The Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance and Choreography requires a total of 120 credits, with 90 of those credits as the major core curriculum. Alongside courses outside of the department, dance-focused academics and creative process-oriented classes (i.e. composition and choreography), dance majors are typically required to take two technique classes daily throughout the majority of their studies. The continuous study of modern/contemporary dance and ballet is a strong component of the curriculum. In addition, elective courses in partnering, jazz, tap, hip hop, West African, contact improvisation, yoga, Pilates, ballroom, and other special topics courses are offered, rounding out a curriculum that also involves studies in anatomy and dance science, dance history, and music, among other areas. Within the core there are opportunities for repertory experience and for independent study.
The dance major program is rigorous. Students’ technique placement within the required major courses is determined through departmental assessment and placement processes. Formal evaluation procedures include a placement class for entering students, juried examinations at the end of the first semester of the freshman and sophomore years and every semester of the junior and senior years. In the second semester of the freshman and sophomore years the jury is folded into a comprehensive career evaluation called the Freshmen Review and the Sophomore Readmittance Exam, respectively. These career evaluations are to assess each student’s progress in relationship to the standards of the program and progress toward degree completion. Students in the major program may be notified of probationary status after the Freshmen Review. All majors must pass the Sophomore Readmittance Exam in order to continue in the major. This exam stands on its own as a separate evaluation from course grades.
The VCU dance program provides abundant opportunities for students to interact with faculty and guest artists in academic, professional, creative and performance contexts. Within the School of the Arts, dance students have frequent opportunities to work collaboratively with other students in the arts. Possibilities include the visual arts, participation in multimedia events and productions outside the dance department. Any dance major can perform in numerous formal concerts, informal showings and lecture-demonstrations produced by the department. Opportunities also are available for training in teaching, but students interested in earning state certification should consult their advisers.
Specific course descriptions can be found in the Undergraduate Bulletin.
Virginia Commonwealth University is an accredited member of the National Association of Schools of Dance (NASD).
“After graduation, I was able to find work in my field immediately. With everything I learned and experienced at VCU as a Dance major, it was easy for me to dive right into being a teacher and choreographer.”
—VCUarts Dance Alumna
Technique And Performance Track Technique Courses
Primary components include disciplined training and concentration in the medium of modern/contemporary dance and a diverse range of technical training and performance opportunities. Within the technique track, students must acquire technical information and integrate it into performance. The primary concern in the study of technique is enhancement of student performance capacities — qualitatively, expressively and kinesthetically. Classes include modern/contemporary, ballet, partnering, jazz, salsa, West African, ballroom, hip hop, yoga, Pilates, and additional topics on a periodic basis, such as Capoeira.
A wide range of performance courses and opportunities are presented to students beginning at the freshman level. All incoming students learn the basics of rehearsing and performing with a professional choreographer, and students may audition for repertory and guest artist works. Rehearsing with student and faculty choreographers on new works during the academic year provides flexible opportunities for credit and often results in performance opportunities. Solo and group works are creatively explored during the composition and choreography course sequence. Studies at VCUarts Dance culminate in the senior project in which students have the opportunity to choreograph, present work and perform.
VCUarts Dance NOW concert — a combined evening of faculty and guest artist works in an annual event held in the spring semester at the Grace Street Theater.
Senior project concerts — the culminating projects for the B.F.A. degree. Senior students must choreograph and also perform in a peer’s senior project. The senior choreographer selects dancers from the entire VCUarts Dance major population. Performances are at the Grace Street Theater or are site-specific in other spaces/venues.
Student Concert — spring evening concert of student work. All dance majors may submit work for adjudication to the Student Concert. The evenings offer students the opportunity to create and perform a diverse range of work.
Conferences — the VCU Department of Dance and Choreography traditionally attends numerous dance festivals including the American College Dance Association Mid-Atlantic South regional conference and the International Association of Blacks in Dance Conference. Choreography chosen to be performed at a conference goes through a faculty adjudication process. Festivals offer VCUarts Dance majors opportunities to perform and take master classes in formal and informal settings beyond the VCU campus.
Salon — an informal showing of any number of student works with audience responses moderated by a professional in the dance field.
Students have an opportunity to develop their choreographic potential in seven semesters of creative track work. From improvisation to the senior project, students are exposed to sources, elements and processes from which they develop their own creative voice. Both traditional and experimental processes are explored, including but not limited to: improvisation, structural forms inspired by sound, visual arts, text, kinesthetic awareness, chance forms, non-traditional spaces and music compositions. The Department of Dance and Choreography considers the creative track a highly evolved component of the B.F.A. degree.
Creative Track courses build on each other and must be taken in the following order:
DANC 105 Improvisation (Fall)
DANC 107 Music and Dance Forms (Spring)
DANC 205/206 Composition (Fall and Spring)
DANC 207 Studies in Music for Dancers (Fall)
DANC 303/304 Choreography & Performance (Fall and Spring)
DANC 490/491 Senior Project (Fall or Spring, depending on completed credit requirements)
Dance practice and theory are interwoven in interesting and exciting ways throughout the VCUarts Dance curriculum. Students physically learn examples of non-Western dance forms while studying the history and context in courses such as Dance in World Cultures and African American Presence in American Dance. Students learn about trends in dance through Dance History, Dance Criticism, and project-specific courses such as Dance, Design, and Social Justice. Theories of teaching are introduced, discussed and practiced through Teaching Methods for Dance.
VCU is a large state university with three campuses: the Monroe Park (academic) campus, the Medical campus, and VCUarts Qatar. Dance students have a profound range of academic opportunities. One of the goals of our advising program is to design each student’s curricular program with individual interests and career goals in mind. Students are able to select minors in other disciplines or choose from a variety of courses in subjects of interest.