Trailblazer Julia Ritter strives to make dance a safe space

Photo of USC Dean Julia Ritter
Julia M. Ritter is the dean of the USC Kaufman School of Dance. (Photo/Sandra Nissen)

The dean of the USC Kaufman School of Dance sees the impact that Title IX has had on the dance profession, but still recognizes the need to make progress.

The exam was anything but routine for Julia Ritter.

Ritter, dean at the USC Kaufman School of Dance, was teaching in Germany as part of a Fulbright fellowship in 2002. She was nursing an injury and needed physical therapy. The school referred her to a doctor’s office near campus. What came next was bewildering, if not jarring.

“I left the appointment feeling very uncomfortable, and then I got phone calls,” said Ritter, who received multiple late-night messages from a male physician insisting that she return for reevaluation. “It got to the point where I started thinking, ‘This is not normal.’ I vividly remember feeling like I had no place to go, no one to talk to. It was a very vulnerable moment.”

Title IX and its impact on dance

Ritter was in college when Title IX became law in 1972. She remembers thinking then that it had mostly to do with athletes. It was later that Ritter and a generation still coming of age realized what the groundbreaking legislation meant for them. That feeling has carried over to now.

“The discourse around Title IX has often prioritized women’s equity,” Ritter added. “But if you look at the population of dance artists that self-identify as nonbinary or transgender, there’s a much bigger population that needs to be recognized. I think that’s where Title IX has had a really big impact for the dance profession.”

Read more about Julia’s story