University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee

Dance MFA - Performing Arts

The Department of Dance offers a low-residency program leading to a Master of Fine Arts in Performing Arts—Dance (soon to be renamed Master of Fine Arts in Dance and Choreography) The program follows an intense hybrid schedule (two semesters in Milwaukee, three semesters using distance-learning tools) that includes 7-week retreat-like summer campus experiences by Lake Michigan. The program is sensitive to returning professionals’ needs and is designed to meet the scheduling constraints of working dance professional performers, choreographers and educators as they earn their degree.

The MFA in Performing Arts—Dance at UWM consists of 60 credits with an emphasis on contemporary choreography and performance. The program prepares future university dance professors and provides secondary school educators with the means to expand their theoretical and choreographic skills while increasing their earning potential in K-12 public and private institutions. Graduate students have the opportunity to examine their technical skills through current and cutting edge somatic perspectives and define their research emphases through rigorous inquiry into physical and theoretical practices. They then integrate their studies into culminating final thesis projects.

The MFA program first and foremost supports student-based research. Faculty members teaching in the program are acclaimed performers, choreographers and/or researchers in the field. Their research spans cultural forms and techniques in Brazilian and African diasporic forms, integration of somatics into dance curricula, and dance companies that investigate specific movement research from feminist concerns to popular culture issues in choreography. Dance Department faculty have recently been recognized by UWM with two Research Growth Initiatives grants and a Center for 21st Century Studies Transdisciplinary Award plus two Wisconsin Arts Board Choreographic Fellowships. Faculty members regularly present their work at NDEO, IADMS, Motus Humanus, ACDFA, independently, etc. The faculty fully support student research by providing space and opportunities to investigate and perform their work in Milwaukee.

Our students represent a cross-section of talented contemporary dance choreographers from across the United States including New York, Texas, California and the Midwest.

For further information:
(414) 229-2571
Simone Ferro & Luc Vanier, Directors of the Graduate Program

MFA Student Handbook

MFA Degree Admission

Admission to the Dance MFA program is in the summer only, with the application deadline of November 1 (or the next business day). The Graduate School and the Department of Dance require a different set of materials for the application.  

Graduate School Application and Admission Criteria 

  • Applications are available online only and are available on the UWM web page ( under the "Apply for Admission" heading. The application instructions include information on where to mail official transcripts. If you attended more than one institution prior to earning your bachelor's degree, have those sent from institutions where you earned nine or more credits. Official undergraduate transcripts (those still in their sealed envelopes from issuing institutions) should be mailed directly to the Graduate School at: UW-Milwaukee Graduate School, Shane Haensgen, P.O. Box 340, Milwaukee, WI 53201.
  • The Dance MFA program does not require GRE tests for acceptance. The Graduate School admission standards require a Bachelor's degree (does not need to be in Dance) with a minimum of 2.75 GPA (4.0 scale). There are probationary measures in place to override the GPA minimum for talented applicants who are able to demonstrate their potential for graduate study; however our applicants generally exceed the minimum GPA. Since 1997, we have had only one Dance applicant accepted on probation, and in her case she had a record of exemplary postgraduate grades at another post-secondary institution.
  • Upon acceptance (approximately January 1), the successful applicant receives an acceptance letter from the Graduate School, and the unsuccessful applicant will receive a denial letter. The Dance Department will often develop a waiting list, and will hold off on sending any official letter from the Graduate School until a final decision has been made. The department recommends acceptance for admission for candidates who have demonstrated choreographic originality and skill, advanced technical skills, academic maturity and self-motivation.
  • International Student Information can be found at

Dance Department Application and Admission Criteria 

The Dance Department requires the following application materials in either hard copy (sent to Dance MFA Application, UW-Milwaukee, PO Box 413, Milwaukee, WI 53201 – postmark deadline of November 1) or PDF (sent in a single email to - deadline of 11:59pm central time on November 1):

  • Work sample if sending DVD: 10-12 minutes of recent performance and choreography. It may consist of excerpted works (minimum two minutes from each work). DVD must work in both DVD player and computer. Also required is a work sample description page, listing choreographer, performers, venue, company/organization, dates, and any other applicable information (designers, etc) for each work included on the DVD.
  • Work Sample if sending via PDF: Work sample description page with URLs for 10-12 minutes of recent performance and choreography. It may consist of excerpted works (minimum two minutes from each work). Must include exact URL (web address) for each work (clickable links preferred). For each work included, work sample description page should list choreographer, performers, venue, company/organization, dates, and any other applicable information (designers, etc).
  • Press materials if available.
  • Copy of your personal statement from the Graduate School online application. The personal statement addresses your reasons for pursuing graduate study.
  • Curriculum vitae or resume (no more than 5 pages).
  • Two current letters of recommendation from professionals in the field, addressed to Dance Graduate Faculty (no older than 6-12 months) – these can be sent directly from the recommender to or PO Box 413 above.

Excellence in our field is evident in the performance and choreographic credits a candidate presents to the program at the time of application. The Dance Faculty (3-5 members) reviews the completed Graduate School application and transcript assessment to determine academic ability, and letters of recommendation and work samples of choreography and performance to determine artistic merit.

MFA Degree Requirements

For Students Entering Fall 2007 or after
Completion of the 60 credits to degree is distributed as follows:

Requirements Credits
Dance Techniques (Modern, African, Ballet, Yoga) 9-15 cr.
Creating, Staging and Performing Dance 16-22 cr.
Theory and Application of Dance 12-18 cr.
Electives in Complementary Studies 6-14 cr.
Final Project 4-8 cr.
  28cr. Total

Dance Technique Courses
Graduates may elect their credits from among offerings in Modern, Ballet, African Dance, Yoga, Pilates, and Alexander Technique.

Creating, Staging and Performing Dance
Graduates complete Improvisation I and II, Composition I and II, Choreography I and II, and Repertoire & Ensemble, and Workshop courses conducted by guest artists in the program.

Theory and Application of Dance
Graduate students may elect any four courses minimum from among Dynamic Analysis of Movement, Survey of Dance Literature, Dance in Secondary Education and College Settings, History of Contemporary American Dance, Applied Anatomy for Dance, Field History Studies, Developing Performance Quality. 

Electives in Complementary Studies
With consent of dance graduate major advisor, students may elect any graduate level course work from the campus that is applicable to their specific graduate research area of interest. 

Final Project
Each student must undertake a final project of either one or two semesters’ duration (4-8 cr.). The project must be approved by the graduate dance faculty. The project may involve an array of challenging roles and/or production choreographic work created by the student. These may occur in a variety of approved performance settings that may include on or off-campus sites. The quality of performance and/or choreography will determine whether the degree is granted. This evaluation is made by the graduate faculty after the presentation of the final project. No comprehensive examination is required

MFA Degree Curriculum

The MFA curriculum is offered on a three semester per year model with all students entering the program in the summer. A student entering the program can expect to complete the minimum requirement of 60 credit hours towards graduation in three summers if they carry 12-13 credits in the summer and smaller loads during the fall and/or spring semesters. To this end we offer six- and seven-week summer intensive session options and encourage participation in faculty mentored off-campus projects during the fall and spring.

Course Descriptions

When applicable, it is noted when courses are offered and if there is an off-campus option for the course. Many of the off-campus courses require submission of a formal proposal from the student to the course instructor. Courses that carry a variable range of credits use the following formula in determining the number of credits: 36 contact hours for a 3 credit course (24 for a 2 credit and 12.5 for a 1 credit course).

Intermediate Yoga For Dancers
. 2 cr. U/G.
A continuation of Dance 103 (Introduction to Iyengar Yoga) stressing the performance and integration of more advanced asanas. May be retaken for total of 6 cr. 

Intermediate African Dance. 2 cr. U/G. A continuation of Dance 122 (African Dance I) stressing intermediate skills and greater social cultural nuances. 

Dance Composition I. 3 cr. G.
An investigation of resources for discovering and inventing movement material, and for developing concepts and structures to give this material perceptual, emotional validity. Prereq: conc reg Dance 733(C) . 

Dance Composition II. 3 cr. G.
A continuation of Dance 701. Prereq: Dance 701(P), conc reg Dance 734(C)

Theory and Techniques of Ballet: Intermediate. 2 cr. G.
Technical study of classical ballet. May be repeated twice for cr. 

Theory and Techniques of Contemporary Concert Dance: Intermediate. 2 cr. G.
An intensive course designed to develop understanding of the major techniques of contemporary concert dance. May be repeated twice for cr. 

Theory and Techniques of Contemporary Concert Dance: Intermediate. 2 cr. G.
A continuation of Dance 717. May be repeated twice for cr. Prereq: Dance 717 

Alexander Technique: Developmental Movement and Dance. 1-3 cr. G
A hands-on exploration of the Alexander Technique and the Dart Procedures as they apply to advanced and professional dancers. 

Alexander Technique Practicum. 1-3 cr. G
Continuation of Dance 721 focusing on a more in-depth study and application of Alexander Technique for advanced dancers. Prereq: Dance 721. 

Pilates Technique and Applications. 2 cr. G
Use of Pilates method to understand and articulate essential concepts and theories of movement, and refine dance technique. May be retaken once. 

Improvisation I. 2 cr. G
Techniques and structures for improvisation--the development of processes for evolving movement material from an exploration of the dynamics of inter and intra-relationships, and environment. Prereq: conc reg in Dance 701(C) 

Improvisation II. 2 cr. G
A continuation of Dance 733. Prereq: Dance 733(P) & conc reg in Dance 702(C) 

Dynamic Analysis of Movement I. 2 cr. G
Exploration of personal patterning and discovery of movement sources at the body level. Incorporates material from bartenieff fundamentals, feldenkrais, and sweigard. Offered on-campus in the spring terms in conjunction with the undergraduate Dance 241 course. Course may be taken off-campus with approval of graduate advisor. 

Laban Movement Analysis. 3 cr. G
Theory and movement practice in effort/shape for use both in performance and in choreography. 

Survey of Dance Literature and Bibliography. 3 cr. G.
Lecture, research, and discussion of the major dance reference works, and of dance research publications. Involves student proposed research project. Dance 761 is offered on-campus every summer. The class generally meets 3 times over the summer term and work begun in the summer is completed and graded in the subsequent fall term. 

Dance in Secondary Education and College. 3 cr. G.
Methods and philosophy of teaching dance in the secondary school. Theory and practice in solving problems arising in practical teaching situations. Observation of dance lessons. Offered on-campus in the fall terms in conjunction with Dance 362 or off-campus by proposal. 

American Concert Dance of the Twentieth Century. 3 cr. G.
Graduate seminar in special topics of American concert dance of the twentieth century. Course is offered on-line every spring term as an electronic reserve readings course. 

Repertoire and Ensemble. 1-3 cr. G.
Practicum in group performance in dance department productions, touring groups, and performances related to the dance department. Includes original works from classical and contemporary repertoire. May be repeated to max of 12 cr. Repertory opportunities are available on-campus in the summer terms. Course may be taken off-campus with approval of graduate advisor. 

Independent Study. 1-3 cr. G.
Individual faculty and student will define the teaching/learning contract for the semester and agree on the credit. Course may be taken off-campus with approval of graduate advisor. 

Choreography I. 3 cr. G.
Creating fully mounted works; choreography, performance quality, lighting decor, costumes. Cr determined by contract with chair prior to regis. Prereq: Dance 701(P) & 702(P) or cons instr. Course work may be completed on or off campus. 

Choreography II. 3 cr. G.
Creating fully mounted works of greater length and complexity. Prereq: Dance 801(P), or cons instr. Course work may be completed on or off-campus. 

Field History: Contemporary Festivals. 2-4 cr. G.
Research, reading, attendance and documentation on selected festivals/series events. May be repeated with permission to max of 9 cr. Course work may be completed on or off-campus. 

Developing Performance Quality.1-3 cr. G.
Studies in dynamics of specific choreographic concerns in re-setting or coaching choreography. Cr determined prior to regis. May be repeated for up to 6 cr. Prereq: Dance 711 & 717 or cons instr. Course work may be completed on or off-campus. 

Special Workshops. (Subtitled). 1-3 cr. G.
Special short intensive workshops of 1-4 weeks during inter-terms or summer sessions presented by guest artists. May be retaken to 9 cr max. 

Dance Final Thesis/Project. 2-4 cr. G.
Final demonstration and documentation of craft and artistry mastered in program. Proposal must be approved by the graduate faculty. May be repeated to max of 8 cr. Coursework may be completed on or off-campus.

Courses numbered 300 to 699 are Undergraduate/Graduate.
Courses numbered 700 and above are Graduate only.
*indicates required course in MFA curriculum
^ indicates strongly suggested course in MFA curriculum
~indicates courses faculty recommend alternating for curriculum diversity

MFA Degree Opportunities

Performance Opportunities
The Dance Department presents four concerts each year: Winterdances and Summerdances, which showcase the work of faculty and guest artists, performed by students; and New Dancemakers and Dancemakers/MFA Thesis, which feature choreography by undergraduate and graduate students, respectively. 

Guest Artists
Special workshops by guest artists are scheduled specifically for the MFA summer program, and distance-learning coursework by guest faculty is offered during the academic year. These workshops and courses are designed to fill specific curricular needs (Modern Dance Pedagogy, Africa and Diaspora Dance, Research Methodology, Dance Criticism), interdisciplinary study (Dance for the Camera, Sound Design for Dance, Lighting Design for Dance), or to expose the MFA students to technique and somatic instructors other than the UWM Dance faculty.

2010 MFA Guest Artists 
  • Ellen Bromberg of the University of Utah
  • Barbara Grubel of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater (danced with Ralph Lemon and Bill Young)
  • Gerald Casel of the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University (danced with Stephen Petronio, Zvi Gotheiner, and Lar Lubovitch)
2009 MFA Guest Artists
  • Jan Erkert of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Elizabeth Zimmer, dance critic and editor
  • Barbara Mahler, Klein Technique
2008 MFA Guest Artists
  • Barb Grubel, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater
  • Debra Loewen, Wild Space Dance Company and UWM Dance MFA
  • Rebecca Holderness, UWM Theatre Faculty, MFA Columbia University
2007 MFA Guest Artists
  • Barbara Grubel, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater
  • Bill Young, Bill Young & Dancers
  • Allyson Green, Allyson Green Dance and San Diego State University
  • Ellen Bromberg, University of Utah
  • K.J. Holmes, New York University