CSUF Dance: In Memory fo Brian Sepel


A statement from our Dance Program on the life of a wonderful colleague and friend:

“Our dear Brian Sepel lost his battle with cancer on November 24, 2016.

For over a decade, Brian Sepel brought music, humor, and his generosity in helping us discover more of the dancing within each of us. As our fulltime professional musician here at the Theatre and Dance Department at Cal State University Fullerton, he was a unique force of support and collaboration and music. He fed all of us with his contagious pleasure of making rhythm, melody and atmosphere, and helped us all find inspiration and meet the challenges of our days. Although it always seemed to simply pour out of him, Brian worked tirelessly to keep his music rich and meaningful whether drumming for a modern class or on the piano for a ballet class. I know that we have all greatly missed him this last year and will always cherish having had him as a colleague and as a friend.

In Brian’s memory, we plan on creating the Brian Sepel Dance Major Scholarship.  It is something we can do to honor him, his music and to help continue his warm support of our dance students.

Brian was born in South Africa and started his musical life playing in a variety of successful original rock and jazz bands, he built and ran his own recording studio, writing and producing audio for radio and TV advertising. After moving to America he free-lanced as a dance accompanist, playing piano for ballet, and percussion for modern dance classes at UCI, Chapman, IVC, Fullerton College, Santa Ana College and a number of smaller private studios, before settling down at Cal State University Fullerton. Some of the ballet luminaries he worked with include: Mignon Furman (AAB), Barbara Arms (Ballet Russe), Glenn Eddy (Nederlans Danse), Stephanie Saland (NY City Ballet), Brian Loftus (Sadlers Wells). The modern luminaries he worked with include: Donald McKayle, Risa Steinberg, Colin Connor, Louis Kavouras, Bonnie Oda Homsey. Together with his sister Merle Sepel-Wagner, Brian combined all his skills as an accompanist, composer and recording engineer to produce The Enchanted Doorway series. This educational series includes five titles of narrated story with music and instruction, for teachers to use as a dance class for children ages 4 to 6.”

We send our regards and keep his family in our thoughts.


Clayes 10th Anniversary Community Open House


Last year, the School of Music held its 50th Anniversary with their Dedication Celebration which featured performances by the Symphonic Chorus and University Symphony Orchestra with Titan alumna, Deborah Voigt. Since 2006, the Joseph A.W. Clayes III Performing Arts Center has been the beacon for training the next generation to mold the arts landscape. In it’s 10th year, Dean Dale A. Merrill and the College of the Arts invite students, alumni, supporters and community members to come “behind the scenes” and discover what makes the Clayes Performing Arts Center an amazing resource for arts students and audience members.  Step into a variety of performance and rehearsal spaces where students will be showcasing their talents, join a backstage tour that highlights students’ work in our Scenic and Costume Shops, an art exhibition, refreshments and more!

Save the date for Sunday, November 6, 2016 from 2 PM – 6PM. A special Jazz performance will be held in Meng Concert Hall at 4pm and will feature the School of Music’s Jazz Orchestra students alongside with guest artist, Doc Severinsen, and other invited guests.

Here are more events happening during our open house!:


Scene from Pride & Prejudice
James D. Young Theatre
2:15pm, 2:45pm, 3:15pm

Scene from Drowsy Chaperone
Jerry Samuelson Musical Theatre Room
2:30pm & 3:00pm

A Conversation with Emeriti Chair of Theatre & Dance Susan Hallman
A conversation about the history of the Clayes Performing Arts Center, from A to Z.William J. McGarvey Family Dance Studio
3:15pm – 3:45pm

Dance Presentation featuring dance students from the Department of Theatre & Dance
Selections from Fall Dance Theatre
William J. McGarvey Family Dance Studio
2:15pm, 2:45pm

Cello Performance featuring students from the School of Music
Kathryn T. McCarty Grand Foyer
2:00pm – 3:30pm

“A View From Above” Canopy Tour
Guests will see what 5 tons of tuning looks like (aka “The Acoustic Canopy” that hangs in Meng Hall) from the unique perspective of the choir loft behind the stage.
Vaughncille Joseph Meng Hall (Upper Level entrance)
2:15pm – 3:00pm

Sound Design: An Evolution from Studio to Stage
A look into the process of creating and designing theatre production cues which begin in a recording studio and are completed on stage.
Douglas R. Young, Terry Forrest Young, and Megan Forrest Young Audio Studio
2:00pm – 3:45pm

Throughout the afternoon…

  • Guided backstage tours will depart from McCarty Grand Foyer and will feature stops in the Lois M. Brockett Costume Shop and the Lee & Nicholas Begovich Scenic Laboratory
  • Exhibition of art by students in the Department of Visual Arts in the Millie and Dale Hallberg Theatre
  • Doors will open for the concert at 3:45 pm – general admission seating

CSUF College of the Arts: Dance


Photo from 2016 Spring Dance – Photo by Edwin Lockwood

Although modern dance is comprised of many styles and genres, a look at three eponymous schools of movement and technique developed during the first half of the 20th century can provide insight into the heart of its expression: Graham, Horton, and Limón. Graham, named for the often touted “mother of modern dance, ”Martha Graham, is based on “contract and release, ”where dancers use different parts of the body in opposition to create dramatic tension and convey emotion. Lester Horton developed his technique concurrent with Graham, but 3,000 miles west of the epicenter of modern dance, New York City, in California. This physical and creative distance allowed him to freely incorporate folkloric elements from around the world into his style, which approaches dance as an unrestricted expression of movement. Jóse Limón, also a contemporary of Graham and Horton, based his principles of dance on “fall and recovery” where dancers use the floor as a launch pad from which to rise, fall, and rise again, creating gravity defying and theatrical gestures.

Prof. Debra Noble teaching CSUF Dance Students

The dance program at Cal State Fullerton is fortunate to have each these significant innovators of dance represented in three of its core faculty: Lisa Draskovich-Long (Graham-based), Debra Noble (Limón), and Alvin Rangel (Horton). The depth and breadth of their professional experience enriches the educational training of their students and contributes to the artistic clarity of the dance program. Each of these faculty members has their own extensive professional background with which to draw from: Rangel has danced professionally in companies from his native Puerto Rico to Mexico to numerous companies across the United States. He also performs with his company, In-Version Project, and was awarded Best Dancer by the Austin Critic’s Table for the 2011/2012 season; Noble, a highly regarded dancer whose choreography has been lauded by Dance Magazine and National Public Radio (among others) has 30-years in the field as a dancer and choreographer. She directed her own dance company, In Forward Motion, for 10 years and choreographed work in the video for musician Dave Matthews’ Grammy® nominated song, Crash; Draskovich-Long danced professionally for over a decade with Dallas Black Dance Theatre, and studied with the legendary David Hochoy, former rehearsal director for Martha Graham and now artistic director of the Martha Graham Dance Company. She has also choreographed several Off-Broadway productions and locally at Rogue Machine Theater in Los Angeles. In interviewing all three professors of dance, one point was consistently –and independently –brought up in each conversation: that the dance faculty at Cal State Fullerton has a unified, student-centered vision based on a passion for the art form, dance technique, and academic rigor. For Alvin Rangel, the goal is to effectively teach historic repertory in order for students to physically and intellectually articulate the tenets of modern dance. This also holds true for Lisa Draskovich-Long. She notes that training in modern dance takes time explaining, “Martha Graham once said that it takes ten years to make a dancer” She also adds that many of the students “start from zero”in terms of modern technique. Since many of them come from competition-based dance studios where modern dance is not taught, they learn these foundations during their time in the program. Another strength of the program comes from its rigor, which is due in part to Debra Noble. Like Rangel and Draskovich-Long, Noble advocates for a strong basis in the language of dance. For her, this basis provides a framework from which students will eventually build their own aesthetic vocabulary, adding that in order to inform your craft, it is essential to stay open to all ideas. Having come from the “dance meccas” of Chicago and New York, her extensive artistic and administrative background enabled her to see the needs of the program with what she calls “a different eye” when she was hired in 2000. She was instrumental in creating assessment-based criteria with an emphasis on training, advisement, and exposure to professional practices.  Part of this exposure includes guest artists who teach rigorous workshops, many of whom are internationally recognized. This can lead to professional opportunities after graduation, and many alums have gone on to accept full-time dance contracts right out of school. Rangel often hears from these alums, who thank him and the faculty for having such high expectations of them during their time in the program, a work ethic they have applied as professional dancers, choreographers, and instructors in the field. Noble points out that the comprehensive nature of the faculty is unique among universities. While many dance programs tend to be comprised of faculty with very similar training, the styles of dance represented by faculty at Cal State Fullerton range from ballet to modern.

Photo from 2016 Spring Dance – Photo by Ben Licera

Draskovich-Long, Noble, and Rangel bring round out this program with their vast depth of experience and knowledge. Through them, the next generation of dancers stands ready to share their gift, inspire, and innovate, much like Martha Graham, Lester Horton, and Jóse Limón did before them.


CSUF Dance at Jacob’s Pillow

Photo by Jena Wijtman

This past summer, CSUF Dance Majors, Jonathan Kim, Andrew Corpuz, Kevin Lopez and Chris Jensen were selected to represent the CSUF College of the Arts Dance Program at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance in Becket, Massachusetts for Inside/Out American College Dance National Gala Highlights Concert on August 25. The COTA Dance Program was one of four programs out of over 500 in the United States that were chosen to perform at the festival.

“The Pillow” is the country’s only National Historic Landmark that draws people from all over the world to the longest-running international dance festival through the School at Jacob’s Pillow. The school is recognized as one of the most prestigious professional dance schools in the nation and offers hundreds of performances and workshops each season. Professor of Dance and Program Director, Debra Noble, notes the immense honor for both the dancers and the dance program to be selected. “It reflects highly on our dance program and the training that our students are receiving.”

Our students’ experience was highlighted in the September News of the American College Dance Association:

Photo by Priscilla Alvarez

“Humbled is the only word that comes to my mind whenever I am asked to express my short- lived experience at Jacob’s Pillow. Having the privilege of being a part of the first [ACDA performance at the Pillow] was something that pushed me in every way as a dancer. The experience granted me a taste of just how glorious this craft can truly be. The four universities were really able to have the whole VIP experience, with a private tour of the grounds and exclusive look into the Pillow’s own archives which is a gem within an already Historic National Landmark. Mr. Shawn would be so proud of what the farm he bought has become. The Inside/Out, with its free admission, feels just like a summer picnic with friends watching the art of dance. Within the trees, its backdrop of the mountains, the Pillow creates the most ego-free, inclusive environment that I have ever experienced. All that Jacob’s Pillow has shared with us left me full of love for the dance world.” – Kevin Lopez

“Dancing at Jacob’s Pillow was simply one of the most amazing opportunities I have ever encountered.  Just thinking about all the people who have come and gone through Jacobs Pillow and we had the chance make our mark in such a special place. Thank you.” – Chris Jensen


Photo by John Evans

“It was an honor to be a part of the historic collaboration between the American College Dance Association and Jacob’s Pillow. Performing on the Inside/Out stage was a surreal, humbling, and rewarding experience that intensified our passion to pursue dance. [The four performers in the dance] each started late, and being a male dancer has brought its own baggage in our respective journeys. The piece August has allowed us to explore masculinity, community, and resilience through movement. Sharing this work with Jacob’s Pillow has been nothing short of dream, a dream worth fighting for.” – Jonathan Kim

“The Pillow was a perfect place to see [the dancers] off and out to our separate paths. It was a breath-taking experience. Thank you.” – Andrew Corpuz

Many thanks for the American College Dance Association and Jacob’s Pillow for the opportunity you provided for our students!


The Grand Central Art Center

gcacThe College of the Arts is fortunate to count as one of its units the Grand Central Art Center in Santa Ana. Grand Central, run by Director, John D. Spiak, and Associate Director, Tracey Gayer, is a contemporary visual arts space that serves the campus, local, and regional communities through art exhibitions and programs curated by the GCAC team, as well as projects initiated by their artists-in-residence. The organization stands out as a unique place that hosts projects through their on-site galleries, blackbox theatre, and provides housing for both master level arts students of CSUF and visiting artists-in-residence. “Absolutely worth it! This graduate housing it totally different,” explains MFA Theatre student, Tina Burkhalter, “I am surrounded by people who are artists, my neighbors – literally right next door… There are art galleries and a theatre below in Grand Central which has allowed me to meet many wonderful artist-in-residence who have put on deep, meaningful, and well thought out exhibitions.” The theatre students, through the director of the CSUF Department of Theatre and Dance, are active in the spaces provided by Grand Central to create a unique work and performance environment that allows for the production of their works.

Many other universities and organization have these spaces or programs, but rarely are they all located in one place, under one roof.

Through the GCAC artist-in-residence program, Grand Central supports and works directly with the artists to develop new projects. “We invite and believe in our artists and their process. They don’t have to have a project when they come, so they are open to explore and get to know this community and the resources that GCAC may be able to provide,” explains Spiak, “the works are all well received because they are relevant to this community and beyond, addressing the issues, concerns and wonderment of the now.”

Grand Central and the College of the Arts have worked to provide students opportunities to interact with their artists-in-residence through exhibitions, studios engagements on site, as well as workshops and integrated academic collaborations on campus.  Artist/Composer Lisa Bielawa has been an ongoing visiting artists-in-residence at GCAC for the past four years, as she has been researching, developing and realizing her ambitious serial broadcast opera project and winner of the 2015 ASCAP Multimedia Award, “Vireo.” During her time in residence, she has provided master workshops with CSUF music and composition students.  She has also made possible the opportunity for other performers involved with Vireo to provide workshops to CSUF students.  Through the residence Lisa, as well as Vireo performers Laurie Rubin and Matthias Bossi, performed as part of the CSUF New Music Festival founded by CSUF Music Professor Pamela Madsen. The full twelve episodes of Vireo will premiere in spring of 2017, in collaboration with Los Angeles based independent television station KCET.

Photo from the Unfinished Conversation: Reconstructing the Invisible Exhibition last year!

Spiak highlights last year’s exhibition by Bosnian born, New York based artist, Aida Šehović, in collaboration with Santa Ana forensic investigator, Leonard Correa, as a great example of relevancy. There work and resulting exhibition Unfinished Conversation: Reconstructing the Invisible explored the similarities in their process of dealing with personal traumas. Šehović lived through the war in the 1990s in her homeland while Correa also lives with the images of locations where horrific crimes were committed in Santa Ana. Šehović created a video interviewing her parents about their experience losing everything during the war – including her father drawing their beloved house from memory. Correa photographed common and familiar locations in Santa Ana, scenic images taken during perfect morning sunlight with no individuals present, yet locations where he was a first responder to horrific crime scenes of the recent past.  The images were presented with written text by Šehović from recollections told to her by Correa. A visitor may not have come knowing what the exhibition was all about, but after seeing the locations in Santa Ana and the stories that accompany them, they would realize that these locations were all places where homicides took place within their own communities. By connecting these stories of trauma and place, which is a relationship we are all familiar with through minor and major personal life experiences, the art becomes more relevant to the visitor.

Join us on the first Saturday of each month for the Downtown Santa Ana First Saturday Art Walk where Grand Central opens its doors for visitors to experience exhibitions and programs! Currently, Exploring The Nowannago: Kentifrican Modes of Resistance, a video and performance work featuring Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle and Tyler Matthew Oyer is on exhibition in the main gallery. The work provides a critique on labels of queerness, racial, and gender constructions.