School of Music, Theatre and Dance at the University of Michigan
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Master of Fine Arts in Dance

The application deadline for most 2023-24 programs was December 1. See the Graduate Admissions page for specific degree application deadlines.

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. This 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.

Our fully funded two-year MFA in dance is aimed at outstanding recent graduates as well as returning professionals. The curriculum offers multiple avenues for investigating the permeable boundaries between practice and theory, and students engage in unique interdisciplinary research and performance projects, drawing upon the University’s extensive resources. Graduate students gain valuable experience teaching courses as part of the program, with concentrations in performance, choreography, pedagogy, and screendance. Close faculty mentorship helps prepare dancers for diverse opportunities within the field, including those seeking to move from careers at the national/international level in performance or choreography to working in higher education. The degree builds upon a longstanding foundation of dance at the University while embracing new developments.

Cohort

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.

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.

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.

Curriculum

Each MFA candidate works with an individual advisor to outline their individual course of study. 

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

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



Final Project:

The MFA culminates in a thesis project.

Courses

SMTD offers a wide variety of courses across all disciplines.

Silent Advisor

Degree requirements and term-by-term layout for current students.

Faculty


Judy Rice

Clinical Associate Professor of Dance

Performance Opportunities

U-M dancers are proactive in pursuing a variety of opportunities to perform both within and beyond the Department, developing their own unique performance and choreography portfolio over the course of their time at U-M. Students perform faculty and guest artist choreography in a major annual production of the department, held in 1,400-seat Power Center theater. First year dance majors perform faculty, guest artist and student choreography in multiple locations throughout southeast Michigan.  Second or third year graduate students produce performances at the culmination of their degree, often casting students from the department. And seniors produce performances at the culmination of their degree, often casting students from the department.

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A New Home For Dance

The Dance Building is the new home for dance at Michigan. Opened in September 2021, the 24,000 square foot facility features four large, flexible studio-classrooms, including a performance venue with seating for more than 100 and a dedicated screen dance studio, modern locker rooms, cross-training and treatment areas, and administrative offices.

Questions?