DEPARTMENTAL ADVISING EXPERTS: Pedro Alejandro; Katja Kolcio; Hari Krishnan; Susan Lourie; Nicole Stanton

Department/Program Home Page


Department/Program Description

The Dance Department at Wesleyan is a contemporary program with a global perspective. The curriculum, faculty research, and pedagogy all center on the relationships between theory and practice, embodied learning, and the potential dance making has to be a catalyst for social change. Within that rigorous context, students encounter a diversity of approaches to making, practicing, and analyzing dance in an intimate learning atmosphere. The program embraces classical forms from ballet, Bharata Natyam, Javanese, and Ghanaian, to experimental practices that fuse tradition and experimentation into new, contemporary forms.

The emphasis of the major is on creating original scholarship, be it choreographic or written, that views dance within a specific cultural context, interrogates cultural assumptions, and is informed by a critical and reflective perspective.

Preregistration is possible for many dance courses. All students interested in registering for dance classes should access WesMaps concerning procedures for acceptance into specific courses. Students majoring in dance or indicating strong curricular commitment to dance will be given enrollment preference in all permission-of-instructor courses.

Student Learning Goals

The major is designed to provide broad and deep exposure to the discipline of dance as a critical, embodied, reflexive and socially engaged research method. The department conceives of dance performance broadly, embracing traditionally staged performances, site-based works as well as mediated and interdisciplinary performative modes. Students take courses in choreography, improvisation, pedagogy, research methods, dance ethnography, history, and dance techniques as well as unique interdisciplinary courses that integrate varied modes of learning. The curriculum focuses on providing students with the skills to develop new knowledge and produce original research expressed through performance, writing and their vital intertwining into new hybrid forms.

  1. Majors will develop keen intercultural competence. One of the fundamental tenets of the major is that the analysis of dance through practice and observation is central to the study of cultures and is a vital aspect of exploration in cross-cultural inquiry. Students should develop a proficiency in the understanding of dance in its cultural manifestations, leading them beyond knowledge of a culture or an appreciation of diversity to an understanding and celebration of difference.
  2. Majors will develop an awareness of the ways in which dance structures and is structured by culture. This includes a thoughtful understanding of the problematics of spectatorship; the role of the artist in society; as well as issues of embodiment, difference and performativity.
  3. Majors will develop an understanding of the basic principles of dance making through creative process work including choreography, improvisation and public enactments. They will acquire the ability to develop an idea or research question through the elements of dance performance such as: the skillful exploration and application of movement vocabulary; choreographic form; and the consideration of framing devices. They will develop the ability to structure original ideas and to create powerful original work.
  4. Majors will develop an intercultural understanding of the elements of physical expression and performance artistry and will attain and/or maintain intermediate (or above) technical proficiency, based on sound kinesiological principles. They will develop these skills in at least two of the following techniques: modern/contemporary, Bharata Natyam, West African, ballet, black vernacular forms/hip hop, and South East Asian dance forms (when available).
  5. Majors will develop strong reflective and critical awareness of the research methodologies available in Dance Studies articulated in written, choreographic and performative forms.
  6. Majors will develop the ability to work collaboratively to complete complex tasks through engagement with all element of performance production, including technical theater, scenographic design and publicity.
Admission to the Major
  • Successful completion of the required sequence courses:
  • An admissions interview with the prospective major’s advisor
Major Requirements

Coursework for the major includes composition, dance techniques, dance histories, research methods, pedagogy, ethnography, improvisation, anatomy, repertory, and dance and technology.

Required Courses
Making Dances I: Solo Work
and Dance Composition (Gateway course series for the major; fall semester of sophomore year)
DANC371 Site-Specific Choreography (Taken fall or spring of junior year) 1
DANC105 Dance Production Techniques 0.5
Dance Technique Courses
Select six of the following: 3
Students must achieve Level II in at least 2 traditions and one of those should be modern dance.
Contemporary Dance Technique I
and Modern Dance II
and Modern Dance III
Ballet I
and Ballet II
West African Dance I
and West African Dance II
and West African Dance III
Bharata Natyam I: Introduction of South Indian Classical Dance
Bharata Natyam II: Embracing the Traditional and the Modern
Advanced Dance Practice A
and Advanced Dance Practice B
Methodology Course
Select one of the following (above the 200 level): 1
Perspectives in Dance as Culture: What the Body Knows--Social Change and Revolution
Select two of the following: 2
Anatomy and Kinesiology
Improvisational Forms
Perspectives in Dance as Culture: What the Body Knows--Social Change and Revolution
Repertory and Performance
Senior Project or Thesis
Senior project or thesis in dance 1-2
DANC398 Senior Colloquium in Dance Research 0.25
Total Hours 11.5-12.5
Capstone Experience

All majors complete a capstone experience, either a one-semester senior project or a two-semester senior thesis.


Dance majors who wish to be candidates for departmental honors must complete senior research in the form of a thesis. Projects are not eligible for the award of honors. The student’s proposed research design will be revised and finalized in consultation with the student’s prospective tutor and should reflect the special interests and talents of the individual student. The award of honors or high honors is based on the scope and excellence of the thesis and on the student’s creative work.

To receive the award of honors, a thesis must follow these guidelines:

  • The honors thesis typically consists of approximately 20 minutes of group choreography (usually two 10-minute dances) and an 80- to 100-page research paper situating the choreography within an aesthetic and historical context.
  • It must involve enough work to warrant two credits.

Each honors candidate is required to make a commitment to candidacy in advance. The student must file a written statement of his or her intention to stand for departmental honors with both the department and the Honors College. The department will nominate candidates for departmental honors to the Honors College. Nominations will occur only if it appears reasonably certain that the candidate’s work will be completed on time and in the desired form. The department in cooperation with the Honors College will arrange suitable mid-April deadlines for performances and the submission of theses.

Each honors thesis will have two readers. One of these must be chosen from outside the Department of Dance. The department will base its recommendation for departmental honors upon the readers’ written evaluations and joint recommendations.