College of Fine Arts


Modern Dance

M.F.A. in Modern Dance

Program Purpose

Program Purpose The Graduate Program (Master of Fine Arts) in the Department of Modern Dance cultivates multiple ways of investigating, articulating and understanding the body/mind through theory and practice. The MFA program integrates the rigors of technical discipline, creative investigation and intellectual exploration to prepare dancers for the opportunities and challenges of the profession. The curriculum promotes in-depth inquiry into dance as a physical, aesthetic, intellectual and cultural practice. Additionally, the department is committed to preparing future generations of leaders in the art form, teachers in higher education and community engaged service providers. Central to the Department of Modern Dance is the idea that dance is a way of knowing -- of knowing one’s self, one’s community and one’s place in the world. As such, the department cultivates dance-centric ways of knowing through the MFA degree. The curriculum consists of highly focused experiential and dialogic education to create an environment that encourages questioning, artistic risk-taking, critical thinking and communication. The Department is a transformative educational community which embraces ambiguity, welcomes creative conflict, practices integrity, sees diversity as essential and empowers through knowledge and experience. The Department of Modern Dance engages students in performance, improvisation, choreography, philosophy, pedagogy, research, dance technology, screendance and other academic and theoretical pursuits. The MFA in Modern Dance is a 61-credit terminal degree requiring 6 semesters of on-site participation. The MFA degree is intended to provide the breadth and depth of knowledge necessary to prepare graduates for professional careers in dance, including college and university teaching. The MFA degree requires an individualized thesis project and self-designed curricular plan after one’s first year. Through the thesis research process, the MFA program guides candidates to develop expertise in areas of specialization and personal interest. The thesis topic is designed and implemented by each MFA student, focusing on a primary theme possibly involving elements from a broad range of research interests. Students are expected to investigate new areas of interest, challenge existing ideas, expand upon the familiar, and design projects that integrate areas of strength with new areas of learning. Graduate students are required to actively participate in the design of their programs, creative works and theses. Personalized mentorship within the context of advanced training is one of the hallmarks of the program. Faculty mentor candidates in order to prepare them for success in the professional field and uphold the reputation and standards of the Department of Modern Dance. The MFA is a rigorous course of study designed for those with serious, focused, professional aspirations as well as current knowledge of the contemporary dance field. The graduate program is nationally recognized as a professional training program offering a sophisticated and diverse curriculum for developing artists, scholars and teachers. Assessment: The Department has a grading policy which requires all graduate students to meet a minimum standard of competency in all of their Departmental courses. If a student performs below departmental expectations she/he will receive a substandard grade in that course. Graduate students are placed on probation if their GPA falls below a 3.0 or if they receive a grade below a B-. Students are expected to maintain these standards for the entire time they are in the department. Students are given ample opportunity to meet with their instructors and the Director of Graduate studies concerning their progress and potential in each of their courses and the program. In terms of University Graduate School grading standards, MFA students must maintain a 3.0 cumulative GPA or they are subject to dismissal from the program and the university. MFA students are expected to exhibit high levels of critical thinking, written and verbal communication, openness to new ideas, technical progress, collegiality, curiosity and creativity.

Learning Outcomes

  • Understand and embody advanced and diverse technical, choreographic and teaching skills.
  • Identify, analyze, and assess dance with sophistication from aesthetic, theoretical, historical, and cultural perspectives.
  • Develop a personal aesthetic.
  • Articulate a personal philosophy in written and verbal discourse, contextualizing one’s point of view with regard to dance and the arts in society.
  • Be well prepared for diverse positions in the public, private, or nonprofit sectors.
  • Possess a global perspective of the history and currency of the contemporary dance field.
  • Develop working artistic communities through collaboration and interdisciplinary activities.