Master of Fine Arts in Dance

Department of Dance

Designed for students seeking world-class dance studies within a major research university that offer multiple avenues for investigating the permeable boundaries between practice and theory. The degree is aimed at outstanding recent dance graduates as well as returning professionals, particularly those seeking to move from careers at the national/international level in performance or choreography to working in higher education.

Program Details


Each MFA candidate works with an individual advisor to outline his or her individual course of study. Classes in physical practice, pedagogy, and dance history support the tracks.


Students choose from one of three tracks:

  • Performance/Repertory
  • Choreography
  • Screen Dance

Improvisation; advanced solo choreography and performance; choreographic production and design; site dance; screen dance; dance and the related arts; and a broad range of physical practice courses provide in-depth experiences for honing the dance artist’s vocabulary, craft and vision.

  • Dance Science
  • Dance History
  • Dance Education
  • Interdisciplinary Arts
Research in Action

All students take a Research in Action core, where students, faculty, and guest artists share their creative and scholarly work.


Students must take two graduate courses of at least two credits each.


The MFA culminates in a thesis project linked to each student’s chosen track.

Residency Requirement

At least one academic year of full-time residence is required.


Our MFA program is limited to four students per year, for a total of eight students. This small cohort enables us to offer our graduate students close mentoring with distinguished faculty members; dedicated studio investigation time; a pool of highly trained and disciplined undergraduate dancers with whom the graduate students have many opportunities to collaborate; and guidance through the many rich resources of a premiere research institution. Grants are given to support summer research and the culminating thesis project.

Creative Collaborations

Our MFA is located within a vibrant artistic and intellectual community. Collaborations with composers, set and costume designers, playwrights and poets, photographers, and film/video makers are plentiful within our School of Music, Theatre, & Dance (SMTD). Dance MFA candidates engage with graduate students from a range of disciplines and are regularly involved in co-sponsored projects and courses within and beyond SMTD.

MFA applicants have received generous funding for international and national creative research by applying for grants available throughout the university. Dance faculty and MFA students frequently present their research and creative work at professional venues, as well as at national and international conferences.

Global Perspectives

Dance MFAs and faculty have conducted research and/or participated in creative projects throughout the world, recently in such locations as Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Costa Rica, France, Greece, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Norway, South Africa, Spain, and the United Kingdom.  Students can further extend their global engagement through seeking a graduate certificate in World Performance Studies through the Center for World Performance Studies.

Engaged Pedagogy with Community Partners

Building mutually beneficial partnerships with local and regional community members has been the focus of many recent creative initiatives. Dance MFAs have participated in creative projects with community partners throughout the state, in such settings as

  • Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum (Ann Arbor)
  • local public schools
  • Oakland Dance Festival
  • Detroit Dance City Festival
  • Carr Center (Detroit)
  • Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History (Detroit)
  • Allen Creek Greenway Conservancy (Ann Arbor)
  • Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center (Muskegon)

Career Strategies

Students are guided to consolidate and deepen their artistic practice in ways that help them imagine further career paths in areas including higher education, the non-profit sector, or work beyond the US. Over the two years, students develop digital portfolios to highlight their artistic and scholarly achievements, positioning them well for entering/reentering the professional world. In addition to remaining active in the field as performers, choreographers, and screen dance artists, graduates have been successful in securing jobs in higher education at such institutions as Coker College; Eastern Michigan University; Grand Valley State University; Hillsdale University; Marygrove College; Oakland University; University of Kentucky; The College of William and Mary; University of Hartford; University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee; University of Wisconsin, Madison; University of California, San Diego; Wayne State University; and more.

Funding and Teaching Opportunities

All MFA students are fully-funded for two years through graduate student instructor (GSI) appointments. Funding includes full tuition coverage, health insurance, and a stipend. As GSIs, MFA candidates develop strong pedagogical skills in their teaching of undergraduate dance courses and have the opportunity to develop and teach a new course of their own.

Audition & Interview Dates

For requirement details, please see the Degree Requirements and Term-by-Term Layout for Current Students.

How To Apply

Academic Eligibility

Applicants must have completed a bachelor’s degree in dance. Applicants with degrees in other disciplines will occasionally be considered for admission, provided there is accompanying evidence of professional dance achievement.

Applicants must:

  • Apply to U-M via the Rackham Graduate School Application by December 1
  • Submit an SMTD Artistic Profile by December 1
  • Send official transcripts from all previous schools to the Rackham Graduate School

Click “Apply Now” below to read more detailed information about the application requirements and procedures.

Apply Now

Please send inquiries regarding the SMTD application process to To learn more about SMTD, sign up for an Information Session.