Jul 20, 2024  
2023-2024 University Catalog 
2023-2024 University Catalog

School of Dance

Donna Faye Burchfield, School Dean

Jen McGinn, Associate Dean & DIrector of Undergraduate Studies


Statement of Purpose

Expanding Dance, Experiencing Change.

The School of Dance’s course of study takes the depth and rigor of a discipline-based dance conservatory while engaging students in open discussions within their own practice, valuing their voices as capable of developing new and critical perspectives in dance. These strategies give way to student driven pathways and expand the ways students can access and think about the practices and techniques of making and performing dance. 


Building on the curricular strengths that have historically anchored the School of Dance, some of the key goals are:

  • to provide models for the study of dance that consistently weave and reference both the historical and the emerging forms
  • to create an active environment that strengthens the imagination by cultivating creativity
  • to strike a balance between studio practice & history/theory within the coursework
  • to continually model and promote open collaboration and change


The main studios of the School of Dance are located in the Terra Building at 211 South Broad Street. These spacious, bright, and well-lit studios are fully equipped with barres and mirrors, huge windows, pianos, and audio consoles. Their floors are constructed with four-inch, state-of-the-art suspension for the safest and most comfortable dancing surface available. The School of Dance utilizes both on-campus performance spaces such as the YGym Dance Theater located inside Gershman Hall and off-campus venues such as the Annenberg Center. The Albert M. Greenfield Library contains books, journals, DVDs, and videotapes devoted to dance, which are available to students for research and coursework.

Program Blueprint

The dance curriculum is designed to balance a great range of experiences with small learning communities.  It is divided into two parts: Foundation Series (first-year and sophomores) and Research Series (juniors and seniors).

Studio Practice

These courses range in disciplines specific to the expertise of both faculty and artists in residence.

All Studio Practice courses provide anatomically sound models for technical training in dance that consistently weave and reference both historical and emerging techniques, forms and styles through informed somatic practices. These studio courses begin with proper warm-up exercises to prepare the dancer for more complex movement expression. Material develops in space and time as the class progresses. Relationships of movement material to effort, shape, dynamics, time, motivation, articulation and intention are introduced and reinforced through repetition and sequencing. Most classes involve accompaniment of live music and simultaneously focus on the relationships of the moving body to sound, silence and rhythm. Other coursework introduce students to notions of ensemble dancing, classical and contemporary partnering, as well as improvisation and freestyle movement.

Within the Foundation Series, five-week module courses with a wide range of offerings, such as ballet, traditional modern dance techniques, hip hop, jazz, contemporary forms and more, are designed to provide the time for in depth study of techniques and approaches to dance training and to allow for possible new pathways to emerge through the sequencing of training.

Within the Research Series, students begin to make their own choices in the areas of Studio Practice.   Paired classes range in styles and techniques combining practice modalities that include ballet, traditional modern dance techniques, hip hop, jazz, contemporary forms and more.

The central questions are: How do dancers today prepare themselves for a field that is constantly changing and expanding? What is the relationship of technical training to a student’s creative work whether choreographing or performing? And, most importantly… How do dancers find a practice that combines physical techniques that can support the demands of varied choreographic approaches?

Thinking, Making, Doing (TMD)

All TMD courses happen in a studio and are structured in a workshop setting where assignments are made and time is spent making, viewing and discussing work. Ideas and concepts that shape forms of expression are referenced and illuminated through classroom viewings, listenings, and readings as well as attendance at live performances.

Within the TMD courses, students will research and discuss how works of art get made, how motivations are discovered, explore intentions and directions, and make work of their own. Students will compose, improvise, discuss, write artist statements, and keep artist journals in an environment that encourages experimentation and risk taking. Material is developed both within and outside the assigned class time.

The central questions of these courses are: How might we approach art-making from multiple perspectives? What is aesthetic intent, and how does aesthetic movement imagery get made? How do we research a creative work?  How does the research open up ways of thinking about, discussing, and making visible the creative processes that render choreography? 

Body Pathways

Body Pathways is a year-long core course in the Foundation Series designed to introduce students to the following: conditioning & assessment; awareness for alignment, placement and strength; experiential anatomy; and varying somatic practices for sustaining the body in dance. Extended study in Body Pathways is taken in the second and third years and further provides ongoing and consistent body assessment tools that will keep students dancing in a healthier, stronger way throughout their careers in dance.

First-Year Performance Workshop

The capstone course of the first year, offers students the opportunity to make important connections between their studio practice and Thinking, Making Doing coursework through ensemble crafting in the studio and staged performance. The course is designed to help students recognize the tools and methodologies used in both the making and performing of dance works.

Sophomore Performance and Coaching Project

This capstone course is designed to be the culmination of the Foundation Series. The course gives students the opportunity to learn and perform new works from varied disciplines with an emphasis on the vast approaches to staging, learning and performing. It includes curatorial conversations, imaginative studies and project rehearsals.

Junior Seminar

The Junior Seminar course focuses on current developments within the field of contemporary dance, and the presentation, archiving, and scoring of individual choreographic works. Students gain insights, through practice and discussion, yielding new and imaginative directions for senior thesis projects.

Performance Pedagogies of Dance (PODS)

These classes in the Research Series utilize the workshop studio setting for imagining, discussing, improvising, rehearsing, and eventual public presentation of work. The public presentations happen in formal settings on-campus and also extend out to include off-campus venues and communities in local, national and international locations.

Senior Seminar & Senior Thesis Workshop

This capstone course is designed to be the culmination of the Research Series. It is designed to assist seniors in the development and presentation of their senior projects. Each student will hone their artist statements, research ideas, propose a project, and create a website and other professional portfolio materials. They will also participate in rehearsals, performance, and technical aspects of the project presentations.

Discipline Histories

Through coursework in Contemporary Art Practices (CAP) and Critical Dance Studies I & II students work to explore and engage with dance’s history alongside ideas within the expanding fields of contemporary art. Students work to employ diverse modes of thinking, both verbally and in writing, to communicate ideas.


Each semester a wide range of elective courses are open to students across the university, including open-studio courses in ballet, modern, jazz, tap, Pilates and yoga.


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