely Spanish-speaking area where we had to depend solely on one person from our group to relay our messages in broken Spanish. Another unusual aspect of Mexican concerts is that they do not include an intermission. Therefore, when we took an intermission halfway through our show, half the audience began to leave because they thought the performance had ended! However, we did perform an entire evening's work, which was extremely well received, and we are invited to return again this coming summer - perhaps without an intermission.
5. What are your future plans and how has being involved in research helped to prepare you to meet your goals?

As a performer and choreographer, I am moving to New York in August of the coming year, following graduation, where I will pursue a career as a professional dancer. In becoming familiar with certain companies and people involved in these groups, I will begin sending in applications for summer programs and auditions in the area. Before beginning research in these areas, I was unaware of most of the companies I am now actively pursuing. I was even unsure whether I wanted to join a professional dance company or not. However, working in a company environment, with an inspirational director, I have found that working in such a way challenges me as an artist and allows me to develop my own expression within the group. Through working with the choreographers and master teachers affiliated with professional companies, I have discovered groups that inspire and motivate me as a performer. In finding these companies, I can now begin the process of establishing myself in the dance community and auditioning for them as often as possible. From this form of action, I hope to begin work in a modern company as soon as possible, and hopefully test out some choreographic opportunities as well.

6. What advice would you give to a student interested in pursuing a faculty-mentored undergraduate research project or creative activity?

Find something that you feel passionately about, whether you are considering it as a career or not, and research it. I used to think that research consisted only of writing a long thesis on a subject that you knew nothing about. However, I have since discovered that taking a workshop, attending a conference, going abroad, and composing a piece/concert are all valid examples of research in various fields. I guess I'd like to reword "research" to be named "fieldwork." Get out there and discover what you love to do before you graduate! It may surprise you… and make life a bit more interesting…

Past Researchers of the Month

Dec. '01 Anna Kaiser
Nov. '01 Sunny Staton
Oct. '01 Kristine Kolkman
Sep. '01 Raquel Fernandez
Aug. '01 Temre Davies
Jul. '01 Krikor Andonian
Jun. '01 Elizabeth Kirchner
May '01 Joshua Neil
Apr. '01 Alia Shbeeb
Mar. '01 Qyana Griffith
Feb. '01 Reshmi Basu
Jan. '01 Yousuke Hamai
Recent Year