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Racial Microaggressions in Dance: A BYU Professor’s Take on Asian American Stereotypes

November 02, 2020 12:00 AM
Professor Kori Wakamatsu’s newly published article examines microaggressions in dance settings BYU dance education professor Kori Wakamatsu recently published a scholarly article in the Journal of Dance Education. Her article is titled Asian American Perspectives: From Microaggressions to Microprogressions - How Small Choices Can Make a Big Difference in the Dance Classroom. Wakamatsu started researching this topic about two years ago because she wanted to be able to more fully understand and explain microaggressions. She prepared to write it by studying different microaggressions. She also sat in on some of BYU’s race and ethnicity courses. The article explores how microaggressions can affect minority students in the dance classroom. Wakamatsu examines the idea specifically from the perspective of Asian Americans, outlining the different stereotypes that affect Asian Americans and how those stereotypes can show up in the world of dance. One example given in the article is the Chinese Dance in “The Nutcracker.” Wakamatsu’s article quoted journalist Jennifer Fisher, who said, “I ran into effervescent young ballet girls, most of them white, who dutifully told me that the Chinese Dance helped them ‘learn about other cultures.’ What I saw them learning was how to flatten anyone of Asian descent into a cartoon.” Wakamatsu has had personal experience with Asian American stereotypes throughout her life. She was born in Korea, but was adopted by an American family and grew up in West Valley, Utah. People tend to get confused by her last name, because it’s Japanese, but it actually comes from her husband, who is half Japanese, half white. She said the most common microaggression that she has gotten throughout her life was people asking where she’s from and automatically assuming she’s a foreigner. “I have a love/hate relationship with the ‘where are you from?’ question. I've gone through my own personal arc and journey with it. When I was growing up I actually really loved that question because I thought it was unique and special to say, ‘I was born in Korea, but I'm adopted,’” Wakamatsu said. “But it became a point of conflict for me my freshman year at BYU. You spend a lot of time getting to know people, and asking where everyone’s from, but if I ever said I was from Salt Lake or West Valley I would always get the second question, ‘no, where are you really from?’” In her article, Wakamatsu suggests replacing microaggressions in dance and other aspects of life with microprogressions, or small daily actions that challenge stereotypes. “The dance classroom is a fertile setting to pursue microprogressions and challenge microaggressions. The expressive use of the body through movement means that dance can distinctly address racial microaggressions,” Wakamatsu said in the article. This “forever foreigner” stereotype that Wakamatsu has experienced is one of five common Asian American stereotypes that Wakamatsu outlined in her article. The other four stereotypes are the model minority myth, the common characterization of Asians in American media, the expected conformity of all Asian Americans, and the invisibility of Asian Americans. “I hope the article helps increase awareness about personal biases. There's this stereotype that Asian Americans are the model minority, and I tried to make the point that even a positive stereotype can have limiting and negative consequences. I hope that teachers especially can have more awareness of that,” Wakamatsu said. Wakamatsu’s article invites dance teachers and professors to stop every so often and evaluate their own teaching. She lists several questions that teachers can ask themselves to become more aware of possible microaggressions they might be using when they teach. She also invites teachers to think about how they can better help the minority students in their classes to feel empowered. “Teachers are in a position of authority and play a critical role in diffusing and unpacking microaggressions that occur in the classroom,” Wakamatsu’s article reads. “The impulse might be to avoid or ignore these situations, yet dance educators have a responsibility to embrace the messy struggle of race-based discourse.”
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CFAC Faculty and Staff Recognized at Annual University Conference

August 29, 2019 12:00 AM
Seven faculty members from the College of Fine Arts and Communications were recognized — four with university awards and three with college awards Several faculty members from the College of Fine Arts and Communications were recognized during BYU’s 2019 annual University Conference for their outstanding accomplishments and service. Kelly Loosli, Claudine Bigelow, Daniel Everett and Kori Wakamatsu received university faculty awards. Stephanie Breinholt, Daniel Barney and Nathan Balser were presented with college awards. University awards were announced at the opening session of University Conference on Monday, August 26. College awards were presented by associate dean Amy Jensen and dean Ed Adams during the college meeting on Wednesday, August 28. University Awards Kelly Loosli | Department of Theatre and Media Arts | Karl G. Maeser Excellence in Teaching Award Loosli, a professor of animation, was awarded the Karl G. Maeser Excellence in Teaching Award. This award highlights the masterful teaching accomplishments of faculty members at BYU. Loosli has had a passion for media arts since a teenager working as a clay animator for television commercials. While an undergraduate at BYU, Loosli won a Student Emmy for a claymation film. After his time at BYU, Loosli went on to work on major productions, including DreamWorks Feature Animation films “Shrek” and “Spirit.” Over the past 12 years, Loosli has dedicated himself to growing and expanding the BYU animation program into the nationally recognized program it is today. He teaches animation, storyboarding and screenwriting. Claudine Bigelow | School of Music | Karl G. Maeser Research and Creative Arts Award Bigelow, head of viola studies and chamber music coordinator, was awarded the Karl G. Maeser Research and Creative Arts Award. This award — given by the Karl G. Maeser Scholarship Society — honors faculty members for exceptional research and creative accomplishments. As an avid recitalist, Bigelow continues to perform locally and nationally throughout the year, including performing at the Grand Teton Music Festival each year. She has played with the National and Utah Symphonies, Smithsonian Chamber Orchestra, National Chamber Orchestra and at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. Bigelow was chosen to be a Fulbright Senior Scholar in 2012 and served as artist-in-residence at the Te Kōkī New Zealand School of Music in Wellington. Daniel Everett | Department of Art | Young Scholar Award Everett, a professor of art, was awarded the Young Scholar Award. This award acknowledges faculty members who demonstrate immense potential and achievement in the early stages of their university careers. Currently, Everett serves as the LEP Coordinator for the Department of Art and oversees its BFA program. At BYU, he teaches new genre, photography and advanced studio courses. Everett specializes in many forms of media, including photography, video and installation. A solo exhibition by Everett has been featured in the Utah Museum of Fine Arts and the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. His work has been displayed in more than 90 exhibitions in 16 countries throughout North America and Europe. Kori Wakamatsu | Department of Dance | Joseph E. White Teaching and Learning Faculty Fellowship Wakamatsu, the contemporary dance program coordinator, was awarded the Joseph E. White Teaching and Learning Faculty Fellowship. Fellowships acknowledge the time and effort sacrificed by “the university’s support services in providing a transfer of positions and budget to enhance teaching and learning.” As contemporary dance program coordinator, Wakamatsu oversees dance education within the Department of Dance. Prior to teaching at BYU, she taught dance at public middle and high schools in Utah. Wakamatsu has collaborated on projects including “The Thought of You” animation, “The Nightingale” play, “Dance Engine” and “On Site” mobile dance series. College Awards Stephanie Breinholt | Department of Theatre and Media Arts | Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Work Brienholt, the BFA acting area head, was awarded the Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Work during the college awards portion of University Conference. “Stephanie is continually involved in creative work in a mixture of directing and acting,” said associate dean Amy Jensen. “She is uncommonly adept at helping students accomplish great things; she has proved herself to be a professor who is helpful and caring.” As a nationally recognized director and award-winning educator, Brienholt helps students in the Department of Theatre and Media Arts prepare for a successful career in the theatre world. In addition to teaching, she is a professional actor, voice over artist, voice and dialect coach and designer. Brienholt is a member of the Voice and Speech Trainers Association. Daniel Barney | Department of Art | Excellence in Teaching Barney, a professor of art, was awarded the Excellence in Teaching for his accomplishments as a teacher and educator. Barney currently teaches classes in curriculum development and theory and methods in contemporary art. “Daniel is continuously described as being rigorous, current, inspirational and concerned for his students,” said Jensen. In addition to his time in the classroom at BYU, Barney serves as the assistant editor of “Journal of Social Theory in Art Education” and associate editor of “Journal of Curriculum and Pedagogy.” He also participates in the review boards of several key research journals. Barney has co-edited the book “Arts Education and Literacies” and has authored articles for various art journals and publications. Nathan Balser | Department of Dance | Excellence in Citizenship Balser, a professor of dance, was awarded the Excellence in Citizenship, recognizing his service on several department committees and as associate chair in the Department of Dance. “His wisdom and insight is relied upon, along with his unique ability to bring people to a consensus,” said Jensen. “His colleagues describe him as understanding, peacemaking, generous, collegial and collaborative. He is an engaged artist who seeks opportunities to serve and advocate for the art of dance.” Balser teaches contemporary dance and musical theatre dance techniques and theories. During his time as a BYU professor, Balser has choreographed for The Young Ambassadors and Contemporary Dance Theater, as well as BYU productions of “The Count of Monte Cristo” and “Wonderland.” He has also choreographed multiple productions at Sundance Summer Theatre and Hale Center Theatre. Prior to coming to BYU, Balser performed on Broadway, toured nationally and appeared on Tony Award programs and Kennedy Center Honors programs on CBS. He is a consultant at Utah Conservatory of the Performing Arts (COPA) and is a member of Actor’s Equity Association and Screen Actors Guild‐American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG/AFTRA). College Staff and Administrative Employee Recognition (SAERA) Award Bridget Benton | Dean’s Office Francie Jenson | Dean’s Office Melinda Semadeni | Dean’s Office Becca Weidner | Advisement Center New Faculty and Staff Kitsa Behringer | Museum of Art | Museum Educator Jason Cassel | Music | Piano Technician Ty Davis | Dean’s Office | Creative Services Manager, BYU Arts Marketing Adam Dyer | Dance | Assistant Professor Eliza Tanner Hawkins | Communications | Visiting Faculty Desiree Gonzalez-Miller | Music | Visiting Instructor Tony Gunn | Theatre and Media Arts | Visiting Assistant Professor Devin Knighton | Communications | Assistant Teaching Professor Korianne Orton Johnson | Music | Assistant Teaching Professor Brian Smith | Communications | Associate Professor Jamie Kalama Wood | Dance | Assistant Teaching Professor
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