Center for the Performing and Cinematic Arts / BOYER COLLEGE OF MUSIC AND DANCE

Learn more about the Master of Fine Arts in Dance.

About the Program

The Dance Department offers programs of study leading to the Master of Arts, Master of Fine Arts, and Doctor of Philosophy degrees. All students are expected to develop a command of the discipline of dance, as a performing art and as both subject and medium of inquiry. The department's mission places high value on the role of dance in a pluralistic, multicultural society.

The MFA in Dance develops choreographers and dance artists who are in command of their idiom as a basis for meaningful aesthetic investigation, embodied research and critical inquiry. The program fosters skilled dance making; sensitivity to personal artistic qualities and sources; openness to interdisciplinary perspectives; and awareness of the social, political and historical implications of dance. The MFA seeks to align itself with the evolving aesthetics and pedagogies of professional dance practice, to introduce students to contemporary developments in the field of dance scholarship, and to prepare students to enter the competitive job market.

The emphasis of the MFA in Dance is on providing resources that allow each student to take responsibility for their artistic development and vision. As choreographers, students immerse themselves in studying the craft and persuasion of their art form, study the historical and cultural dimensions of dance, experience a spectrum of valid approaches to issues of communication, and continuously challenge their own artistic viewpoints and directions. As performers, students are expected to engage themselves fully and with personal integrity in the creation, interpretation and presentation of dance works; develop technically and artistically in order to fulfill the varying demands of dance as a performing art; and participate fully in the choreographic process. The MFA in Dance also supports the vision of those students who aspire to work in higher education and other education and community contexts as artist-educators.

Time Limit for Degree Completion: 4 years

Campus Location: Main. All department courses are offered on Main Campus, but students may take out-of-department credits on other campuses.

Full-Time/Part-Time Status: The degree program can be completed on a full- or part-time basis.

Interdisciplinary Study: The program encourages interdisciplinary coursework, research and interactions among faculty and students with interests in Africology and African American Studies, Anthropology, Education, History, Jewish Studies, Media Arts, Music, Philosophy, Sociology, Theater Arts, Women's Studies, and the like.

Accreditation: The MFA in Dance is fully accredited by the National Association of Schools of Dance (NASD).

Areas of Specialization: The MFA faculty includes internationally known artists and scholars whose work represents a variety of contemporary approaches to choreography, performance and theoretical inquiry in dance. The emphasis of the program is choreographic research. In addition, students have requirements in performance, production, dance education and dance scholarship. An important objective of the MFA program is that each student develop a personal aesthetic that manifests an understanding of their place in the world.

Job Prospects: Since the focus of the MFA in Dance is choreography, most graduates continue as independent or affiliated choreographers after graduation. In addition, many teach in higher education or perform professionally.

Non-Matriculated Student Policy: Non-matriculated students are able to take technique classes and some core coursework with the permission of the instructor and the department chair. If accepted into the program, those courses (up to a maximum of 9 credits) may be applied toward the degree program.

Financing Opportunities: Teaching Assistantships (TAs), Research Assistantships (RAs), and Academic Internships (AIs) are available. Teaching responsibilities usually include teaching university general education courses. On occasion, TAs are assigned to teach BFA Dance repertory, technique or theory courses for which they are qualified. This award includes a monthly stipend, book allowance and tuition remission. Assistantships are generally awarded for a maximum of two years. The TA/RA/AI application is part of the supplemental dance application for admission. Continuing students who have not held an assistantship also submit a written application in the term prior to commencement of the award.

All MFA applicants are considered for departmental nomination for a University fellowship. This university-wide scheme is highly competitive, and recipients are selected by the Graduate School.

Admission Requirements and Deadlines

Application Deadline:

Fall: January 11

All department and university application materials must be received by the Dance Department. After acceptance at the department level, final review of application materials is made by the Boyer College of Music and Dance.

APPLY ONLINE to this graduate program.

Letters of Reference:
Number Required: 2

From Whom: Letters of recommendation should be obtained from qualified representatives of academic or professional communities in dance.

Coursework Required for Admission Consideration: Applicants should have an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 and an undergraduate degree in Dance or equivalent professional experience. Depending on the applicant's professional goals, certain prerequisite courses may be assigned to fill in any gaps in preparation.

Bachelor's Degree in Discipline/Related Discipline: A baccalaureate degree is required.

Statement of Goals: In two pages or less, detail your focus and artistic vision in dance. The MFA faculty reviews this document in relation to the audition, choreographic showing, and resume to determine your fit with the MFA program and what the faculty can offer. Curiosity and openness are sought.

Standardized Test Scores:
Applicants who earned their baccalaureate degree from an institution where the language of instruction was other than English, with the exception of those who subsequently earned a master’s degree at a U.S. institution, must report scores for a standardized test of English that meet these minimums:

  • TOEFL iBT: 79
  • IELTS Academic: 6.5
  • PTE Academic: 53

Resume: A resume detailing experience in dance, art, education, scholarship and/or public leadership is required.

Transfer Credit: Graduate credits from an accredited institution may be transferred into the MFA in Dance program. Transfer credits must be approved by the Graduate Coordinator, the department chair, and the Associate Dean. The maximum number of credits a student may transfer is 12.

Program Requirements

General Program Requirements:
Number of Credits Required Beyond the Baccalaureate: 60

Required Courses:

Core Courses
DANC 8812Performance Environments I: Dance Production2
DANC 8867Educational Inquiry in Dance3
DANC 8868Graduate Seminar2
DANC 9801Research Methods in Dance3
Studio/Practicum Courses
DANC 8806The Creative Process and the Dance Symbol3
DANC 8808Corporeal Improvisation2
DANC 8839Movement Theater Workshop3
DANC 8847Choreographing Philadelphia3
DANC 8849Studio Research (taken each of five terms until the Master’s Concert and Thesis term)5
DANC 8861Dancing Self in Community3
DANC 8862Embodied Craft3
DANC 8866The Body Politic3
Critical-Thinking Courses
DANC 8859Dancing the City3
DANC 8872Educating Dance3
DANC 8873Concepts of Culture3
Outside of Department6
Master’s Thesis Concert
DANC 9984Master's Concert in Dance7
Total Credit Hours60

Culminating Events:
Comprehensive Examination:
The comprehensive examination is designed to evaluate the student's general knowledge in four major areas that are not covered by required courses: dance history, dance in a cultural context, dance education, and dance science. An acceptable level would be equivalent to that acquired from taking a single course in each area covered by the exam.

The comprehensive examination consists of two parts. The short answer section gives students the opportunity to demonstrate knowledge in diverse areas and is taken under supervision, without access to reference materials. The essay section allows students to use any appropriate references and resources. These questions require critical thinking, analysis and specificity. The essay section is completed over a period of days, and students may use any appropriate references as resources.

The comprehensive examination is taken before the first term of study and must be successfully completed before Master's Concert approval. Graduate Faculty appropriate to the MFA degree write the questions. Evaluation of the examination is followed by advising, where needed, as to specific deficient areas, with recommendations made for courses within the graduate dance curriculum that address areas of concern.

Master's Thesis Concert:
The Master's Concert is a seven-credit exercise developed over three terms, and culminating in a publicly produced presentation of choreographic work. The Master's Concert generally consists of one major choreographic work designed to demonstrate the candidate's highest achievement of artistry, craft and thinking.

During the Spring term of the second year of full-time study, students identify a thesis advisor, conduct preliminary research, and prepare the thesis concert proposal. The proposal articulates the artistic and intellectual focus of the project, setting out the questions and challenges of the work that will be developed further in the final paper. After the culminating performance, the student submits a written thesis of 8,000 words that documents the choreographic research process and final product, but more crucially also explores the interaction of theory and practice that informs the work, presenting in-depth reflection on strengths, challenges, meanings and projections for future work.


Program Web Address:

Department Information:

Dept. of Dance

Center for the Performing and Cinematic Arts/Boyer College of Music and Dance

1700 N. Broad Street, Suite 309

Philadelphia, PA 19122-0843


Submission Address for Application Materials:

Department Contacts:


Norma Porter


Coordinator of Graduate Studies:

Dr. Sherril Dodds



Dr. Karen Bond