Low-Residency MFA Dance Programs

Mar 29, 2019

Low-residency MFA programs in dance are available at universities around the country and provide mid-career dance professionals with a way of earning their degree while still working. This article discusses these programs in greater detail.

Individuals who would like to earn an MFA degree in dance without devoting a few years of their life to full-time study may want to consider an MFA program that offers a low-residency format. Below, we will learn more about these programs by discussing how they are structured, what type of student they are intended for, and general curriculum requirements, as well as admissions standards.

Information About Low-Residency MFA Programs in Dance

Master of Fine Arts programs in dance are typically designed for individuals who have already been working as professionals in the field of dance, either as dancers themselves, teachers, or choreographers, among other possibilities. These programs allow students to continue working, as they are structured so that students spend minimal time on campus and are able to pursue coursework online. While each program is different in regard to its on-campus requirements, generally low-residency programs will require students to attend one or more multi-week residencies during the program in order to benefit from hands-on and in-person instruction. Below, we will cover five courses that are common components of the curriculum of these programs.

History, Theory, and Criticism in Dance

MFA programs in dance generally include a course that covers topics in history, theory, and criticism in dance. In this course, students will study major developments in dance over the 20th and 21st century. Additionally, the course will likely cover the relationship between dance and culture, and students will study relevant critical writings in this field. Students will learn about various theoretical perspectives of dance and how they have been applied to the field in the past as well as how they are applied today.

Individualized Practice

Given the independent nature of these programs, it is also common that students will take a course in individualized practice. Such a course would typically require the student to design his or her own dance and practice schedule, which can be approved by the dance faculty, in the pursuit of the student's personal goals. While students will practice on their own, this type of course would also usually involve remaining in close contact with a faculty advisor to discuss new revelations, challenges, or goals.


These programs also will typically include a course that focuses on some aspect of pedagogy, given that many students in these programs may be working as teachers or may aspire to become teachers of dance. A course in pedagogy will provide students with an overview of the methods used in teaching dance, as well as a historical discussion on teaching techniques. This course may require students to conduct their own observations of dance teachers or to provide an assessment of their own teaching skills and strategies in order to reflect on ways in which they can improve and further develop as a teacher.

Performance and Critique

Another course that is commonly found in these programs is a course that focuses on dance performance and the critique of dance. Students may be required to observe dance performances in order to offer their insight and provide critiques that are rooted in dance theory and history. Additionally, this course may provide students with a venue in which to perform their own pieces in order to receive constructive feedback from their fellow students and instructors.


These programs also may require students to complete a portfolio course, which involves compiling all of their professional work in dance in order to review it. The portfolio course is intended to help students create a coherent body of work, which includes choreographed pieces as well as a personal artist statement, CV or resume, and any awards, grants, or fellowships that a student may have earned. The course may culminate in a presentation in which students discuss the development of their work in public.

General Admissions Guidelines for Low-Residency MFA Programs in Dance

Low-residency MFA programs in dance are designed for students who already have extensive professional experience in the field. Because of this, admissions committees will likely heavily consider applicants' professional experience when considering them for admission and each program may set specific admission requirements in terms of how many years of experience an applicant must have. When applying to these programs, students also must submit a number of documents that provide admissions committees with more information, including past academic transcripts, letters of recommendation, and a personal statement. Programs will also typically require that applicants submit a portfolio of their creative work in dance and may also require that students complete an interview process.

In summary of the information above, students who have been working as dance professionals can find low-residency MFA programs in dance which require a minimal in-person commitment and still allow them to obtain a terminal graduate degree in dance and further advance their careers.

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