Genevieve Durham DeCesaro
2012 Texas Tech Integrated Scholar
Integrated scholarship is more than working towards tenure and promotion and it can be done simultaneously . . . but it does mean that we are willing to take a risk and to see what can happen when we see those three things [teaching, research, and outreach] really working together.
Head of Dance and Associate Chair,
Department of Theatre and Dance,
College of Visual & Performing Arts
A true artist in academia, dance Professor Genevieve Durham DeCesaro has made performing arts front and center in her integrated scholarship. Her knowledge of dance choreography and performance are not reserved just for the studio and classroom, but is ever-present in DeCesaro's research and service projects. One of DeCesaro's research interests involves blending performing arts with traditional written scholarship; she is interested in examining ideas that are typically expressed through prose and reinterpreting them kinesthetically, in an effort to reach a more diverse audience. As part of a collaboration with human sciences Professor Elizabeth Sharp, DeCesaro is choreographing a performance based on American women's ideologies of marriage and motherhood. In a separate effort, DeCesaro is examining how the arts are understood and valued by colleagues and administrators in higher education, as their points of view can further cultural understanding. DeCesaro's service projects also maintain a focus on the performing arts. She advises several student organizations on campus—chief among them is Chi Tau Epsilon, an honors dance society that promotes community service—and she gives back to her profession as a board member of the American College Dance Festival Association.
Learn more about Integrated Scholar Genevieve Durham DeCesaro in this question-and-answer session.
What are your research objectives and interests?
I started developing a research agenda as a graduate student in dance. Interestingly, though the topics on which I've written and choreographed have varied, the idea of representation has been fundamental throughout. Particularly important to me are the ways in which dance is (and has been) represented academically and socially, the ways in which women are represented in dance and in the larger contexts in which dance is situated, and the ways in which sociocultural practices and positions are represented through dance. The project I'm currently working on allies dance with social science in order to explore, using a transdisciplinary perspective, the idea of representation of data to an audience.
How do you feel your research impacts the globe?
Not in an immediately tangible or understandable way. I don't engage in research that produces a clear and defined product. Instead, I work to question, in sharing my written scholarship and in presenting my original choreography nationally and internationally, how and why cultures maintain certain practices and traditions that I argue are inequitable. I take my cues from educators like Paulo Freire and Maxine Greene in promoting education as a world-changer and strongly promote research, when it reaches diverse audiences, as an educational vehicle. I recognize that my process sometimes resembles the turtle more than the hare, but I am convinced there is value in slow and steady progress.
What types of service projects have you been involved with?
As the faculty adviser for two student organizations, Chi Tau Epsilon and University Dance Company, I work closely with the members on service endeavors. XTE, in particular, has a primarily philanthropic mission and has engaged in consistent educational outreach in Lubbock schools. Additionally, this organization has produced, for the past five years, an annual benefit concert for Hospice of Lubbock, promoting the idea that dance can function as a transformational vehicle for its home community. I also serve three professional, regional organizations as a member of their respective Advisory Boards: the Roots Music Institute, the Louise Hopkins Underwood Center for the Arts, and Muscle Memory Dance Theatre. On a national level, I have been actively involved with the American College Dance Festival Association for more than a decade and was recently elected by the Board of Directors to serve as a Regional Director for the South Central Conference. My involvement with ACDFA allows me to be involved, at a national level, with practices and policies of dance in higher education.
What are you currently working on?
My colleague in Human Sciences, Dr. Elizabeth Sharp, and I are continuing work on a grant project titled "Toward Innovative and Transdisciplinary Methodologies: Re-analyzing and Re-presenting Social Science Data through Dance." Our collaborative work on this project has led to an international presentation, two invitations for university residencies, and will feature an evening-length dance concert presented at Texas Tech University in March 2013. I'm teaching an interesting variety of movement and theory classes this fall and am particularly excited to be engaging with my students in our newly renovated space, the Creative Movement Studio. One highlight is a class called Contact Partnering that I co-teach with Nicole Wesley, an Associate Professor of Dance. The foray into physical partnering is new to most of our students, and facilitating (and getting to observe) their processes of self-discovery is really rewarding.
Where do you find your inspiration?
I used to answer this question by saying, "My students!" and leave it at that. I still find an enormous amount of inspiration in them: making the choice to study the arts, particularly dance, is rife with challenges, many of them stemming from misconceptions and outdated perceptions of the discipline itself. Students who choose this path do not do so because they want to journey an easy path. I am impressed by that and committed to providing them with the best I can offer. Increasingly, though, I am reminded that I also find enormous inspiration in my colleagues: the scholars and artists I teach with at Texas Tech, the artists I work with in Flatlands Dance Theatre, and the faculty who serve with me in national organizations. And, yes, this will read as truly cheeky, but I do find inspiration in my family. I also find exhaustion, frustration, laughter, and love, but, at the end of the day, those are pretty hard to separate from inspiration.
What advice do you have for new faculty members about balancing the components of Integrated Scholarship—teaching, research, and service—in their careers?
As stated about a dozen times on my Integrated Scholar video, I advise new faculty to take a risk! That's really not just a catchy phrase. Taking a risk means engaging with those around you, accepting fallibility, pursuing the hardest problem, celebrating discoveries (even the ones you don't make), working the extra hour (or 20), and inviting change. Take it from a dancer: finding balance is really, really hard and certainly doesn't happen overnight. To find balance, we have to risk the fall. When we take risks, we open ourselves to new possibilities, including the idea that teaching, service, and research are not separate endeavors at all but are reciprocal and intertwined.
My route to becoming a dance professor was neither straight nor quick. Although I danced competitively in high school, I was very focused on theatre. In fact, I trained in college as an actor, earning a BFA from Southwestern University in Georgetown. My minors (these were what I was going to fall sturdily back on should professional acting not pan out) were English, Dance, and French. Obviously, I was solidly rooted in reality. I ended up accepting an offer to teach theatre and dance at the high school level not long after completing my undergraduate degree. It was my first foray into full-time teaching and ended up being the most difficult job I've ever had. It also allowed me to see, with marked clarity, the direction that I wanted to go in terms of a more focused field of study. I chose to pursue graduate studies in dance, knowing that I absolutely wanted to be teaching dance in higher education. My choice has been confirmed and re-confirmed ever since. Being a dance professor was not what I thought I would be. Fortunately, it's what I worked hard to be. And, though the journey here was not and my current path is not easy or particularly straight, I find an incredible fulfillment in what I do and I intend to keep moving forward.
BFA Theatre, Southwestern University, Georgetown, Texas
MA and MFA Dance, Texas Woman's University