About the Program
The BFA curriculum offers the serious and dedicated dance student professional training in classical ballet and contemporary modern dance, as well as an extensive curriculum in composition. Performance both on campus and on tour is an integral part of dance training at Purchase.
Criteria for Acceptance:
- Talent and potential as a performer
- Prior training and the ability to demonstrate a knowledge of modern dance and/or classical ballet techniques
- Good physical proportions in a healthy body that is injury-free
Requirements for Graduation
The BFA in dance is awarded upon the successful completion of course requirements and demonstrated quality of the student’s technical ability and creative initiative, based on the standards of the professional dance world. The standard residency requirement in the Conservatory of Dance BFA program is four years (eight semesters), with rare exceptions; the minimum residency requirement is three years (six semesters).
Students earn a BFA in dance. All students enter the conservatory program in the area of dance performance. Subsequently, they may remain in dance performance or apply for one the following concentrations: ballet, dance composition (choreography), or dance production.
Graduation is dependent on the successful completion of course requirements, which include a minimum of 30 liberal arts credits, and the demonstrated fitness of the student for a professional performing career in dance. Students must meet all general degree requirements as well as conservatory requirements for graduation.
Minimum Grade Requirements
Conservatory of Dance students in all concentrations are expected to maintain a grade of C or higher in all required dance courses, excluding the senior project. (For students in the composition concentration, a minimum GPA of B+ is required in all composition courses.) A grade of C- or lower constitutes a failure to demonstrate successful academic or artistic progress. A student who receives grades of C- or lower for two or more semesters may no longer be eligible for scholarship funds and performance opportunities and may be dismissed from the conservatory.
All students take the same required dance courses in the freshman and sophomore years. At the end of the sophomore year, the Dance Board of Study evaluates each student’s progress and potential and makes recommendations for the direction of future study in one of the following areas: dance performance, ballet, dance composition, or dance production. Professional dance credits are awarded on the basis of the student’s consistent artistic growth.
Concentration decisions are approved by the Dance Board of Study. Sophomore jury results determine a student’s concentration status.
The Training Program
All BFA students study classical ballet and modern dance daily. Students audition in a placement class at the beginning of each year and are evaluated and placed in technique class levels at the discretion of the faculty.
Performance is an integral and required part of the professional training program. The Purchase Dance Company (selected BFA students in the Conservatory of Dance) performs major concerts in the Performing Arts Center; in student and faculty concerts in the Dance Theatre Lab; and on tour in New York City, New York State, and abroad. They also participate in special performances for children and at lecture/demonstrations. The program culminates in the senior project, for which each senior performs a repertory piece and co-produces a concert as requirements for graduation.
Repertory for the Purchase Dance Company’s major concerts and tours has included George Balanchine’s Serenade, Valse Fantaisie, The Four Temperaments, and Tarantella; Merce Cunningham’s Changing Steps, Duets, and Septet; Martha Graham’s Chronicle; Jose Limón’s A Choreographic Offering; Doris Humphrey’s The Shakers and Passacaglia; Paul Taylor’s Cloven Kingdom, Le Sacre du Printemps, Junction, and Company B; Mark Morris’ Gloria, A Lake and Grand Duo; Aszure Barton’s Over/Come; Lar Lubovitch’s Dvorak Serenade; Kenneth MacMillan’s Pas de Deux from Concerto; Cynthia Gregory’s Solo; Lester Horton’s Beloved; Twyla Tharp’s Sweet Fields; Bill T. Jones’ D-Man in the Waters; Dianne McIntyre’s Lyric Fire; Doug Varone’s Strict Love, Possession, Lux, and Rise; Kyle Abraham’s Counterpoint; Stephen Petronio’s Lareigne; Lin Hwai Min’s Crossing the Black Water; and frequent productions of the Nutcracker, as well as work created for the Purchase Dance Company by Shen Wei, Matthew Neenan, Ori Flomin, Nicole Fonte, Loni Landon, Gregory Dolbashian, Jessica Lang, Claire Porter, Luca Veggetti, Shen Wei, Stanton Welch, Lauri Stallings, Helen Pickett, Pam Tanowitz, Robert Hill, Kimberly Bartosik, Alexandra Beller, Adam Barruch and Shannon Gillen, and works by guest artists, emerging choreographers, alumni, and faculty.
New works and classics in both ballet and modern dance are prepared and rehearsed for performance each year. The choreography is licensed from major artists or created by faculty and guest artists.
Students receive advanced-level training in classical ballet technique. Emphasis is placed on correct body alignment, awareness of musical phrasing and performance, knowledge of classical ballet vocabulary, and understanding of training principles. Classes are taught on progressive levels of technical proficiency. In addition, there are partnering, pointe/variation, men’s classes, and concert repertory, which further develop specific skills required of the classically trained dancer.
Classical modern and contemporary dance techniques, originated by distinguished dance artists, are studied on progressive levels as a dynamic and developing art form. Technique is amplified by classes in modern partnering, improvisation and contact improvisation, the repertory of classic and current choreography, and collaboration with artists in other disciplines.
The creative process of choreography is studied through a three-year program in dance composition preceded by one year of improvisation. Juniors present choreographic projects in preparation for their senior projects the following year. The program culminates in fully produced senior projects in composition, performed in the Dance Theatre Lab as a requirement for graduation. Student choreography is auditioned for student concerts, student/faculty concerts, and lecture/demonstrations.
The Conservatory of Dance has a strong commitment to the musical training of its students. This is reflected in the curriculum, which includes a historical survey of musical resources and courses that explore the shared elements of temporal arts (meter, tempo, rhythm, dynamics, texture, phrase, form, etc.), coaching for musicality, and score reading, together with extensive listening and analysis. Students receive hands-on percussion/rhythmic training and investigate the long relationship between music and dance history.
In addition to training in technique and composition, students study the history of dance as an evolving form. Eight credits of dance history are a requirement for graduation. These 8 credits may count toward the liberal arts requirement (30 credits minimum) for the BFA.
Students supplement their movement practices with courses in somatics designed to heighten their strength, stability, muscular balance, connection to breath, and neuromuscular connectivity.
A course in anatomy helps students understand the biomechanical functioning of the dancing body. Students investigate the skeletal structure, muscles, tendons, and ligaments; movement range in joints; and injury care, cure, and prevention through the principles of Swedish massage.
Students’ schedules are rounded out with a wide variety of elective courses, allowing them to expand their knowledge of the diversity of the art form. Elective courses vary and may include dance styles (Gaga, musical theatre, West African, jazz, text and movement, etc.), acting, and “Your Brain on Art.”