Dance B.F.A.

The Department of Theatre, Drama, and Contemporary Dance, 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:

  • Performance
  • Choreography
  • Teaching
  • Administration
  • Production
  • 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 only one class may count towards both the major and minor.

Coursework

Getting started

Your starting point with the Dance major is the freshman series of core classes:

  • THTR–D302 A Somatic Approach to Contemporary Ballet Practice
  • THTR–D109 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]
  • THTR-D231 Introduction to Dance Studies

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 you may 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 Psychology, Spanish, Exercise Science, and Business.

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 closely with award-winning faculty who have vast experience in the field, both as instructors and as artists in national and international dance companies, festivals, and programs.

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.

Take advantage of the expertise of your instructors and choreographers to discuss your performance in classes and productions, the content of assignments, and how your courses help you work toward your goals. Your teachers will also help prepare you for your career after graduation through dance intensives, the senior seminar and showcase, and opportunities for professional networking.

Honors

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.

Students with strong academic records 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 Freshman Talent Awards and Jane Fox Dance Scholarships (for juniors and seniors).

Other options for scholarships and awards include:

Students should also visit the Office of Scholarships for additional university and non-university alternatives.

Internships

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 freshman 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:

Learn more about internships, and the possibility of earning credit, through the Walter Center for Career Achievement. You have access to many resources there for finding 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 70 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.

Here is a sampling of language study resources available to students at IU Bloomington:

Overseas study

Study abroad is an important part of undergraduate education in an increasingly globalized world. Dance students often participate in the following program (and new opportunities are in development):

  • Jerusalem Semester Program: Dance Track

Learn more about study abroad opportunities and locations through conversation with Theatre, Drama, and Contemporary Dance faculty and your academic advisor, and the Office of Overseas Study

Student groups

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.

Hoosier Tap Company is a student-directed dance company that gives IU Bloomington students an opportunity to share their passion for tap dancing and provides a place for experienced tap dancers to be challenged and to grow as performers.

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.

Volunteer opportunities

There are numerous opportunities for volunteer engagement and auditions. The organizations below can help you connect with the arts community at IU, local arts organizations in Bloomington, and more. In addition to teaching and performing, many Dance majors will choreograph works in collaboration with theatre companies in Bloomington:

Sign up to receive weekly emails from the Bloomington Volunteer Network to learn about local opportunities and organizations.

Professional organizations

Students and alumni who wish to get involved at the local or national level may be interested in the following professional organizations:

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 Dance major provides students with a variety of skills, both specific to dance and transferable outside of the department. Through the major you will:

  • 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 abilities, as identified by the 11 Goals of the College of Arts and Sciences:

  • Achieve the genuine literacy required to read, listen, speak and write clearly and persuasively
  • Learn to think critically and creatively
  • Develop intellectual flexibility and breadth of mind
  • Discover ethical perspectives
  • Cultivate a critically informed appreciation of literature and the arts
  • Practice and apply scientific methods
  • Learn to reason quantitatively
  • Develop historical consciousness
  • Investigate and study the international community
  • Develop and practice communication skills in public settings and in the study of at least one foreign language
  • Pursue in-depth knowledge of at least one subject

Skills desired by employers

Each year, the National Association of Colleges and Employers asks employers what skills and qualities they are looking for in recent college graduates.

The following abilities are sought in the job market across many employment sectors:

  • Communicate effectively with persons both inside and outside the organization
  • Work in a team structure
  • Make decisions and solve problems
  • Plan, organize, and prioritize work
  • Obtain and process relevant information
  • Analyze quantitative data
  • Obtain technical knowledge related to the job
  • Proficiency with computer software programs
  • Create and edit written reports
  • Persuade or influence others

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 and career advisors about how you can develop in those areas while you are at Indiana University.

Your academic advisor and career advisor can also help you find ways to strengthen and deepen the knowledge you already have, becoming more prepared for whatever path you select after your college career.

Launch your career

Plan your search

A good career exploration starting point is an appointment with the Arts & Humanities career advisor.

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 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 andresources, and in-person events.

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. They are well prepared to work in 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.

Talk with the Dance faculty, academic advisor, career advisor, and other students to gain insights into the career paths taken by graduates of the Department of Theatre, Drama and Contemporary Dance.

The Occupational Outlook Handbook from the Bureau of Labor Statistics offers career information about hundreds of occupations.

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 advisor and use these and other resources to find opportunities that are a good fit with your educational experience and career goals:

Fellowships for post-graduate study

Fellowships and grants are temporary post-graduate opportunities to conduct research, work in a field, or fund graduate school. 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.

Some examples of fellowship and grant opportunities include:

Graduate and professional study

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.

You might consider these Indiana University graduate opportunities:

Alumni connections

Catch up on alumni paths through the IU Dance Major Alumni Site and through Stages, the official newsletter of the Department of Theatre, Drama, and Contemporary Dance.

The IU College of Arts and Sciences also organizes Alumni events. Check out the IU College Luminaries program, which connects students with the College's most influential, successful, and inspiring alumni.

Join and use the IU Alumni Association to remain in touch, network directly, follow careers, and let others know where your path takes you. 


Is it for you?

The Dance B.F.A. attracts students who seek serious study in the art of modern and contemporary dance. 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

Learn more

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
kishinto@indiana.edu