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Sample Proposal: Cultural Diversity

College of Fine Arts

Please direct all questions about the flag proposal process to the Center for the Core Curriculum.

T D 357T: Gender and Sexuality in Physical Performance

Department of Theatre and Dance

Please describe specifically which underrepresented group or groups in the United States will be studied.

This course examines how gender and sexuality is constructed and performed in dance and physical performances. Dance is a feminized art form, often undervalued and unacknowledged in the humanities. Dance is also an art in which women have been highly prominent as dancers, choreographers, and audience members. Throughout the course we not only study works by women, but more importantly, how these works intervene in normative notions about femininity and re-script roles for women in society. In addition, we will focus on works by gay, lesbian, and queer artists and consider how their dances offer new, subversive ideas about sexuality.

What are typical readings in the course or class related to Cultural Diversity in the United States?

For example, students read chapters from Sally Banes’s book Dancing Women: Female Bodies on Stage, which demonstrates how female dance artists working in American modern dance like Martha Graham, Isadora Duncan, and Ruth St. Denis lived independent lives, and created strong roles for women that countered standard notions of femininity. At the same time, we will read articles like Jane Desmond’s “Dancing Out the Difference: Cultural Imperialism and Ruth St. Denis’s Radha of 1906,” which shows how St. Denis used Orientalism to create a modern American identity distinct from the exotics she represented. We consider the whiteness of modern dance particularly in relation to the works of Jose Limon and Alvin Ailey, two gay artists who were able to expand the canon of modern dance to represent Chicano and African-American experiences, but who had to closet their sexuality in the process. Another example would be our exploration of vogueing through our viewing of “Paris is Burning” and essays by bell hooks and Judith Butler. Vogueing, is performed primarily by black and Latino gay, queer, and transgendered performers. One of our most powerful case studies is Bill T. Jones’s “The Last Supper at Uncle Tom’s Cabin/The Promised Land,” a masterful dance with a multiracial cast that explores the legacy of racism, homophobia, and misogyny in the U.S. Students watch a documentary on the dance and read “Embodying History: Epic Narrative and Cultural Identity in African-American Dance,” a chapter from Ann Cooper Albright’s book, Choreographing Difference.

Describe typical assignments related to Cultural Diversity in the United States.

All major writing assignments relate to cultural diversity in the U.S. For example, students write reviews of live performance and are directed to focus on how gender and/or sexuality is presented. One 4-5 page essay asks them to apply feminist and queer theory to works by American feminist and queer performers. In-class work also achieves this function. For example, students prepare a collaborative oral presentation that analyzes how American musicals stage gender and place the heterosexual couple at the center of the film’s narrative and dancing.

Please explain how at least one-third of the course grade is based on content related to Cultural Diversity in the United States.

While the course does not solely focus on the U.S., the course content is entirely focused on how dance and performance reflects, contributes to, and often, subverts cultural ideas about gender and sexuality. Many of the performers we discuss are women or gay, many are minorities, and when we discuss works by straight, white men, we consider the role of whiteness, and if they do or do not support traditional gender or sex norms.

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