Dance Department

About the Major

DancerDance majors at Reed exercise the critical skills valued throughout liberal arts education: the ability to approach and solve problems of many kinds, the ability to deeply investigate a subject matter, the ability to make informed choices from a range of possibilities and the ability to contextualize specific ideas and events among the modes of thought and cultural phenomena that shape our understanding of the world. Dance, as a field, is well suited to this endeavor because it develops one's capacity for a multi-leveled understanding of a wide variety of phenomena—cultural, artistic and formal.

The department believes a Reed liberal arts education fosters a creative and contextual approach to dance. All Reed dance majors pursue both creative and critical work, but may choose an emphasis in dance studies—history, theory, critical and cultural studies—or dance studio—technique, choreography, improvisation, and performance. Seniors emphasizing dance studies undertake thesis projects that are focused in scholarly research but may also include a creative component. Seniors emphasizing dance studio undertake projects in which research supports an extensive creative endeavor, and have the opportunity to stage a fully produced performance of their work. Reed dancers may also pursue the established Dance-Theatre major or propose an ad-hoc interdisciplinary major; past graduates have pursued majors in dance/Spanish, dance/Russian, dance/psychology, and dance/history.

The department successfully prepares students—both majors and non-majors—for specialized work in dance at the graduate and professional levels. Recent honors given to Reed dance students have included the Watson Fellowship and grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Requirements for the Major

Dance Studies Emphasis

  1. Six units in dance studies (history, theory, critical and cultural studies) including Dance 201 and a 300-level junior seminar course before senior year. With departmental permission, 1 unit of this requirement can be fulfilled by a history, theory, critical or cultural studies course in theatre, music, literature or art.
  2. Five units in dance studio (technique, improvisation, choreography, and performance), including Dance 211 and 1 unit of choreography or improvisation. Credit for dance technique courses (Dance 101) may be counted towards this requirement.
  3. Technical proficiency:  Must achieve 300-level technical proficiency in one dance form and 200-level technical proficiency in a second dance form.
  4. Crew requirement (25 hours, arranged in consultation with the department, or completion of Theatre 162.)
  5. Thesis

Dance Studio Emphasis

  1. Four units in dance studies (history, theory, critical and cultural studies) including Dance 201 and a 300-level junior seminar course before senior year.
  2. Seven units in dance studio (technique, improvisation, choreography and performance), including Dance 211 and one unit of choreography at the 300 level. With departmental permission, 1 unit of this requirement may be fulfilled by a studio course in art, creative writing, music, or theatre. Credit for dance technique courses (Dance 101) may be counted towards this requirement.
  3. One unit in Theatre design
  4. Technical proficiency: Must achieve 400-level technical proficiency in one dance form and 200-level technical proficiency in a second dance form.
  5. Crew requirement (25 hours, arranged in consultation with the department, or completion of Theatre 162.)
  6. Thesis

For either emphasis, at least 1 unit of the above requirements must be met through a course or courses focusing outside the Euro-American dance tradition.

Junior Qualifying Exam

The qualifying exam aims to assess students’ practice-based and scholarly knowledge in the field of dance. The exam also evaluates students’ readiness to pursue thesis research. The exam takes place over one weekend during the second semester of junior year. The exam includes two parts and an addendum:

  1. Essay questions that ask students to engage in close analysis of dance works and to draw on their knowledge of historical and contemporary dance practices. Evaluative criteria for these essays include: ability to engage in effective movement description; address the conceptual, thematic, and formal concerns of dance practices; connect dance practices to broader historical/cultural contexts; and analyze intersections with issues of nation, interculturalism, race, gender, class, sexuality, and/or ability.

  2. Studio practicum prompts that ask students to develop and refine choreographic phrases. Evaluative criteria for these phrases include: quality of invention, complexity, and coherence in the movement; communication of the stated idea or theme; technical execution of the phrase; and the ability to clearly articulate the choreographic process.

    Addendum: Thesis abstracts and annotated bibliographies (2-3) that outline potential topics. Evaluative criteria for these abstracts/bibliographies include: clearly identified and articulated topics and research questions; identification of core research/creative methodologies and theoretical bases for the projects; delineation of the elements of the projects (written and performance-based); and description of the skills in place to complete the projects. This portion of the exam is due several weeks following the completion of sections I & II.

Senior Thesis

All dance majors complete year-long senior theses. Students design and execute their projects under the guidance of faculty advisors. Dance Studio majors undertake an extensive creative endeavour rooted in practice-based as well as scholarly research, and have the opportunity to stage a fully produced performance of their work. Dance Studies majors undertake thesis projects focused in scholarly research that may also include a creative component. Evaluative criteria for the thesis project includes:

  • Effective organization/design of the research and/or creative process
  • Clear articulation of the research question and central argument in written formats; clear articulation of the research question and theme in performance-based formats
  • Selection and execution of creative and/or scholarly methodologies to answer the central thesis question
  • Identification and analysis of the creative and/or scholarly production with which the work engages
  • Successful incorporation of feedback and revision