Why is the Department called Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies?
Our discipline has changed as an artistic practice and as an academic field in the last two decades. Our Department changed its name in 1999 in order to reflect our commitment to offering the best mix of our field’s traditional history and its contemporary innovations. The term “Theater” marks all of our efforts to support the study and practice of the theatrical event, not only as a form of dramatic literature, but also as an imagistic, gestural, auditory, spatial, and technically complex project. While we have had a dance program for much of our history, the term “Dance” was only recently added to the official name, foregrounding dance practice and dance history as a central player in our Department’s self-definition. And finally, the term “Performance Studies” signals our relationship to one of the most fundamental alterations in the way scholars have re-imagined the “interdisciplinary” nature of performance. As artists increasingly draw from a range of media–crossing dance and theater, film and dance, theater and new technology–performance studies reflects a commitment to exposing our students to a range of artistic genres. As artists and scholars increasingly imagine themselves in relation to a variety of global and popular performance forms–thinking about the social role of carnivals and festivals, of television and rock concerts, of protests and raves–performance studies reflects our commitment to asking students to see their work in relation to a variety of performance forms in our culture and around the world.
Why do we encourage the Dance majors and Theater majors to study together?
We feel that today’s artistic climate requires a range of artistic skills and a facility between and amongst genres. Additionally, our requirements in history, literature, culture, and theory offer a chance for performers in different sub-fields to see themselves in relation to longer and wider traditions of performance experiment, an experience that reflects on the work of both theater and dance practitioners.
Do you have to audition to get into the Theater and Performance Studies or Dance and Performance Studies Majors?
No. Once you are accepted in UC Berkeley, you may study in any department. You are required to take some pre-requisites (a dance/theater course and a performance studies course) before declaring your major. This is to reassure you (and the Department) that you will be able to handle the technical and intellectual work of the coursework. You do audition for individual acting or dance classes each semester, and you do audition to be cast in specific shows or concerts.
How do the TDPS undergraduate programs rank in comparison to other theater/dance programs?
Our Department is most noted for its critical studies, its cross-disciplinary experimental stage work, and its productions related to social action. It is also known for housing a leading doctoral program in our field and for placing undergraduates in leading M.F.A. programs. In 2012, Backstage Magazine ranked UC Berkeley as one of the top 5 dance schools across the country.
Beyond that, there are no standard rankings for theater/dance programs at American universities. In part, this has to do with the relatively small sizes of most programs and the difficulty of standardizing quality. Even word-of-mouth reputation can be outdated since so many university acting programs that began in the 1960s no longer have the faculty or exact fields of study that established their fame (we could claim Gregory Peck as a one-time acting student but that was in 1938). We are proud to promote cross-disciplinary performance practice and scholarship at one of the leading research universities in the world.
How many students are in the Department?
100 Theater Majors and 100 Theater Minors; 50 Dance Majors and 50 Dance Minors
Can I take classes if I’m not a major?
Yes, our courses are open to non-majors, though many fill quite quickly. Some practical classes do require auditions; other over-subscribed courses do give preference to majors.
I’m a junior transfer and I’d like to major in the Department. Am I too late?
No. You can easily fulfill the requirements for the Dance and Performance Studies Major or the Theater and Performance Studies Major in 4 semesters.
I’ve already taken a lot of the requirements for the theater major at my previous junior college, 4-year college, or abroad, so do I have to take them again here?
Most all of the units you have taken will transfer into UCB into your degree from the College of Letters and Science. The only course that regularly transfers into the major, however, is your beginning acting course, taken at a community college or 4-year college. If you took other courses in a 4-year college or abroad, you may transfer into the major up to 8 units of elective credit with courses that are comparable to or complementary to the courses offered here at TDPS. These courses will need to be approved by the Undergraduate Advisor, Faculty Advisor, or the Faculty Member teaching the comparable course.
What do the students do with a theater or dance degree after they graduate? How successful are they?
Some go directly into MFA programs, such as Yale School of Drama, NYU, or Northwestern University; others decide to enter a Theater Studies Ph.D. Program, such as those found at UC Berkeley, Stanford, Northwestern, New York University, or many others throughout the world. Some move to New York, Los Angeles, or San Francisco to work as actors, dancers, directors, designers, technicians, or by starting their own group or production company. Others move to Hollywood to work in the film and television community in front of or behind the camera. Still others go into a variety of professions in the social, corporate, legal, and arts sectors. We are proud of the ways our graduates have used their critical and expressive skills toward successful careers as professional artists in dance, theater, and experimental performance as well as in law, advertising, human resources, publishing, radio, technology, social work, and in all aspects of non-profit and business administration. For a snap-shot of the recent work of our alumni, we invite you to take a look out our annual newsletter and the alumni section of our website.
How can I get connected or stay connected to the Department?
TDPS students receive regular email updates from the Department with the most current information on auditions, course enrollments, productions, special events and lectures, ticket offers, internships, career opportunities, and more. If you would like to be on the mailing list, send your email address to firstname.lastname@example.org, requesting to be on the email list.
Do you have an UG Handbook for the Majors?
Yes, you can download a pdf of our UndergraduateHandbook. We strongly recommend that you read this manual thoroughly, as it offers detailed answers to some of the most important frequently-asked questions.
Do you have any helpful documents that will help me plan my time in TDPS, or show pathways to focuses within the major such as Acting, Directing, Playwriting, Choreography, Stage Management, Design, etc?
Yes, please see the Curriculum of Advising document below, giving examples of possible courses of study.
Can I meet with an advisor to talk about my studies in your Department?
Yes, Michael Mansfield is our Undergraduate Advisor and is available by appointment in the Hearst Field Annex office Monday-Friday, 1-4pm. Professor Mel Gordon is our Head Undergraduate Advisor on the faculty. We strongly recommend that you thoroughly read the Undergraduate Handbook and relative information on our website before making an appointment with any staff or faculty member.
How large are the TDPS classes?
The Department is committed to keeping the theater, dance, and technical training courses to 20 students or less in a conservatory model. Performance studies courses may be larger due to their lecture format, but are often connected with smaller discussion sections of 20 or less.
I’m a playwright/director/choreographer. Are there chances for me to create my own show within the Department?
Yes. We have a number of opportunities for student-written, student-directed, and student-choreographed work to receive departmental support. These student-initiated shows in the departmental season are awarded competitively after review of formal proposals. If you’re interested in submitting a proposal for a student-written or student-directed work, we strongly encourage you to speak with a faculty supervisor as soon as possible so that you may submit a strong proposal to the evaluating committee. Performance-based proposals are due in February each year. Also see another two-semester option for proposing your own work in the following Honors Thesis question.
Does the Department have an Honors Thesis?
Yes. The Honors Thesis is not a requirement for graduation, but rather an opportunity for a student to deepen their research with a project of particular interest to them. Students may apply to complete a year-long Honors Thesis project. It may take two forms: a year-long research project (a semester of research followed by a semester culminating in a full-length paper or written creation/play) or a semester of research and shorter research paper followed by a semester culminating in a creative project/production/show. Most Honors Theses begin in the fall and conclude in the spring. If a student will graduate in December instead, they may begin a written-only Honors Thesis in spring semester and conclude in the fall of the following academic year. Performance-based proposals are due the February before the two-semester commitment. Please see the Undergraduate Student Advisor if you have any questions regarding your proposal, and see below for an application.
Does the Department have internship opportunities?
Yes. Many students have completed unpaid, off-campus internships for departmental credit at theater companies, television stations, etc. You will need to choose a faculty member to be your supervisor for this course and fill out the application form by the 12th week of the semester before the internship is scheduled to begin. Check with the UG Advisor or faculty for help in locating possible internships. Other pre-requisites of this course exist and are explained in the application form, which can be found below.
Does the Department offer opportunities for me to teach a course while I am here?
DeCal courses offer students the chance to propose teaching something that they have trained in or feel passionate about. Students may propose a course, and if approved, will work with a faculty member to create a course description, syllabus, and semester-long class. Application forms are due the 8th week of the semester before the DeCal course is scheduled to begin. Check with the UG Advisor or faculty for help in creating possible DeCal courses. Other pre-requisites of this course exist and are explained in the application form. Please see below for Theater 98/198 DeCal Course Application.
Does the Department have independent study opportunities?
Yes. Students may create an independent study proposal with any faculty member and fill out the application form by the 12th week of the semester before the independent study is scheduled to begin. Other pre-requisites of this course exist and are explained in the application form for Theater 199, which can be found below.
Do I have to perform in shows to get a Theater and Performance Studies major?
No, you do not have to perform to fulfill all of the participations required of the major. You can opt to participate in a variety of other ways (technical, design, directorial, etc.). For more specific questions regarding production rules and opportunities, see the Production FAQ section of our website.
What kind of dance do you teach?
The Dance and Performance Studies Major is focused on modern/contemporary dance technique, choreography, performance, and research. We also offer a course in Ballet for the Contemporary Dancer, and Afro-Haitian Dance. Other dance courses (ballet, tap, jazz, folkdance, hiphop, ballroom, and modern) are offered in the Physical Education Department, but these courses are not connected with the Dance and Performance Studies Major. They are, however, wonderful complementary trainings to your work here in the Department. Excellent ballet courses are also available through Berkeley Ballet School, Oakland Ballet School, and San Francisco Ballet Academy.
Do I need to prepare anything for the dance technique class auditions?
No preparation is necessary. The audition for each dance technique class is the first class. If you have footless tights and leotards or tight fitting clothes, please wear them (there are changing rooms in the studio). You will be given a technique class by the instructor of that class and evaluated by that teacher in consultation with a panel from the dance faculty. You must audition for the level class in which you seek placement. You may audition for several classes if you are unsure of your abilities or level. Generally, 70% of the students auditioning are accepted.
What are distinguishing characteristics of the Dance and Performance Studies Major?
Dance programs are generally identified by particular characteristics. Berkeley’s program is unique in that 1) it is small, 2) it demands intensive commitment to the technical training, 3) it provides many opportunities for self-initiated and group-initiated creative dance projects, and 4) it fosters an intellectual grasp of the many issues associated with the world of modern/contemporary dance. The foundation is four levels of daily modern technique that build core strength and develop alignment. The program offers a three-semester creative cycle of courses that lead a student into Department-sponsored independent choreographic projects. Additionally, the Department provides numerous performance opportunities each year to its students. Choreographers for these projects may be guest professionals, faculty, or students. We are fortunate to be able to draw on the wealth of Bay Area dance teachers and choreographers for our studio classes. Performance Studies courses include the study of the history of dance, world dance forms, and the broader study of performance with movement being one of several media. The dance faculty is particularly interested in the development of conceptually-founded multi-disciplinary projects.