Dance Courses

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Director

E-mail

914.395.2628

The Sarah Lawrence College MFA in Dance is based on the premise that the art of dance is an integration of body, mind, and spirit learned through creative, technical, and intellectual practices.

Students are exposed to vital aspects of the art as performers, creators, and observers and are encouraged to study broadly, widen their definitions of dance and performance, and engage in explorations of form and function. The program combines seminars in reading, writing, and research; choreographic inquiry; and a daily physical practice chosen from contemporary dance, classical ballet, African dance, yoga, t’ai chi ch’uan, and studies in world dance. All students also study experiential anatomy, dance history, lighting design and stagecraft, and music for dancers.

MFA Dance 2022-2023 Courses

Anatomy

Component—Year

Students who wish to join this yearlong class in the second semester may do so with permission of the instructor.

How is it possible for us to move in the countless ways that we do? Learn to develop your X-ray vision of human beings in motion through functional anatomical study that combines movement practice, drawing, lecture, and problem solving. In this course, movement is a powerful vehicle for experiencing, in detail, our profoundly adaptable musculoskeletal anatomy. We will learn Irene Dowd’s Spirals—a comprehensive warm-up/cool-down for dancing that coordinates all joints and muscles through their fullest range of motion, facilitating study of the entire musculoskeletal system. In addition to movement practice, drawings are made as part of each week’s lecture (drawing materials provided); three short assignments will be submitted each semester. Insights and skills developed in this course can provide tremendous inspiration in the process of movement invention and composition.

Faculty

Anatomy Research Seminar

Component—Year

This is an opportunity for students who have completed a full year of anatomy study in the SLC dance program to pursue functional anatomy studies in greater depth. In open consultation with the instructor during class meetings, each student engages in independent research, developing one or more lines of inquiry that utilize functional anatomy perspectives and texts as an organizing framework. Research topics in recent years have included investigation of micropolitics in established dance training techniques, examining connections between movement and emotion, exploring implications of movement disorders such as Parkinson’s Disease, motor and experiential learning, development of a unique warm-up sequence to address specific individual technical issues, inquiry into kinetic experience and its linguistic expression, detailed study of knee-joint anatomy, and study of kinematics and rehabilitation in knee injury. The class meets biweekly to discuss progress, questions, and methods for reporting, writing, and presenting research—alternating with weekly studio/practice sessions for individual and/or group research consultations.

Faculty

Ballet

Component—Year

Students may enter this yearlong course in the second semester with permission of the instructor. There will be two levels for this course; placement will be determined during registration. Megan Williams will teach this course in the fall; Sharon Milanese in the spring.

Ballet students at all levels will be guided toward creative and expressive freedom in their dancing, enhancing the qualities of ease, grace, musicality, and symmetry that define this form. We will explore alignment, with an emphasis on anatomical principles; we will cultivate awareness of how to enlist the appropriate neuromuscular effort for efficient movement; and we will coordinate all aspects of body, mind, and spirit, integrating them harmoniously.

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Choreographing Light for the Stage

Component—Year

This course will examine the fundamentals of design, and how to both think compositionally and work collaboratively as an artist. The medium of light will be used to explore the relationship between art, technology, and movement. Discussion and experimentation will reveal how light defines and shapes an environment. Students will learn a vocabulary to speak about light and how to express their artistic ideas. Through hands-on experience students will practice installing, programming and operating lighting fixtures and consoles. The artistic and technical skills they build will then be demonstrated together by creating original lighting designs for the works developed in the Time Based Art course.

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Composition

Component

Movement and creativity are the birthrights of every human being. This component will explore expressive and communicative movement possibilities by introducing different strategies for making dances. Problems posed run the gamut from conceptually-driven dance/theatre to structured- movement improvisations. Students will learn to access and mold kinetic vocabulaires, collaboratively or individually, and incorporate music, sound, gesture, text, and objects in pursuit of a vision. Students will be asked to create and perform studies, direct one another, and share and discuss ideas and solutions with peers. Students are not required to make finished products but, rather, to involve themselves in the challenges and joys of rigorous play.

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TBA

Conditioning

Component

This conditioning uses embodied anatomy, Pilates-based strengthening, body-weight exercises, information about cardiovascular fitness, and artistic reflection to build a healthy groundwork from which to build a sustained physical dance practice. Each week, we will address a different area in the body with an anatomical lecture, definition and palpation of bony landmarks and activation of specific support structures, and targeted exercises to help build deeper understanding and support. This more intellectual investigation will be applied directly to movement to help develop technical training, as well as to encourage injury prevention and rehabilitation. Students will be expected to show critical-thinking skills around the concepts presented in class. Students are expected to be present, attempt exercises and develop personal modifications when necessary, and show some physical progress throughout the semester. Discussion in class is encouraged, as that is a time to display internal process. It is suggested, though not required, for students to maintain a journal throughout the semester.

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Dance History

Component—Year

This course examines the historical roots of contemporary dance, with an emphasis on global forms that have had expression and become hybridized in the United States. Themes that run throughout the course include dance and spirituality, sexuality, gender, class, and activism. Working thematically rather than chronologically, we will look at what makes dance universal and imperative as a cultural force in general in the context of related sociopolitical and artistic movements. We will seek to understand how dance is both is expressed by and reflects the human condition, embedded in communities as both a social and an artistic form.​

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Dance Meeting

Component—Year

Dance Meeting convenes all undergraduate students enrolled in a five-credit Dance Third, a three-credit dance study, or a one-credit dance study, along with all the MFA in Dance graduate students, in meetings that occur roughly once a month. We gather for a variety of activities that enrich and inform the dance curriculum. In addition to sharing department news and information, Dance Meeting features master classes by guest artists from New York City and beyond; workshops with practitioners in dance-related health fields; panels and presentations by distinguished guests, SLC dance faculty, and alumnae; and casting sessions for departmental performances created by the Live Time-Based Art class.

Faculty

TBA

Dance Movement Fundamentals

Component—Year

Students who have successfully completed this course will be prepared to enter Movement Studio I and/or Ballet I. This course will be taught by TBD in the fall; Peggy Gould in the spring.

Movement and dancing are definitive signs of life! In every environment and at every level of existence, from single-cell organisms to entire populations, dancing is innate to living beings. The objective here is to awaken/reawaken students’ connection to movement as an elemental mode of human experience and learning. Students are introduced to some basic principles of dancing, as well as to strategies for preparing for dancing. Building fundamental skills for a wide range of movement studies, the focus is centered on learning movement and refining individual, partnered, and group performance in a variety of patterns and styles. Basic anatomical information is used to facilitate an understanding of dynamic alignment and movement potentials. Challenges in coordination, rhythm, range, and dynamic quality are systematically engaged, allowing students to gain strength, flexibility, endurance, balance, musicality, and awareness in the dance setting. While the primary emphasis is placed on learning structured material, improvisation and composition are incorporated to support students’ growing engagement with dance as an art form. No prior experience in dance is required.

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Guest Artist Lab

Component—Year

This course 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 three-to-seven class sessions. These mini-workshops will introduce students to that artist and his/her creative process. Guests will present both emergent and established voices and a wide range of approaches to contemporary artistic practice.

Faculty

TBA

Hip-Hop

Component

In this open-level course, teaching and facilitating the practice of hip-hop/urban dance technique and performance, the class will examine the theory, technique, and vocabulary of hip-hop dance. The course will facilitate the student’s development and ability to execute and perform hip-hop/urban dance steps.

Faculty

Improvisation

Component—Year

Improvisation is a potentially limitless resource. Whether arising from movement itself or from conceptual/imaginative sources, improvisation can yield raw materials for making dances and other performance works. Improvisation can form the basis for community-building activities. It can also support the advancement of our technical skills in all dance forms, from conceptual and choreographic to performative, by giving us greater access to our personal connections to movement. In this course, we will engage in a variety of approaches to improvisation. We will investigate the properties of movement in the context of experience and performance, using activities that range from highly structured to virtually unstructured. The aim of our work is to delve deeply into the creative process in a variety of environmental settings, from the dance studio to outdoor sites around the campus. Throughout the year, goals will include building capabilities for sustained exploration of movement instincts and appetites, honing perceptive and communicative skills, and learning to use improvisation to advance movement technique. All of these goals will support the development of a durable foundation from which to work creatively.

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Live Time-Based Art

Component—Year

This course will be taught by Beth Gill; Dean Moss in the fall; Yanira Castro in the spring.

In this class, graduates and upper-class undergraduates with a special interest and experience in the creation of time-based artworks that include live performance will design and direct individual projects. Students and faculty will meet weekly to view works-in-progress and discuss relevant artistic and practical problems, both in class on Tuesday evenings and in conferences taking place on Thursday afternoons. Attributes of the work across multiple disciplines of artistic endeavor will be discussed as integral and interdependent elements in the work. Participation in mentored, critical-response feedback sessions with your peers is a key aspect of the course. The engagement with the medium of time in live performance, the constraints of presentation of the works both in works-in-progress and in a shared program of events, and the need to respect the classroom and presentation space of the dance studio will be the constraints imposed on the students’ artistic proposals. Students working within any number of live performance traditions are as welcome in this course as those seeking to transgress orthodox conventions. While all of the works will engage in some way with embodied action, student proposals need not fall neatly into a traditional notion of what constitutes dance. The cultivation of open discourse across traditional disciplinary artistic boundaries, both in the process of developing the works and in the context of presentation to the public, is a central goal of the course. The faculty members leading this course have roots in dance practice but also have practiced expansive definitions of dance within their own creative work. This course will culminate in performances of the works toward the end of the semester in a shared program with all enrolled students and within the context of winter and spring time-based art events. Performances of the works will take place in the Bessie Schönberg Dance Theatre or elsewhere on campus in the case of site-specific work.

Faculty

Movement Studio Practice

Component—Year

This course will be taught by various faculty; there will be various levels of the course. Movement Studio 1 will be taught by Gould in the fall, Flomin and Melnick in the spring; Studio 2 will be taught by Charleston in the fall, Flomin and Young in the spring; Studio 3 will be taught by Nugent in the fall, Melnick and Young in the spring.

In these classes, emphasis will be on the steady development of movement skills, energy use, strength, and articulation relevant to the technical and aesthetic orientations of each teacher. At all levels, attention will be given to sharpening each student’s awareness of time and energy and to training rhythmically, precisely, and in accordance with sound anatomical principles. Degrees of complexity in movement patterns will vary within the leveled class structure. All students will investigate sensory experience and the various demands of performance.

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Performance Project

Component—Year

This course will be taught by Netta Yerushalmy in the fall; Ximena Garnica in the spring.

Performance Project is a component where a visiting artist or company is invited to create a work with students or to set an existing piece of choreography. The works are performed for the College community at the end of the semester.

Faculty

West African Dance

Component

This yearlong course will use physical embodiment as a mode of learning about and understanding African diasporic cultures. In addition to physical practice, master classes led by artists and teachers regarded as masters in the field of African diasporic dance and music, along with supplementary study materials, will be used to explore the breadth, diversity, history, and technique of dances derivative of the Africa diaspora. Afro Haitian, West African, Orisha dances (Lucumi, Afro Cuban), and social dance are some genres that will be explored. Participation in year-end showings will provide students with the opportunity to apply studies in a performative context.

Faculty

TBA

Yoga

Component

This yoga class is designed with the interests of dancers and theatre students in mind. Various categories of postures will be practiced, with attention to alignment, breath awareness, strength, and flexibility. The physical practice includes seated and standing poses, twists, forward bends and backbends, traditional yogic breathing practices, and short meditations. Emphasis is placed on mindfulness and presence. This approach allows the student to gain tools for reducing stress and addressing unsupportive habits to carry into other aspects of their lives. Attention will be given to the chakra system as a means and metaphor for postural, movement, and character choices. The instructor has a background in dance and object theatre, in addition to various somatically-based practices that she draws upon for designing the classes to meet the individual needs of the class members.

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