May-June 2017 | College Close-Ups | Indiana University

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

Indiana University

The BFA program in contemporary dance at Indiana University provides students with the disciplined dance training, artistic integrity, and academic rigor necessary to become creative artists and successful dance professionals. The program includes a wide range of dance technique classes and courses in topics such as acting, pedagogy, dance history, music theory, production, and movement analysis. Daily training in contemporary dance practices and supporting techniques such as ballet, musical theater dance, and global dance forms is required.

Indiana University Contemporary Dance Theatre gives three mainstage performances each year.
Photo by Maximillian Tortortiello Photography

Dance majors study with faculty from the Department of Theatre, Drama, and Contemporary Dance; the Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies; the Department of Kinesiology; and the Jacobs School of Music. Students have the opportunity to work with internationally recognized guest artists, such as Kyle Abraham, Angie Hauser, Ihsan Rustem, David Parsons, Larry Keigwin, Roger Jeffrey, William Evans, Marlayna Locklear, and Laurie Eisenhower. Repertory rehearsals for guest artist, faculty, and student choreography take place daily; dance majors spend 3 to 15 hours a week in rehearsals.

All dance majors are members of Indiana University Contemporary Dance Theatre (IUCDT), which performs in the 439-seat proscenium Ruth N. Halls Theatre and other university and community venues. Many productions are held each year, and there are ample performance and choreographic opportunities locally, nationally, and internationally. Attending the American College Dance Association Central Region Conference is a spring tradition; in 2014 IUCDT was selected to perform at the National College Dance Festival held at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC. Students can also participate in study abroad opportunities such as Dance Jerusalem, a program offered by the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance/Hebrew University. Service-learning opportunities are available through Dance for PD and other community programs.

In addition to contemporary dance, Indiana University dance students take a variety of technique courses, including ballet, jazz, musical theater, and improvisation.
Photo by Jeremy Hogan

The performing arts and technology environment at IU provides for two particularly strong areas of specialization. The Jacobs School of Music offers dance majors an opportunity to collaborate with composers and perform with world-class musicians. Dance majors can also audition for musical theater and dramatic works. Additionally, faculty and students work in the areas of real-time video projection, motion capture, and video analysis.

Graduates of the BFA in dance work as professional dancers, choreographers, arts administrators, company managers, dance journalists, teachers, and fitness specialists; many also pursue graduate studies in dance, physical therapy, arts administration, and related fields. For more information, visit

—Elizabeth Shea

Year founded: 1927

Department philosophy: Broad survey of modern and contemporary dance styles that prepares students to work as dance professionals and to exercise artistic entrepreneurship

Entrance audition: Yes, live required

Students participate in repertory rehearsals daily for guest artist, faculty, and student choreography.
Photo by Jeremy Hogan

Degrees available: BFA and minor in dance

Number of students in department, 2016–17: 55 majors, 120 minors

Ratio of students to faculty: 15:1

Technique classes: Classic modern and contemporary dance styles, ballet, jazz, musical theater, tap, improvisation, hip-hop, African, cultural choreographies, somatic approaches

Additional classes: Composition and choreography, repertory, anatomy, dance history and appreciation, dance pedagogy, movement analysis, contact improvisation, certification in Pilates and yoga

Faculty: Elizabeth Shea, Selene Carter, Nyama McCarthy-Brown, Christian Claessens, Ken Roberson, and others

Performance opportunities: Three mainstage performances each year, independent student projects, African American Dance Company, In Motion Student Dance Company, American College Dance Association performances, professional festivals, musical theater and opera performances

Additional opportunities: Study abroad, Dance for PD, certificate and/or minor in arts administration (through the School of Public and Environmental Affairs)

Notable alumni: Lalah Hazelwood (former company member, Philadanco!), Ryan Galloway (performing associate, Giordano Dance Chicago), Salena Elish (visiting assistant professor of dance, Valparaiso University), Mollie O’Reilly (marketing and audience services associate, American Dance Festival)