We believe that vital dance artists and scholars develop from independent thinkers who are committed to cultivating their personal aesthetic and artistic focus, and who engage resourcefully in original research, committing to the construction of knowledge.
Denison’s Dance program is unique
We situate dance squarely in the liberal arts! Our program brings scholarship together with creative, physical practice in the studio, on stage, and through media. We draw from progressive practices about bodies in the world, incorporating central concerns of critical theory, ecology, ethical education, neuroscience, social justice, and most definitely art-as-humanity-and-social-practice.
We engage equally both African-based/diasporic movement traditions and Western/European-influenced contemporary dance traditions. This dual trajectory—and the related decision not to offer ballet consistently—aims to cultivate embodied/somatic, technical, and intellectual understandings of diverse dance traditions.
We educate more than simply majors and minors. Liberal arts colleges are fortunate to be able to offer all students—not just majors and minors—a deep dive into mind-body-spirit connections and performances of justice. We work closely with double majors to explore the ways in which different academic and artistic pursuits dovetail, overlap, and enrich one another.
Our home in the Michael D. Eisner Center for Performing Arts provides a top-tier facility. Students from all backgrounds get the chance to practice and perform in a world-class space. The Eisner Center’s Thorsen Dance Studio invites in natural light while protecting the privacy of dancers working on their craft. The sprung-floor system and radiant floor heating render the space safe for highly physical exploration. The nearby Doane Dance building provides a second large rehearsal and studio space.
The Dance department’s three-pronged curriculum integrates “Movement Practice,” “Dance Studies,” and “Advanced Studies”, helping students discover their original artistic voices.
- “Movement Practice” courses engage students in dance technique and performance as they learn and apply physical skills to the creation and reconstruction of African/Diasporan and Contemporary dances.
- “Dance Studies” courses emphasize creating, reading, writing, and recording. Students learn the fundamental theories of skilled movement acquisition, generate analysis of specific movement forms, practice dance making, and culturally contextualize the diversity of dance forms.
- “Advanced Studies” courses provide opportunities for students to deepen and integrate their learning through independent research. In all courses, the boundaries between practice and theory are purposefully blurred, indicating our commitment to a liberal arts curriculum.
Outside the Classroom
At Denison, dance students experience other cultures and ways of life through the lens of movement and dance studies. Study abroad opportunities integrate the department’s mission and make possible a deepening understanding and expansive perspective on movement in a global context.
Since 2015, groups of Denison students have been participating in a cross-cultural exchange with Sri Lankan counterparts. Students have traveled to study dance in Sri Lanka and Sri Lankan dancers have visited Denison’s campus.
What do dance majors do after Denison?
Popular career pathways include choreographer, dance educator, arts administrator, creative producer, entrepreneur, dance health researcher, film maker, and more.
Our mission supports the development of student artists/scholars who are informed citizens and responsible agents of positive change in a world where the moving arts are essential. Exposing students to a wide breadth of cutting edge and experimental dance practices from diverse cultures and perspectives from around the world is embedded in our curriculum and ideology. The focus of our movement practices intentionally centralizes Modern/Postmodern Dance and African/African-Diasporan forms, shifting the paradigm of dance education away from a ballet-centered model. The integration of embodied practices with scholarly inquiry is integral to our mission.
Writing within the Major
Both dance scholars and dance artists come to better understand their ideas and those of others through writing. We focus our teaching of writing on experiential and conceptual ideas prompted by, and about, the body, to generate precise description and sophisticated analysis. Our aim is to hone students’ observation and reflection skills, and ability to document these intelligently and concisely through writing.
Student Learning Goals
- Broaden perspectives through risk taking, embracing ambiguity, and exposure to a range of choreography and performance.
- Synthesize knowledge and generate new, independent and original theoretical and creative projects.
- Demonstrate multifaceted practical, analytical, and reflexive understanding of languages, history, and the cultural significance of dance’s various bodily-kinesthetic forms.
- Employ various methods for describing, discerning, analyzing, labeling, and categorizing human movement.
- Be proficient movers in a combination of aspects of embodied movement practices, at the intermediate level, at a minimum.
- Demonstrate a fluency in disciplinary vocabularies both orally and written that is evident across coursework and utilized within the body of student’s senior research.
- Use basic 21st century technology including digital equipment and software applications in order to access and document artwork, and to use it appropriately to market or create within those media.