Mapping Out Your Path
During your four years as a dance major, you'll be introduced to new ways of thinking about yourself as an artist, and about dance and movement.
Mason's program focuses on modern dance and ballet. However, you can also participate in a global experience class every semester. Recent offerings include African, Afro-Caribbean, Spanish, Asian, Butoh, Uzbekistan, Indian and Hawaiian. Courses are also offered in jazz and tap. In addition, you'll have master classes from artists performing at the Center for the Arts and visiting Guest Artists.
In addition to the university’s general education requirements, your course of study will include:
Modern dance and ballet are at the heart of our technique program, and you can take a modern and a ballet technique class each day throughout your four years of study. Each semester, you will explore a new approach to thinking about modern dance. However, every approach has in common its intent to develop your skills as a dancer and has at its core an understanding of the anatomical principles that underlie movement.
Each year, the School of Dance presents five professionally produced concerts and two informal showcases at its three campus venues: the Concert Hall, which seats 2,000; Harris Theatre, which seats 500; and, the 100-seat Dance Performance Studio. Numerous guest artist, faculty and student choreographers set work on Mason dancers every season, and dance majors are expected to participate in every audition opportunity. Choreographers schedule two-hour rehearsals twice weekly, and most are on weekday evenings or weekend afternoons. Dancers who are cast may register for performance credit.
Your four-semester study of making dances begins with Improvisation, in which you examine movement preferences and expand these movement qualities through the exploration of effort, space and time. Composition I will focus on solo choreography, while Composition II focuses on group choreography. The course in Rhythmic Analysis, taken at the same time as Composition II, introduces basic music theory, which supports your study of creating dance. Such courses allow you the opportunity to hone your choreographic skills. Once you have completed your dance composition requirements, you may show work in the adjudication process that leads to our concert programming (Directed Choreography).
The production series includes three courses that introduce you to backstage production support. In the Fall semester (Orientation to Dance Production), you learn the basics of running a light board, sound operation, stage management and wardrobe support, and are given a production assignment back stage for our December Concert. You are also responsible for strike in Harris Theatre your freshman year. By the end of spring semester (Dance Production), you and your classmates will be running an entire show in our Performance Studio. The last course in this series (Advanced Dance Production) introduces you to aspects of costume, sound and lighting design.
This two-semester course combines the study of dance with the writing of dance criticism and research projects, and includes a survey of dance from around the globe in its social, ritual and theatrical contexts. Western theatrical dance is studied in detail, and students are required to attend and review professional concerts both at Mason and at venues in the area. Dance is approached as an art form that reflects and predicts societal changes, and students are taught how to analyze dance as an artistic and a cultural expression. Research projects give students opportunities to more deeply investigate areas of study of particular interest and relevance to academic and artistic pursuits.
Dynamic Alignment teaches you about the body. You will learn about bones, joints and muscles, but of more important will be your discovery of how the body moves and its subtle complexities. You will become aware of the uniqueness of each individual as you understand the potential of your instrument. You will also learn developmental stages of movement. In Somatic Studies you'll be introduced to various movement theories, including Pilates, Yoga, ideokinesiology, tai chi, Feldenkrais, and Alexander technique.
Methods of Teaching Dance (required of all dance majors) and Teaching Creative Movement (an optional class) are courses that develop your teaching skills. Field experiences in teaching emphasize community outreach and could include teaching classes for a beginning dance class at Mason, preschoolers, elementary and middle school children, as well as for a retirement community. Students interested in a teaching career in the public school system may consider applying to earn a licensure in dance.
The senior year capstone course, Synthesis, includes professional development, portfolio creation, and planning for your future in dance. The course culminates in a presentation for the department of artistic statements and career goals.