In mentoring undergraduate students, Professor Donald McKayle prepares them for potential professional dance careers. Through organizations such as the UCI Etude Ensemble, his students learn what is required in dedicating themselves to their art. Professor McKayle shares his professional experience with his students, while using them to help develop his own creative work. UROP recognizes Professor McKayle for his continuing commitment to the professional development of undergraduate dancers.

1. How did you develop an interest in mentoring undergraduate research or creative projects, and what type of projects have you directed?

In 1995, I established the UCI Etude Ensemble, the resident chamber performance group of the University of California, Irvine Department of Dance. It has been presented in concert on campus and at national venues in California, Colorado, Texas, North Carolina, and at the International Festival of Contemporary Dance in San Luis Potosí, Mexico and at the Conservatoire National Superieur de Musique et de Danse de Paris. The ensemble can also be viewed on the CD ROM, “Herbie Hancock Presents Living Jazz,” and is documented in the American Dance Legacy Institute's first interactive volume on choreographer Donald McKayle, installed at the National Museum of Dance in Saratoga Springs, NY. This small and select group of undergraduate dance majors, chosen by annual audition, has as its primary focus the seamless entry of its members into professional careers.

2. What do you look for and what are your expectations of undergraduates you select to conduct research under your guidance?

I look for students who have a high degree of technical and interpretive skill. They must also possess an extremely committed work ethic. They must be able to work in concert with their fellows and share findings and knowledge.

3. Describe your level of engagement and style in mentoring undergraduates.

I work with these selected students three times a week in two hour sessions, totaling six hours of engagement weekly. I accompany them on all their touring and engage them in networking the field.

4. In your experience, how have your students improved or benefited as a result of their undergraduate research experience?

The level of accomplishment is noteworthy. Alumni have entered professional careers in all genres of dance: the Mark Morris Dance Group, the Martha Graham Dance Company, the Sean Curran Dance Company, Momix, the Limón West Dance Project, the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble, The Hubbard Street Dance Company, Backhausdance, the Joffrey Ballet, the Nashville Ballet, the Metropolitan Opera Ballet, The Lion King, Sweet Charity, Fame the Musical, and Swing among others.

5. What have you learned or benefited from guiding undergraduate research or creative projects?

The benefits of this work are cyclical; both the students and I are recipients. They gain an extraordinary education in their projected life's work and I have a wonderful laboratory for my own creative work. Dances created on the UCI Etude Ensemble have entered the repertoires of professional companies. Dances created on professional companies have also entered the repertoire of the UCI Etude Ensemble.

6. What recommendations and advice would you give students embarking on undergraduate research or creative projects?

These years as an undergraduate are perhaps the most important ones in establishing a strong foundation for the future. Use them wisely and audaciously. Investigate what is around you and strive for the highest.

Research Interests: Choreography and Direction in Dance and Theatre

Faculty Profile:


Past Faculty Mentors of the Month

Dec. '09 Professor Donald D. Hoffman
Nov. '09 Professor Bruce Blumberg
Oct. '09 Professor A. J. Shaka
Sep. '09 Assistant Professor William M. Tomlinson
Aug. '09 Professor William C. Tang
Jul. '09 Professor Donald McKayle
Jun. '09 Assistant Professor Gillian R. Hayes
May. '09 Professor Jane O. Newman
Apr. '09 Associate Professor Mark P. Petracca
Mar. '09 Professor Richard T. Robertson