Master of Fine Arts in Dance at Sarah Lawrence College

Contact

Director

E-mail John

914.395.2628

Dancers practice together

Sarah Lawrence’s distinctive two-year Master of Fine Arts in Dance takes a holistic approach to training dance artists through intensive, mentored creative work, movement practice, and analytic studies. Through exposure to vital aspects of the art form as performers, creators and scholars, this program will widen your definition of dance and performance, preparing you to construct a vital role for yourself as an artist in an ever-changing contemporary world.

Why pursue your MFA in Dance at Sarah Lawrence College?

  • You will be taught by a diverse spectrum of award-winning creative artists from the New York City dance world who are leading practitioners in the field
  • Our multidisciplinary curriculum invites creative investigation in movement practice, somatics, theory, history, and pedagogy
  • Small class sizes allow for individualized mentoring and one-on-one support for your artistic development
  • Our proximity to NYC, the epicenter of the dance world, gives you the opportunity to attend world-class dance events, forge professional partnerships and showcase your creative work
  • This intensive program takes a progressive approach to training dance artists through experiential learning, preparing you to be thoughtful citizen-artists of the 21st century

Program Overview

  • Analytic studies in the dance program include dance history and theory, experiential anatomy based in the work of Irene Dowd, and lighting design.
  • All students develop their own creative work for performances each semester through a process of mentored critical feedback in addition to ongoing studies in choreography, improvisation, and other forms of creative practice.
  • Graduate students are required to maintain a daily physical practice chosen from offerings in contemporary practices, classical techniques including ballet and West African Dance, improvisational practices, and somatic forms.
  • All students participate in the Guest Artists Lab throughout their time in the program. Guest artists regularly include leading practitioners in the field of dance and performance.
  • Students regularly meet one-on-one with their advisers to discuss their overall objectives and progress. They are encouraged to study broadly, widen their definitions of dance/performance, and pursue studies pertinent to their specific goals.
  • The proximity of Sarah Lawrence to NYC, a major crossroads in the dance world, allows for the dance program to benefit from a high quality faculty and guest artists who are leading practitioners in the field. It also affords the opportunity for students to attend world-class dance events throughout the school year.

Program Requirements

A total of 48 course credits (24 credits per year) are required to receive an MFA in Dance. Students are admitted on a full-time basis only.

A master’s thesis project, comprising a performance thesis of approximately 30 minutes as well as a written thesis of 25-40 pages must be completed in the second year. Students will also prepare an oral presentation of their thesis work in a lecture for the faculty and the Sarah Lawrence community.

Year 1: Required Course Work (typically 14-16 class sessions per week)

Full Year Required Courses (11-12 class sessions per week)

  • Creative Practice:
    • Dance Making
    • Graduate Seminar II: Choreographic Lab
    • Guest Artists Lab
  • Movement Practice:
    • Contemporary 3
    • 1-2 semesters of West African or African Diasporic Dance
  • Analytic Studies:
    • Dance History and Theory
      • Graduate Seminar I: Investigating the Contemporary in Practice and Theory
      • Graduate Seminar I: Decolonizing Dance History
    • Anatomy in Action
    • Lighting Design and Stagecraft

Elective Courses (3-4 class sessions per week – see below)

View our courses page for a complete listing of courses and descriptions

Year 2: Required Course Work (typically 12-14 class sessions per week)

Full Year Courses (approximately 8 class sessions per week)

  • Creative Practice
    • Dance Making (hyperlink)
    • Graduate Seminar II: Choreographic Lab
    • Guest Artists Lab (hyperlink)
  • Movement Practice:
    • Contemporary 3
  • Analytic Studies
    • Thesis Prep Seminar

Elective Courses (approximately 4 class sessions per week – see below)

View our courses page for a complete listing of courses and descriptions

Elective Course work

  • Contemporary & Improvisational Forms
    • Somatics, Improvisations, and the Athletics of Intimacy
    • Gaga
    • Butoh
    • Hip-Hop and other forms of street dance
  • Classical forms
    • Ballet
    • West African or African Diasporic Dance
    • Bharatanatyam
  • Composition
  • Performance Project (with visiting artists and companies)
  • Somatic Practices
    • Feldenkrais: Awareness Through Movement
    • Conditioning for Dancers
    • Yoga
    • Alexander Technique (currently offered through the Theater Program)
  • Perspectives on Dance Pedagogy
  • Anatomy Research Seminar
  • Music for Dancers
  • Various offerings through the Theatre and/or Music Programs including
    • Media Design
    • Voice
    • Costume Design
    • Creative Impulse: The Process of Writing for the Stage

View our courses page for a complete listing of courses and descriptions

Guest Artists Lab

The Guest Artists Lab is an experimental laboratory that aims to expose students to a diverse set of current voices and approaches to contemporary dance making. Each guest artist will lead a module of between three and seven class sessions. These mini-workshops will introduce students to that artist and their creative process. Guests will represent emergent, as well as established, practices. 

Guest artists in recent years include:

2017-18

Nora Chipaumire, Beth Gill, Pepper Fajans, Silas Riener, and Molly Lieber and Eleanor Smith

2018-19

Abby Zbikowski, Dean Moss, Netta Yerushalmy, Sarah Michelson, and David Thomson

2019-20

Mary Armentrout, Angie Pittman, Joanna Kotze, Jonathan Gonzalez, Luciana Achugar, Fana Fraser, Eleanor Smith, Pepper Fajans

Dance Making

Students are enrolled in Dance Making throughout their time in the MFA in Dance program; they create works for performance at the end of each semester and, in the final semester, students will develop their performance thesis as a part of this course. The course includes bi-weekly showings and individual feedback with faculty the following day, as well as mentored support from the dance program costumer, music advisors, and production manager. Students will have two two-hour rehearsals scheduled with their performers each week in addition to personal studio time during the week.