The Department of Theatre, Drama, and Contemporary Dance, which is part of the College of Arts and Sciences, offers a Dance B.F.A. degree to students who wish to combine rigorous technical training in modern and contemporary dance with a strong academic curriculum.
When pursuing a major in Dance, you work with faculty who are top dance practitioners and scholars, having worked both professionally and within a university setting, and with world-reknowned guest artists.
The major is designed to fully prepare students for entrance into the professional world and includes coursework in:
- Dance theory and writings
- Studies in somatic practices
The Department of Theatre, Drama, and Contemporary Dance also offers a BA in Theatre and Drama and a B.F.A. in Musical Theatre, as well as two undergraduate minors for students majoring in other subjects: a minor in Theatre and Drama and a minor in Dance.
Dance majors may also minor in Theatre and Drama, but they should work with the academic advisor to ensure that they have enough unique hours for both degree objectives, per College policy.
Your starting point with the Dance B.F.A. is the first-year series of core classes:
- THTR–D108 Dance Practices I
- THTR-D112 Dance Practices II
- THTR–D121 Improvisation of Contemporary Dance I
- THTR-D161 Improvisation of Contemporary Dance II
- THTR–D361 IU Contemporary Dance Theatre [fall rehearsal period]
- THTR-D301 Contemporary Dance Workshop [spring rehearsal period]
These courses provide you with foundational technique and theory upon which you will build throughout your undergraduate career.
Tracks and concentrations
The degree requires 21 hours in supporting technique. You may choose to focus on ballet practices, cultural choreographies, or dance and movement in theatre and musical theatre, or various other options. You may also take a combination of supporting technique courses.
Upper level coursework
Each semester, students participate in upper-level rehearsal blocks in preparation for a range of dance performances and concerts.
Upper-level coursework in the major also includes advanced technique and composition, which culminate in a junior-year choreographic performance project (comprised of original dance pieces), as well as a senior performance showcase and pre-professional seminar.
Majors also study dance pedagogy, dance history, and dance in the humanities, and gain professional experience through internships, or yoga or Pilates certification.
Commonly pursued majors, minors and certificates
While the rigors of the Dance B.F.A. make pursuit of a second major or degree challenging, students do sometimes combine their major with minors or certificates offered by the College of Arts and Sciences or other schools at IU Bloomington.
Common minors include Arts Management, Business, Exercise Science, Psychology, and Spanish. Check your Bulletin for more information about these minors.
Dance students may pursue the Arts Administration certificate, or work to fulfill prerequisites for graduate training in such fields as physical or occupational therapy.
Consult the academic advisor to discuss your areas of interest and potential ways to complement your coursework in the Dance degree.
- Enhance your major
Working with faculty
When pursuing a degree in Dance, you have the opportunity to work with faculty who have expertise and experience in the field. Take advantage of office hours to talk with your instructors about your performance in class, the content of assignments, and how the course helps you work toward your goals.
Due to the small size of the program, Dance faculty work closely with you, both in the classroom and on stage, regularly providing feedback on your strengths and weaknesses and equipping you with strategies to grow as a student and artist.
You can get involved in research as early as your first year. Many incoming first year students apply to the Arts and Sciences Undergraduate Research Experience (ASURE) program. ASURE students experience project-based learning enhanced by a community of supportive faculty and peers. Choose an ASURE path in the arts and humanities, social and historical studies, or natural and mathematical sciences. Consider joining one that will deepen your skills and knowledge in an area related to your major or a different one to become a more well-rounded thinker.
Researching and writing a departmental honors thesis offers high-achieving students a way to deepen their command of an area of interest. Students considering an honors thesis are encouraged to develop and refine their research interests early in their study, selecting courses that will provide a strong foundation for their thesis.
Many of students choose projects with both an academic and creative component (for instance, a research paper and dance performance). Completing an honors thesis is a particularly good exercise if you are considering graduate school. Talk to your academic advisor about your ideas, potential faculty supervisors, and the steps required to begin your thesis.
High-achieving students may be recognized for Academic Excellence in the College of Arts and Sciences, or be eligible for admission to the Hutton Honors College.
Undergraduate scholarships and awards
Each year, the Contemporary Dance Program awards an array of departmental scholarships, including Jane Fox Dance Scholarships (for juniors and seniors).
Other options for scholarships and awards include:
- College of Arts and Sciences Scholarships
- Hutton Honors College Undergraduate Grant Program
- IU Alumni Association Scholarships
- IU Foundation Scholarships
- Office of Overseas Study Scholarships
Students should also visit the Office of Scholarships for additional university and non-university alternatives.
Internships, summer dance intensives, and apprenticeships offer you a chance to develop both technical and transferable skills while making vital professional contacts with others in the field. Many students begin exploring these opportunities, including overseas study programs with internships, as early as their first year.
Dance majors have pursued these experiences both with arts organizations and other types of nonprofit organizations and media companies. Previous Dance students have found internship and intensive opportunities with organizations such as:
- American Dance Festival
- Dance Italia
- Dance Kaleidoscope
- Detroit City Dance Festival
- Giordano Dance
- Laban/Bartenieff Institute of Movement Studies
- Links Hall
- Martha Graham Dance Company
- Random Access Theatre
- Universal Studios
Learn more about internships, and the possibility of earning credit, through the Walter Center for Career Achievement, where you’ll find many resources for both domestic and international internships.
Foreign language study
As one of the premier institutions in the U.S. for the study of languages, IU Bloomington offers courses and resources in over 80 languages. Foreign language study allows Dance majors to communicate with members of different cultures, to read and perform international theatrical works, and to travel overseas. Languages popular with our students are Spanish, French, Italian, and American Sign Language.
Below is a sampling of language study resources available to students at IU Bloomington:
- Arabic Flagship Program
- Center for Language Technology
- Chinese Flagship Program
- Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowships
- IU Language Workshop
- Language Tables
- Project GO
- Russian Flagship Program
Study abroad is an important part of undergraduate education in our increasingly interconnected world. Dance students often pursue language study and other coursework through the following programs:
- Jerusalen-HUJ - Israel
The College of Arts and Sciences also directly hosts a variety of study abroad programs, some even featuring IU faculty, that might be right for you. Learn more about study abroad opportunities and locations through conversation with Dance faculty, your academic advisor, and through the Office of Overseas Study.
InMotion DanceCo is a student-run organization, active at IU for over 15 years. Choreography is student-taught and performed by dancers from all backgrounds. Dance styles include jazz, lyrical, modern, hip-hop, and tap. Student choreography is welcome and encouraged.
The Movement Cooperative aims to create a welcoming environment in which members are encouraged to explore dance through creating and experimenting with movement in innovative settings, using non-traditional production methods. MoCo acts as a forum for members to discuss creative projects they want to pursue, while providing the leadership opportunities to produce them.
Movement Exchange provides an avenue for students to participate in an inclusive international dance exchange that fosters and promotes dance diplomacy/activism, cross-cultural understanding, social justice, youth empowerment, and community-building through the fusion of movement and service. MoveEx regularly travels to Panama and works with youth organizations in Bloomington.
University Players is a student-run theatre organization at Indiana University dedicated to providing further opportunities in the areas of theatrical performance, production, management, and educational outreach to undergraduate students of all majors and backgrounds.
The departmental Student Advisory Board serves as a liaison between students and faculty and supports and sponsors some events throughout the year, including our annual Drama Prom.
Through the African American Arts Institute, students may participate in the African American Dance Company, African American Choral Ensemble, and IU Soul Revue.
The Performing Arts Community in Read Residence Hall brings together students interested in theatre, music, and dance. Students attend movies, operas, and theatrical productions, and annually travel to artistic hubs in the United States.
Explore beINvolved to connect with any of the 750+ student organizations that already exist, or to start a new one.
There are numerous opportunities for volunteer engagement, allowing you to give back to the local community while developing useful job skills. The organizations below can help you connect with others from the university and beyond:
- African American Dance Company
- Bloomington Entertainment and Arts District
- Bloomington Playwrights Project
- Buskirk-Chumley Theatre
- Cardinal Stage Company
- IU Auditorium
- IU Corps
- Lotus Education and Arts Foundation
- Windfall Dancers
Sign up to receive weekly emails from the Bloomington Volunteer Network to learn about local opportunities and organizations.
Students and alumni who wish to get involved at the local or national level may be interested in the following professional organizations:
- American College Dance Association
- American Dance Therapy Association
- Career Transition for Dancers
- Dance Educators of America
- Dance Studies Association
- Laban/Bartenieff Institute of Movement Studies
- National Dance Education Organization
- National Endowment for the Arts
Use the Indiana University Library system to search for Associations Unlimited, an online directory of associations, professional societies, non-profit organizations, and much more.
- Build your skills
Through the major
The major in Dance provides you with a set of skills and qualities that are relevant and transferable to many areas of study and work. These include:
- Strengthen and refine contemporary dance and supporting techniques
- Develop as a choreographer
- Learn the history, science, and aesthetics of dance
- Grow as an individual artist through coursework and performances in classic and cutting-edge contemporary works, as well as festivals and conferences outside of IU
- Build collaborative, organizational, and leadership skills within a close-knit community of fellow dancers and performing artists
- Prepare for a career in dance or a dance-related field
- Develop adeptness in critical thinking and reading, and in research and writing
- Hone oral, written, and somatic communication
Through a College of Arts and Sciences degree
Your coursework provides many opportunities to develop the following five foundational skills that will serve you well in every career path:
- Question critically
- Think logically
- Communicate clearly
- Act creatively
- Live ethically
These foundational skills will aid you in landing your first job and advancing professionally throughout your working life. Not only are these the skills that employers say they value most in the workplace, they provide the best preparation for lifelong success in a world of complexity, uncertainty, and change.
Skills desired by employers
Each year, the National Association of Colleges and Employers asks employers what key skills and qualities they are looking for in recent college graduates.
The following are some of the most commonly desired attributes across many employment sectors:
- Problem-solving skills
- Ability to work in a team
- Written and verbal communication skills
- Leadership skills
- Strong work ethic
- Analytical and quantitative skills
- Ability to take initiative
- Being detail oriented
- Demonstrating adaptability
- Technical skills relevant to the field
- Interpersonal skills
- Computer skills
- Organizational ability
As you explore various career fields, pay attention to specific job descriptions and requirements. If there are areas where your skills or knowledge are lacking, talk with your academic advisor and career coach about how you can develop in those areas while you are at Indiana University.
Your academic advisor and career coach can also help you find ways to strengthen and deepen the knowledge you already have, becoming more prepared for whatever path you select after College.
- Launch your career
Plan your search
A good starting point for exploring your career options is an appointment with your career coach.
The Walter Center for Career Achievement offers job search resources, career courses, job fairs, information about internships and full-time jobs, and help with social media networking through professional organizations. Get advice about how to write your resume, ask for letters of recommendation from faculty and workplace supervisors, and prepare for job interviews, too.
Explore and enroll in Career Communities to learn more about industries relevant to your interests. These offer unique information about each field, including alumni spotlights, opportunities and resources, and in-person events.
Maximize your career preparation with a career course. Dance majors should consider enrolling in ASCS-Q296 College to Career II: Navigate Your Arts and Sciences Experience. The section dedicated to Arts and Humanities provides the opportunity for you to explore the relationship between your field of study and life after graduation, while developing an academic and career development plan for post-collegiate success. If you are considering continuing your studies after graduation, you may wish to enroll instead in the section dedicated to graduate school preparation. Regardless of the section you select, you will leave the class with your resume, a cover letter or personal statement, and a LinkedIn profile ready to go!
The job market
While it is true that employment in the performing arts can be inconsistent or competitive, Dance majors develop strong skill sets that make them great candidates for careers in a number of different fields. In particular, Dance majors cultivate strong verbal and written communication, teamwork skills, entrepreneurship, and a strong work ethic.
Students with a Dance degree utilize these skills in a number of environments and take their education in many directions. Initial and long-term destinations for graduates include positions in many job sectors, such as the performing and fine arts, education, nonprofit, and corporate sectors.
Graduates with the Dance degree have become professional dancers, arts managers, educators, entrepreneurs, physical therapists, doctors, and lawyers.
Want to see where your fellow majors go right after graduating from IU? Check out the Walter Center’s First Destinations survey!
Need more ideas? The Occupational Outlook Handbook from the Bureau of Labor Statistics offers career information about hundreds of occupations.
Talk with the Dance faculty, academic advisor, the career coach, and other students to gain insights into the career paths taken by graduates with this degree.
Post-graduate short-term experiences
After graduation, a short-term experience or internship can help you make connections, gain life skills, and assess your interest in future careers. Many Dance students audition for summer intensives and apprenticeships that offer short-term contracts.
Other students have utilized their transferrable skills to work in education for organizations like Teach for America. Talk with your career coach and use these and other resources to find opportunities that are a good fit with your educational experience and career goals.
The beginning of your post-graduate career might be an ideal time to explore an international internship or other short-term experience through organizations such as these:
- American College Dance Association
- American Dance Festival
- Dance Magazine
- Dance USA
- Entertainment Careers
- Teach for America
Fellowships for post-graduate study
Fellowships are temporary opportunities to conduct research, work in a field, or fund your education. Most opportunities can be found through universities, non-profit, and government organizations.
In addition to awarding fellowships and grants, some arts organizations offer retreats and colonies that allow artists to work creatively free of charge for a specified period of time. Most states in the U.S. also have statewide and local arts councils that may offer grants and fellowships. You can find a listing of these organizations through the National Endowment for the Arts.
Good resources for finding fellowship opportunities include:
- Creative Capital
- Fulbright U.S. Student Program
- The MacDowell Colony
- National Endowment for the Arts
- Pew Center for Arts and Heritage
- Princess Grace Foundation USA
- Smithsonian Institution
- UCross Foundation
Graduate and professional study
When applying to graduate or professional schools, you’ll need letters of recommendation from faculty members who are familiar with your work. Make a practice of attending office hours early in your academic career, to get to know your professors and discuss your options for advanced study in the field.
Students who graduate with a Dance degree may wish to pursue a variety of graduate degrees. Some choose to obtain a Master of Fine Arts degree in dance or other artistic craft such as directing or production design. Some students pursue advanced degrees in arts administration, business, law, or education.
With careful planning, and in consultation with the Health Professions and Prelaw Center, you could also prepare to enter law school, medical school, or other programs in the health professions.
Students who pursue graduate degrees in dance or arts administration have gone into careers teaching at the university level, managing or directing theatre companies, performing professionally, and working in many other fields.
Here are examples of graduate programs offered at IU:
- College + Kelley
- Department of Theatre, Drama, and Contemporary Dance
- Kelley School of Business: M.B.A.
- Maurer School of Law
- School of Public & Environmental Affairs: M.A. in Arts Administration
Catch up on alumni paths through Stages, the official newsletter of the Department of Theatre, Drama, and Contemporary Dance.
The College of Arts and Sciences has thousands of active alumni. Check out the College Luminaries program, which connects students with the College's most influential, successful, and inspiring alumni.
Join the Walter Center Success Network to remain in touch, network directly with College of Arts +Sciences Alumni, and let others know where your path takes you.
Is it for you?
The Dance B.F.A. attracts students from a variety of backgrounds and interests. They typically have some of the following qualities:
- Passion for dance and movement
- Interest in many forms of contemporary dance and dance studies
- Desire for a career in the professional dance world, as a performer, dance-maker, teacher, body-worker, or administrator
- Self-initiative and proactivity
- Curiosity and wish for personal growth
- Enjoyment of collaboration with other artists, both peer and professional
Please note that the Dance B.F.A. requires an audition. Read the application and audition information carefully.
Contact the Theatre, Drama, and Contemporary Dance academic advisor and schedule an appointment to explore your options. Complete information about the requirements of the major can be found in the College of Arts and Sciences Bulletin.
- Department website
- Advisor email address