University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee

Dance MFA - Performing Arts

The Department of Dance offers a low-residency graduate program leading to the Master of Fine Arts in Dance and Choreography. The program follows an intense hybrid schedule (part online and part on campus) that includes two 7-week retreat-like summers on an urban campus, walking distance to Lake Michigan. The program is geared towards 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 Dance at UWM consists of 60 credits with an emphasis on contemporary choreography and performance.  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. 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. The faculty fully supports student research by providing space and opportunities to investigate and perform their work in Milwaukee. They then integrate their studies into a culminating whole through their final thesis projects.

The MFA program first and foremost supports student-based research. Faculty 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 performance research including feminist concerns, site-specific performance, and technology integration and application. Dance Department faculty have been recognized by UWM with two Research Growth Initiatives grants and a 21st Century Studies Transdisciplinary Award plus two Wisconsin Arts Board Choreographic Fellowships. Faculty members regularly present their work at NDEO, IADMS, PCA, Motus Humanus, ACDA, in performance, and internationally.

Our students represent a cross-section of talented contemporary dance choreographers from across the United States including New York, Texas, California and the Midwest. To see former students who have received an MFA from us, please click here

For further information:

Daniel Burkholder, Graduate Program Director

MFA Student Handbook

MFA Degree Admission

Admission to the Dance MFA program is in the summer only, with a priority postmark application deadline of November 1 (or the next business day if the 1st is a weekend), and a received application deadline of March 1 (not postmark). We encourage possible applicants to contact the department prior to the application deadlines. 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 through the UWM Graduate School. 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, Joan Hayes, 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). Our applicants generally exceed the minimum GPA (however, keep in mind, certain types of financial assistance require a higher GPA).
  • Upon acceptance (between January 1 and March 30), the successful applicant receives an acceptance letter from the Graduate School, and the unsuccessful applicant will receive a denial letter. Concurrently, the Dance Department will develop a waiting list (with email notifications of the applicant’s current status), and will hold off on recommending acceptance to the Graduate School until a final decision has been made.
  • International Student Information can be found at

Dance Department Application and Admission Criteria

  • The Dance MFA Faculty 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.
  • The department recommends acceptance for admission for candidates who have demonstrated choreographic originality and skill, advanced technical skills, academic maturity and self-motivation.
  • The Dance Department requires the following materials in hard copy or pdfs sent in a single email:
    • Work Sample sent 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.
    • Curriculum vitae or resume (no more than 5 pages).
    • Copy of your personal statement from the Graduate School online application. The personal statement addresses your reasons for pursuing graduate study.
    • Two current letters of recommendation from professionals in the field, addressed to Dance Graduate Faculty (no older than 6-12 months) – these can be emailed directly from the recommender to
    • Mailing address for all materials: Dance MFA Application, UW-Milwaukee, PO Box 413, Milwaukee, WI 53201
    • Email address is: (only PDFs will be accepted via email).

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 under two years if they carry 12-13 credits each term (five semesters total). Summer terms consist of six- or seven-week summer intensive sessions. Fall and spring terms consist of faculty-mentored self-proposed coursework or online courses.

Course Descriptions

Please see Graduate Catalog for course descriptions - Here

For a suggested course of study, please download the MFA Student Handbook, linked above.

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, 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.

2014 MFA Guest Artists

  • Gerald Casel, Assistant Professor of Dance
  • Cheri Dostal, Movement Educator & Franklin Method
  • Andrea Harris, Assistant Professor, UW-Madison
  • Rebecca Holderness, Associate Professor of Theatre, UW-Milwaukee
  • Sara Hook, Professor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Paul Matteson, Assistant Professor of Dance at Amherst College and Mount Holyoke College (Five College Dance Department)
  • Julie Mayo, Skinner Release Practitioner

2013 MFA Guest Artists

  • Ellen Bromberg, Professor, University of Utah
  • Nora Chipaumire, Choreographer
  • Penelope Hanstein, Emeritus Professor, Texas Woman University
  • Rebecca Holderness, Associate Professor in Theatre, UW-Milwaukee
  • Sara Hook, Professor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Joseph Gallo, Actor and Playwright
  • Yoav Kaddar, Assistant Professor, West Virginia University

2012 MFA Guest Artists

  • Jan Erkert, Professor University of Illinois
  • Andrea Harris, Assistant Professor, UW-Madison
  • Rebecca Holderness, Associate Professor in Theatre, UW-Milwaukee
  • KT Niehoff, Choreographer

2011 MFA Guest Artists

  • Elizabeth Zimmer, Writer
  • Eiko and Koma, Choreographers
  • Morgan Thorson, Choreographer
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