Sep 18, 2021  
2016-2017 University Catalogue 
2016-2017 University Catalogue [Archived Catalogue]

School of Dance

Colleges & Divisions  > College of Performing Arts  
Credit-hour Ratio     Statement of Purpose     Overview     Facilities     Program Blueprint


   Bachelor of Fine Arts






Donna Faye Burchfield \ \ 215.717.6110
Director, School of Dance

Niall Jones \ 215.717.6110
Assistant Director
Sara Procopio \ 215.717.6110
Assistant Director
Eric Thomas \ \ 215.717.6577
Assistant to the Director

Kristel Baldoz \ \ 215.717.6110
Administrative Assistant

School of Dance Office
Terra Hall, 211 South Broad Street, 3rd Floor | 215.717.6110 | School of Dance Website

Credit-hour Ratio

Studio courses offered by the School of Dance typically award one credit hour per 22.5 hours of instruction. For example, during a traditional 15-week semester a 3 credit studio course will meet 6 hours per week. The catalogue includes specific credit and contact hour totals for each course .  The University lecture and seminar credit-hour ratio is located on the calendar  page.

Statement of Purpose

Expanding Dance, Experiencing Change.

The School of Dance’s course of study takes the depth and rigor of a discipline-based dance conservatory while engaging students in open discussions within their own practice, valuing their voices as capable of developing new and critical perspectives in dance. These strategies give way to student driven pathways and expand the ways students can access and think about the practices and techniques of making and performing dance. 


Building on the curricular strengths that have historically anchored the School of Dance, some of the key goals are:

  • to provide models for the study of dance that consistently weave and reference both the historical and the emerging forms
  • to create an active environment that strengthens the imagination by cultivating creativity
  • to strike a balance between studio practice & history/theory within the coursework
  • to continually model and promote open collaboration and change


The main studios of the School of Dance are located in the Terra Building at 211 South Broad Street. These spacious, bright, and well-lit studios are fully equipped with barres and mirrors, huge windows, pianos, and audio consoles. Their floors are constructed with four-inch, state-of-the-art suspension for the safest and most comfortable dancing surface available. The University has completely restored its historic Merriam Theater, which serves as the institution’s major performance hall for students, as well as “home” to a number of regional performing arts organizations, including the Pennsylvania Ballet. The Albert M. Greenfield Library contains books, journals, DVDs, and videotapes devoted to dance, which are available to students for research and coursework.

Program Blueprint

The dance curriculum is designed to balance a great range of experiences with small learning communities.  It is divided into two parts: Foundation Series (freshmen and sophomore) and Research/Portfolio Series (junior and seniors).

Studio Practice

These courses range in disciplines specific to the expertise of both faculty and visiting guest artists.

All Studio Practice courses provide anatomically sound models for technical training in dance that consistently weave and reference both the historical and the emerging techniques, forms and styles through informed somatic practices. These studio courses begin with proper warm-up exercises to prepare the dancer for more complex movement expression. Material develops in space and time as the class progresses. Relationships of movement material to effort, shape, dynamics, time, motivation, articulation and intention are introduced and reinforced through repetition and sequencing. Most classes involve accompaniment of live music and simultaneously focus on the relationships of the moving body to sound, silence and rhythm. Extended Practice Labs introduce students to notions of ensemble dancing, classical and contemporary partnering, as well as contact improvisation.

Within the Foundation Series, five-week module courses in ballet, modern, jazz and urban forms (hip hop)  are designed to provide the time for in depth study of techniques and approaches to dance training and to allow for possible new pathways to emerge through the sequencing of training.

Within the Research/Portfolio Series, students begin to make their own choices in the areas of Studio Practice.   Paired classes range in styles and techniques combining practice modalities that include ballet, modern, jazz and urban forms (hip hop).

The central questions are: How do dancers today prepare themselves for a field that is consistently changing and expanding? What is the relationship of technical training to a student’s creative work whether choreographing or performing? And, most importantly… How do dancers find a  practice that combines physical techniques that can support the demands of varied choreographic approaches?

Thinking, Making, Doing (TMD)

All TMD courses happen in a studio and are structured in a workshop setting where assignments are made and time is spent making, viewing and discussing work. Ideas and concepts that shape forms of expression are referenced and illuminated through classroom viewings, listenings, and readings as well as attendance at live performances.

Within the TMD courses, students will research and discuss how works of art get made, how motivations are discovered, explore intentions and directions, and make work of their own. Students will compose, improvise, discuss, write artist statements, and keep artist journals in an environment that encourages experimentation and risk taking. Material is developed both within and outside the assigned class time.

The central questions of these courses are: How might we approach art-making from multiple perspectives? What is aesthetic intent, and how does aesthetic movement imagery get made? How do we research a creative work?  How does the research open up ways of thinking about, discussing, and making visible the creative processes that render choreography? 

Body Pathways

Body Pathways is a year long core course in the Foundation Series designed to introduce students to the following: conditioning & assessment; awareness for alignment, placement and strength; experiential anatomy; and varying somatic practices for sustaining the body in dance. The course provides students with ongoing and consistent body assessment tools that will keep them dancing in a healthier, stronger way throughout their careers in dance.

Sophomore Project

This capstone course is designed to be the culmination of the Foundation Series. The course gives students the opportunity to learn and perform both historical and new works from varied disciplines with an emphasis on the vast approaches to staging, learning and performing. It includes curatorial conversations, imaginative studies and project rehearsals.

Performance Pedagogies of Dance (PODS)

These classes in the Research/Portfolio Series utilize the workshop studio setting for the imagining, discussing, improvising, rehearsing, and eventual public presentation of work. These public presentations happen in formal settings such as the University’s Merriam Theater, or extend out to include different locations and communities.

PODS offer students the opportunity to make connections through multiple access points. An interdisciplinary system, PODS are designed to help students recognize the tools and methodologies used in creative and performance work. Structurally each POD is identified by a unique topic (special topic). Students and faculty work with this topic to make connections as it relates to one of five POD labs: ethics & politics (activism, community based art), mediated forms (virtual space, digital languages), visualities (visual studies, visual perspectives), documentation forms (travel log, story telling, curatorial practices), and hybridity/wildcard.

Senior Seminar & Senior Project/Critique

This capstone course is designed to be the culmination of the Research/Portfolio Series. It is designed to assist seniors in the development and presentation of their senior projects. Each student will hone their artist statements, research ideas, propose a project, and create a website. They will also participate in rehearsals, performance, and technical aspects of the project presentations.

History, Theory & Criticism

Through coursework in Contemporary Art Practices (CAP) and History, Theory & Criticism I & II students work to explore and engage with dance’s history alongside ideas within the expanding fields of contemporary art. Students work to employ diverse modes of thinking, both verbally and in writing, to communicate ideas.


A wide range of electives are offered each semester which include Aerial Dance, African Dance in the Diaspora, a variety of levels of tap classes, yoga, and pilates.