The Balancing Act of the MFA Dance Student

The Balancing Act of the MFA Dance Student

By Amanda Keller, First Year MFA Student

As a first year MFA student in the Dance Department at Temple, I’ve quickly found that a major component to this program is being able to balance the academic rigor of the seminar classes with the equally rigorous work of choreographing and making dance works. Even after only two weeks into this program, it has become apparent to my fellow MFAers that we are going to be pulled in various directions. There is equal importance placed on examining and discussing the theoretical dance research as there is on choreographing enlightening and engaging dance works. In a way, the strict line that exists between the theory and choreographing seems to fade away.

As someone who has a Master of Arts degree in Education, I’ve been able to compare my experiences in these different graduate programs and the major difference is that the MFA requires you to make the connection between the theoretical research we are reading and apply it in a performative and unique way to your choreography. The performative component in the MFA in Dance is what compelled me to return to graduate school. Having the opportunity to incorporate a theoretical framework by using research to inform your work and create a piece with multi-layers and a real depth to it is such a rewarding experience.

Finding the time to keep up with the readings and spend time in the studio rehearsing is tricky. I’ve found that playing music I’m thinking about using in my choreography while reading for my classes has helped with the integration of the theory into the dances I’m conjuring in my head. Another thing I’ve tried is jotting down notes in my notebook when something inspires me in the reading that I want to try out in the studio. I am looking forward to discovering additional techniques and tricks to balance the demands of the program.

Sunny Days and Educating Dance Class

Sunny Days and Educating Dance Class

As my first year as a Master of Arts student within Temple’s Dance Department comes to a close, the sunny weather has finally emerged! Professor Laura Katz-Rizzo took our Educating Dance class outside to conduct class in the warmth of the first spring-like day. Our discussion topics examined dance pedagogy through a lens of racial equality and appreciation: how can we honor the diverse backgrounds of our students as dance teachers? How can we promote awareness of marginalized racial groups through dance class activities? Is race even a category we think is helpful? These are the kinds of questions we passionately debated while soaking up the sun.

The second part of our class had two of our classmates teach a small lesson from the much larger lesson plans we have all been working on this entire semester. The first lesson led us through three group exercises that explored the concept of communication without words. The second lesson had us go out into the city to observe the various people on the street, and then challenged us to create set choreography derived from a guided improvisation based on what we saw. It was a fun and thought-provoking day in the sunshine!

Erica Henn, 1st year M.A. Dance