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USC gift is enough to build a school and do a jig

LOS ANGELES — The multimillion dollar news out of the University of Southern California was enough to make you dance.

USC announced Friday that philanthropist Glorya Kaufman had donated one of the largest gifts in the history of American dance to establish the Glorya Kaufman School of Dance.

"God bless Glorya Kaufman for doing something so needed and so right," said actress-dancer-choreographer Debbie Allen.

"It's relevant because here we are in Los Angeles, the capital of the entertainment world, but we are not really on the books with enough established and recognized developments in the world of dance," Allen said.

Kaufman did not reveal the exact amount of the gift, but it is bigger than her largest ever — the $20 million she gave to the Music Center in Los Angeles.

Construction of the building is scheduled to begin in 2014. The first class of dance majors will be enrolled in the fall of 2015.

Robert Cutietta, dean of the USC Thornton School of Music, will do double duty and be the inaugural dean of the dance school too.

He met Kaufman a year ago and they started talking about establishing a school.

"We get to design the curriculum, start from scratch, choose the faculty and design the building. We get to decide what the dance curriculum for the 21st century will look like," Cutietta said.

When the school is up and running, Cutietta said they expect between 60 and 80 students in the four-year curriculum. Admittance will be by audition. Tuition will be the same as any other arts school on campus, but the endowment will allow scholarships to offset the cost.

Those who graduate will receive a Bachelor of Fine Arts in dance.

Kaufman is not a dancer "but she is one of the most optimistic, whimsical, cheerful people I have ever met," Cutietta said.

"Dance is always present at the most joyous times and it makes people happy. My daughter just got married two weeks ago and everyone was dancing, from the grandfather to a 4-year-old. It's the art form of joy. It makes people happy and they can participate at every level. It makes the world a better place," he said.

For USC, the Kaufman School of Dance will be the first endowment school established since 1973 when Ambassador Walter H. Annenberg provided an $8 million gift to establish the Annenberg School for Communication, said USC archivist Claude Zachary. Journalism was later added to the school.

Allen hailed the dance school for the new opportunity it will give her students at the Debbie Allen Dance Academy.

If they want to continue their education in dance at a university now, they have to go to New York, San Francisco, North Carolina or Arizona, she said.

"It is certainly time for Los Angeles to have an accredited, respected dance program on the university level," she said.

Dance will join USC's five other arts schools — architecture, cinematic arts, dramatic arts, fine arts and music. There are nearly 6,000 graduate and undergraduate students pursuing degrees in the fine and performing arts.

Kaufman and her late husband, Donald Bruce Kaufman married in 1954 and helped develop what would become Kaufman & Broad, a Fortune 500 company. He died in 1983.

Glorya Kaufman has donated many gifts in the name of dance, including the $20 million to the Music Center. Kaufman turned down an interview request from The Associated Press. It was also her idea not to divulge the size of the donation.

"I don't want people focusing on a number. I want them to think about what my gift will do for the students who will have wonderful opportunities because of it," she said in a prepared statement.

"Glorya Kaufman's generosity will have a profound impact on the art of dance — not only at USC, but throughout the world," USC President C.L. Max Nikias said in a news release. "The university's ambition is to make the USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance the most elite on the West Coast and in the Pacific Rim."

Music is flourishing now, Allen said, with a strong grip on television, movies and theatrical productions.

"There was a time when movies were all musicals like 'Top Hat,'" she said. "It's coming back in a big way and everybody is dancing."

Several shows, including "So You Think You Can Dance" and "America's Best Dance Crew," ''are looking to uplift the gypsy world of dance. ... The best news is we have lots of dance and the best is yet to come," Allen said.

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