March-April 2017 | College Close-Ups | Emory University

College Close-Ups: What students need to know about college and university dance programs

Emory University

The Emory University Dance and Movement Studies Program focuses on contemporary modern dance, emphasizing improvisation, choreography, and performance through a somatically based curriculum. Founded in 1987, the program has grown steadily over the last 30 years and offers a curriculum of 30 courses offered on an annually rotating basis. Dance classes range in size from 8 to 25 students; all technique classes are taught with live musical accompaniment.

Members of Emory Dance Company perform original contemporary work as well as historical reconstructions.
All photos by Lori Teague

The Dance and Movement Studies Program seeks to develop skilled and expressive individuals. Emory’s dance faculty is made up of collaborative and curiosity-driven artists, thinkers, and researchers. Like their instructors, the dance students at Emory are curious, both creatively and intellectually. As part of a top research university, the program fosters the development of academic pursuits within and beyond the dance program: students often look for ways to integrate their knowledge across disciplines.

The program provides students with skills that are vital for a successful dance career. Over the years, many students have gone on to careers in performance, choreography, teaching, and arts administration. While at Emory, students have the opportunity to join the Emory Dance Company (EDC), which performs original contemporary and historical reconstructions. Students audition each semester to create work with faculty and local, national, and international artists. Additionally, students have the opportunity to choreograph in solo and group composition through EDC, honors theses, and independent research projects. The university’s location in the heart of Atlanta provides opportunities for students to work with artists in the community through internships at local arts organizations. Students interested in teaching can practice locally and serve as teaching assistants for Emory dance faculty. In conjunction with Emory’s Goizueta Business School, several arts departments offer an arts management concentration for students interested in pursuing administrative and management careers in the performing arts.

The organization Emory Friends of Dance supports activities such as the Sally A. Radell Friends of Dance Scholarship for Summer Dance Study and the Friends of Dance Mini Grants, which have allowed students to expand their movement research nationally and internationally with notable dance artists, dance programs, and dance companies. Past recipients have attended the American Dance Festival, Bates Dance Festival, Staibdance Summer Intensive in Italy, Broadway Dance Theater, San Francisco Conservatory of Dance, and more. In addition, the Friends of Dance hosts Georgia’s only lecture series devoted exclusively to dance.

For more information, visit

—Anne Walker

Year founded: 1987

Department philosophy: The Emory Dance and Movement Studies Program defines movement as a language that captures the connections between the realm of the body and the world. This universal language encompasses students of all backgrounds, ethnicities, skill levels, and more in a community that values growth, authenticity, and diversity. Students’ research connects them to movement’s power to teach, communicate, heal, express cultural identity, and understand their history, ultimately unifying the community.

Emory University dance students take a variety of technique courses, including ballet, modern, jazz, world dance forms, and movement improvisation.

Entrance audition required: No

Degrees available: BA and minor in dance and movement studies

Number of students in department, 2016–17: 22 majors, 22 minors

Ratio of students to faculty: 9:1

Technique classes: Ballet (I–IV), modern (I–IV), jazz (I–IV), world dance forms, movement improvisation

Additional classes: Somatic practices (yoga, Bartenieff fundamentals, fitness for dancers), introduction to dance, history of Western concert dance, dance literacy, dance pedagogy, contemporary issues in dance, dance and embodied knowledge, principles of design, choreography, arts writing and criticism, freshman seminars on a variety of topics

Faculty: Sally Radell, Anna Leo, Lori Teague, Gregory Catellier, George Staib, and others

Performance opportunities: Emory Dance Company concerts; informal showings; honors thesis and independent research projects; American College Dance Association conferences; and numerous student dance groups

Additional opportunities: Scholarships, grants, guest artist residencies, local internships, honors in dance

Notable alumni: Blake Beckham, artistic director, The Lucky Penny; Crystal Davis, assistant professor, Columbia College; Natalie Metzger, dance filmmaker; Jessica Moore, marketing manager, Aspen Santa Fe Ballet