The Dance Department offers students the opportunity to make dances and to perform them. According to the late Ed Burgess, “When a dancer seriously explores the art of making dances the dancer matures, gains new confidence as a performer, and begins to value their own personality as an artist.” The department expects all students to be as involved in making dances as in performing in them, and we also emphasize the importance of learning to interpret the work of others, including fellow students, faculty, and guest artists.
The artist residency is an essential part of this training, allowing students to explore different approaches to the creative process and exposing them (and their audiences) to a broader spectrum of current dance artistry. Artist residencies immerse students in the professional model, create networking opportunities that often lead to post-graduation employment, and provide a vital example of an artist who has made a long-term commitment to the discipline.
The Dance Department presents a minimum of five concerts a 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. In addition, each summer an MFA Thesis candidate is chosen to co-present their choreography at the Danceworks Studio Theatre. Other performances include alumni choreographers in Dancemakers: Redux, full evenings of work by guest artists (often in the context of a residency), site-specific works with interdisciplinary collaborators, and Musical Theatre revues and productions.
In recent years, the department has received yearly grants from the Dance/USA American Masterpieces: Dance to restate various choreographers' works. Recent awards include Alwin Nikolais' "Water Studies" and "Tensile Involvement" in 2009, Garth Fagan's "From Before" in 2010, and Mark Morris' "Canonic 3/4 Studies" in 2011 and Arnie Zane's "The Gift/No God Logic" in 2012.
Thanks to a generous donor, the department also holds an annual commissioning project open to our alumni, the Dance New Work Award to create a new work for our undergraduate students to be performed on Winterdances or Summerdances. The first awardee, BFA Suniti Dernovsek, premiered “Always Merry and Bright” in 2010. MFA alumnus Gerald Casel premiered “Mount Hope” in 2011, as the second winner, and MFA alumna Colleen Thomas will premiere her new work in 2012 as the third winner.