The Master of Fine Arts (MFA) program in Dance in the Performing Arts Department at Washington University offers an innovative approach to dance technique, composition, improvisation and production. It involves an energetic interplay of studio work with professionally distinguished dance instructors, seminars with faculty who are experts in their fields, and independent studies in choreography. This two-year program will expand students' dance skills while engaging them with current concepts of dance as an art form, as an expression of culture and identity, and as a mode of critical thinking. The overarching goal of this program is to develop each dancer's personal artistic practice while encouraging a global perspective on dance studies, performance, pedagogy and choreography.
The department offers performance experience through its repertory company, Washington University Dance Collective, for which students may audition.
Members of our dance faculty have performed with such companies as American Ballet Theatre; Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater; Dance Theatre of Harlem; National Ballet of Washington, D.C.; Dayton Contemporary Dance Company; and Utah Repertory Dance Theatre. In addition, a distinctive feature of our MFA program is that it is run in collaboration with St. Louis' Center of Creative Arts (COCA), so it involves a sharing of facilities and faculty borne out of a common vision of the importance of the performing arts. As the leading dance school in the region, COCA is also the largest multidisciplinary arts organization in St. Louis, and it has a world-renowned faculty. We have a long history of engaging the talents of contemporary guest choreographers and répétiteurs from ballet and from modern and performance art who bring a broad range of challenging new processes, concepts and choreography to our students.
MFA in Dance
Degree Requirements: 60 units (15 units/semester) during two years to degree
At the end of their first year, students will propose a culminating project — typically a dance concert or another public presentation of creative work largely expressed in dance — and submit a paper about its production, including analysis and critique, that they will defend orally.
I. Technical Development: 13 units
8 units from the following:
- Dance 401 Theory and Technique of Modern Dance V (2 units; may be repeated once)
- Dance 4021 Theory and Technique of Modern Dance VI (2 units; may be repeated once)
- Dance 415 High Intermediate Ballet I (2 units; may be repeated once)
- Dance 416 High Intermediate Ballet II (2 units; may be repeated once)
- Dance 4281 Classical Ballet III (2 units; may be repeated once)
- Dance 4291 Classical Ballet IV (2 units; may be repeated once)
Plus an additional 5 units from the above or from the following:
- Dance 403 Jazz III (2 units; may be repeated once)
- Dance 407 Topics in Dance Techniques (variable credit; 3 units max)
- Dance 418 Variations in the Ballet (1 unit)
- Dance 423 Pointe Technique (1 unit)
II. Choreography and Performance: 20 units
- Dance 508 Dance Composition Laboratory I: Exploring Process and Format (3 units)
- Dance 509 Dance Composition Laboratory II: Exploring Alternative Venues and Audience Connections (3 units)
- Dance 510 Approaches to Improvisation and Spontaneous Composition (3 units)
- Dance 511, 5112, 5113 Independent Choreography Project I, II, III (3 units per course, for a total of 9 units)
- Dance 512 Performance Artistry (1 unit; must be taken twice, for a total of 2 units)
III. Research and Integrated Learning: 12 units
- Dance 520 Research Methods Colloquium (3 units)
Plus 9 units from the following:
- Dance 413 Modern Dance and the African American Legacy II (2 units)
- Dance 426 Performing the Political in American Dance (3 units)
- Dance 433 Performing Gender and Sexuality in America (3 units)
- Dance 506 Topics in Contemporary Arts Practice Research (3 units)
- Dance 517 Workshop in Dance as Cultural Identity (3 units)
- Dance 519 Guest Artist Residency Workshop (1 unit; may be repeated once)
- Dance 530 Theories of the Body in Performance (3 units)
- Dance 543 Critical Thinking in Western Theatrical Dance (3 units)
IV. Electives: 9 units
Students must complete 9 units at the 400 level or above, with at least one course at the 500 level. These units may be from any areas of the performing arts or relevant areas in other departments or programs.
MFA students are encouraged to pursue courses that support or help to define their individual trajectories as artists. These courses may include 400- or 500-level Performing Arts Department courses in costumes, stage lighting and design, or theater history. Students may also wish to pursue study in the departments of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies; Music; Psychological & Brain Sciences; Anthropology; Art History and Archaeology; or other areas relevant to the student's particular development.
V. Mentored Teaching Experience
- LGS 600
Each Mentored Teaching Experience will be fashioned around the student's interests, when possible, and guided by a full-time member of the dance faculty. For more information, visit the Mentored Teaching Experiences webpage.
VI. Final Project: 6 units
- Dance 550 Final Project I (3 units); to be taken during the fall semester of the student's second year
- Dance 551 Final Project II (3 units); to be taken during the spring semester of the student's second year
At the end of the first year, the MFA student will propose a plan for the final project and form a final project committee that will evaluate the final project. A concert is the typical format of the MFA final project. This concert or public presentation of the student's creative work must be largely expressed in dance. The concert or public presentation will be followed by the submission of a written Production Book that includes analysis and critique. In some cases, the written documents may include research related to the production, or a complementary research paper may accompany the Production Book. The student will present an oral defense of the work in front of an invited audience and submit a final version of the written component, as well as a DVD of the concert or public presentation, for archival purposes within the department.