MFA in Dance

Two groups of dancers on a stage.

MFA Dance students focus on embodied inquiry through choreographic creation and performance, while engaging with a comprehensive core curriculum of practice and theory that emphasize the development of the whole artist—body and mind. With close faculty mentorship and numerous opportunities to create and present work, students will cultivate the knowledge and skills necessary to become the next generation of innovative dance makers, leaders, teaching-artists, and artist-scholars.

UB’s dance program is built on the belief that dance is a fundamental expression of humanity with the ability to inform, transform, reflect upon, and lead local and global change in the 21st century. MFA Dance students engage in advanced practical, theoretical, and critical inquiry while honing their abilities as artists, dance makers, educators, writers, innovators, scholars, policy makers, and leaders. 

Our three-year, 60 credit hour program welcomes students from various backgrounds ranging from recent BA/BFA graduates to returning professionals wishing to deeply engage with the dance-making process. Each student is encouraged to integrate her unique interests into innovative ways of seeing, thinking about, communicating and being in the world through dance. Students take advantage of the dynamic range of robust curricular offerings at UB by devising an individualized secondary emphasis, such as new media, embodiment, queer studies, visual studies, cognitive science, affect studies, somatics, ethnography, history, geography, architecture, robotics among many other areas of inquiry. By following a personalized sequence of study, together with their core courses, students create a research path that fits their interests, culminating in an MFA creative thesis project. 

Guest Artists

While at the University at Buffalo, MFA Dance students will have the opportunity to study and interact with a variety of visiting guest artists, choreographers, and scholars. UB Dance has a long history of regularly hosting guest artists in a wide variety of venues, allowing for students to study with professionals for a concentrated period of time, as well as the opportunity to perform in guest works. The UB Center for the Arts provides additional opportunities for guest classes and a yearly residency by an established dance company.

Recent Guest Artists and Residencies have included Jennifer Nugent (Bill T Jones), Dorrance Dance, Jennifer Golonka, Rodney Hill (Rennie Harris Puremovement), Koresh Dance, Kendra Portier (David Dorfman Dance), Daniel Gwirtzman, Duncan Cooper (Dance Theater of Harlem), Rioult Dance, Matt Pardo (Lucinda Childs), Anne Beck, Limon Dance Company, Nailah Randall-Bellinger (Harvard), John Magnus, and River North. 

Course of Study

The MFA in Dance includes core requirements in physical practice, artistic creation, pedagogy, history, technology, research and theory. To inform and augment this training, students engage with chosen secondary area of study, articulated with guidance from their graduate advisor. To demonstrate synthesis and integration of coursework, students complete a choreographic thesis project and pass comprehensive written and oral exams. A grade of “B” or better must be earned on all required credit hours, including non-dance electives.

Courses Credits
Physical Practice 10
Creative Process 9
History, Research, Theory 12
Applied Anatomy and Theories of the Body 3
Teaching 5
Design and Technology 2
Electives 10
Comprehensive Exams 0
Creative Thesis Project 9
Total 60

Physical Practice

Students are required to take at least 5 credits in one technique area. Remaining 5 credits will be selected in consultation with student’s advisor. Placement will be determined through audition or placement class.

Creative Process

Central to the practice-based research curriculum is the Dance Making series. In the first two years of study, students take the three course Dance Making series to explore the tools, theories and practices of choreography and collaborative art making.

History, Research and Theory

Students take four core seminars in Career Resources; Dance Theory, Aesthetics, and Criticism; Political and Cultural Approaches to Dance; and Creative Process and Embodied Research. 

Applied Anatomy and Theories of the Body

Students choose between Mind-Body Integration, Anatomy/Kinesiology for Dancers, and Laban/Bartenieff Movement Analysis for graduate level study of the anatomy of the body. 

Teaching

All MFA students will gain practical teaching experience and develop pedagogical skills. Students with a TA position take Dance Teaching Seminar, Dance Pedagogy in Higher Education, and an additional dance elective. MFA students without a TA position take Dance Teaching Seminar and 4 credits of Supervised Teaching. 

Design and Technology

Students choose a graduate level design course to gain knowledge and experience with the production perspective of performance. 

Electives

In consultation with their advisor, students choose electives in their secondary area of study, including dance and/or non-dance courses as appropriate to the student’ interests. Possibilities include departmental curricular areas such as Anthropology, Media Study, English, Biology, Engineering, Architecture, Visual Studies, etc. As well as transdisciplinary areas of inquiry articulated across departments such as embodiment, affect studies, performativity, cognitive studies, somatics, memory studies, queer studies, dance science, health and wellness, postcoloniality, etc. 

Comprehensive Exams

Students will complete a substantial body of written work to complement their creative thesis concert. This will be in the form of three comprehensive exam questions. Exam questions will contextualize the student’s work historically, politically, and socially and will serve as additional documentation of and reflection on the student’s creative development and final thesis concert. Students will complete the questions sequentially: One question to be completed each spring semester for the three years they are enrolled in the program. Due dates will be set by the Graduate Dance Committee.

Thesis Concert

All MFA candidates will create an original 20-minute dance work or performance event that is based on a unique research project. Students will work closely with their thesis advisor and committee members to create work that showcases synthesis of skills, mastery of craft and a deeply informed personal aesthetic. Final thesis proposals are due to the thesis advisor no later than the end of the student’s third semester. Culminating thesis concerts will be held in the third year of study and will reflect significant preparation and research.

Contact

Ariel Nereson.
Assistant Director of Graduate Studies
Director of Graduate Dance
Assistant Professor
Department of Theatre and Dance
College of Arts and Sciences

Research Topics: Dance Studies

Rachel Olszewski.
Rachel Macklin Olszewski

280A Alumni Arena

Phone: (716) 645-6076

rachelol@buffalo.edu

Graduate Programs Assistant
Department of Theatre and Dance
College of Arts and Sciences