Dance (BA | BFA)

In the Dance bachelor’s degree program at Columbia College Chicago, you’ll learn how to communicate your ideas through dance and scholarship and develop your unique point of view as an artist. We embrace a variety of dance techniques and styles and welcome students with diverse experiences in dance. As a Dance major, you’ll take technique courses in modern/contemporary, West African, ballet, and hip-hop and related street dance styles. You’ll also take dance studies courses that will teach you to think critically about choreography and performance. This comprehensive approach will prepare you to enter a dynamic contemporary dance community that celebrates innovative and diverse styles and aesthetics.

Columbia College Chicago Dance Major Student Performance

As a Dance major, you’ll bring your unique background into the classroom and collaborate with other students and faculty members to create new work, hone your creative vision, and explore the scholarly conversations at the core of dance. You’ll graduate with the skills and knowledge you’ll need to contribute to the evolving field of dance—and succeed in many other related fields.


Degrees Available

Columbia College Chicago offers two degrees in dance: the bachelor of arts (BA) and the bachelor of fine arts (BFA). The BFA is a rigorous program intended for students with professional aspirations in dance. The BA provides a foundation in dance, with many of the same technique requirements, while allowing students flexibility to minor in another subject or double major. Both BA and BFA students have many opportunities to audition for performances.

If you plan to apply directly to the BFA program, you’ll need to include some additional materials.

View course requirements:

The Dance Center

Columbia College Chicago students master class with Coco Dance Theatre
Students workshop with Ni’Ja Whitson, a member of the Cynthia Oliver Co. Dance Theatre company.

Columbia is home to the Dance Center, which brings renowned choreographers and companies from around the world to Chicago each year. You’ll interact with these artists in classes, workshops, and performances. The Dance Center has a long legacy in the city of Chicago and has presented performances by legendary companies, including Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan, nora chipaumire, The Seldoms, and BalletX.


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The 2019-20 Season

During the 2019-20 season, dance students will take classes with Kimberly Bartosik, Qudus Onikeku, and Abby Z and the New Utility and see companies from Chicago and across the world. Every company that performs at the Dance Center participates in discussions about their work, giving students insight into the creative and professional process behind the scenes.

Learn More About the Dance Center


In the Classroom

When you arrive at Columbia, you’ll join an active community of students and faculty members. We’ll encourage you to develop your distinct perspective as a dancer, regardless of the training you’ve had so far. Auditions will determine the level of technique classes that’s right for you. These classes will be coupled with dance studies courses that will help you think critically about your experience in the studio.

Columbia College Chicago Dance class

  • You’ll take technique courses in West African, ballet, hip-hop, and modern dance. Each course includes live music accompaniment and is taught by a faculty member who has professional experience in the field. As you develop your technique, you may gravitate toward a particular style, which you can then explore more deeply through elective courses.

  • You’ll take courses on teaching that cover the creative and practical skills you’ll need to teach dance to students from diverse backgrounds.

  • You’ll learn how to analyze and write about dance through dance studies courses, which will give you the foundational knowledge and context you’ll need to become a better performer.

  • In our advanced topics courses, you’ll develop work for your portfolio in response to a particular topic, which you’ll explore through choreography, performance, and scholarship.

  • You may take elective courses in concert production, sound and video, or kinesiology. If you take the BFA track, these courses will be required.


Performance Opportunities

Columbia College Chicago Dance Student Performance Solo

You’ll have many opportunities to audition to perform in student and faculty work. If you’re interested in choreography, you’ll have opportunities to create your own work and stage it at the Dance Center and in other venues. Some performance opportunities include Student Performance Night, Repertory and Performance Workshop, and the Senior Concert. More about Performance Opportunities.

Student Performance News

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Stephanie Banes’ ‘Who R U?’ Selected for American College Dance Association’s National College Dance Festival

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Hip-Hop Dance Festivals

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B-Series

Each semester, a mini-festival celebrates acclaimed guest artists specializing in underground street dance forms such as breaking, popping, and house. With a jam or battle as the focal point, B-Series events become a gathering space for the underground dance community. The events connect the rich culture of hip hop, from dance to MCing, rapping, DJing, and graffiti, to the Columbia community.

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Dance Spaces

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Columbia’s Dance Department has plenty of space for you to practice—including a professional theatre. We also have a sound lab, locker rooms, and student lounges where you’ll hang out with your fellow dancers. 

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Student Spotlight



Internships

We encourage students to intern senior year. You’ll work with a faculty mentor to find an internship that makes sense for your career ambitions. If you’re interested in performance, you might secure an internship with a company. Or, you might intern in arts administration or community engagement. Teaching is an important element of a successful career in dance, so we’ll help you find opportunities to teach different ages and styles. You might even be a teaching assistant for a faculty member in the program.

Dance students have interned at organizations such as:

  • Audience Architects
  • Red Clay
  • Design Dance
  • American Rhythm Center
  • The Dance Center
  • Links Hall
  • See Chicago Dance

Chicago

You couldn’t pick a more exciting dance community to join than the one in Chicago. The city is home to hundreds of companies and choreographers, diverse in style and aesthetics. The world’s leading dancers and choreographers visit the city often. Chicago companies—many of which include or are led by Columbia alumni—develop innovative work every day. Workshops, classes, and events give you opportunities to participate in this rich community.


Faculty

Professor Peter Carpenter performing

“I think our students really appreciate the amount of challenge we give them ... We’re pushing them in terms of their technical foundation, we’re pushing them as artists, we push them to be better teachers, and we push them to be better scholars.”

-Peter Carpenter, PhD, Associate Professor

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Columbia’s Dance faculty members are award-winning, professional dancers, choreographers, and scholars. They pride themselves in creating an open, collaborative relationship with students. They’re enthusiastic mentors and engaging teachers. They are well respected in the dance community, regularly contributing new work and pushing the boundaries of dance scholarship.

Faculty Highlights

  • Paige Cunningham Caldarella studied at the Juilliard School and went on to dance for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, touring throughout Europe, Australia, and the U.S. Her choreography has been seen at the Chicago Cultural Center, the Krannert Center, the Aronoff Center, Cincinnati Ballet’s New Works Series, and DanceWorks Chicago’s Dance Moves competition.

  • Ellen Chenoweth is director of the Dance Center Presenting Series. She worked as a freelance arts administrator with choreographers in New York, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C.

  • Lisa Gonzales is an independent dance maker, improviser, and performing artist. She has performed and shown her choreography in New York at such venues as DTW, Danspace at St. Mark’s Church, Joyce SoHo, and WAX. She has also presented her work in Taiwan, Russia, Finland, and the Dominican Republic.

  • Darrell Jones performs in the United States and abroad with a variety of choreographers and companies, including Bebe Miller, Urban Bush Women, Ronald K. Brown, Min Tanaka, Ralph Lemon, and Kokuma Dance Theatre. His choreography has been presented at The Place in London, Gwangju Biennale in South Korea, The Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., and Judson Memorial Church in New York City. 

  • Raquel Monroe is an interdisciplinary performance scholar and artist whose research interests include black social dance, black feminisms, and popular culture. Monroe’s scholarship has appeared in the Journal of Pan-African Studies, the edited volumes Queer Dance, solo/black/woman: Performing Black Feminisms, and The Oxford Handbook: Dance and the Popular Screen.


Alumni Success

Columbia College Chicago alum Vershawn Sanders of Red Clay Dance

Vershawn Sanders-Ward ’02 brought her company, Red Clay Dance together with Uganda’s Keiga Dance Company on stage at the Dance Center.

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Columbia alumni thrive in the field of dance and beyond. They teach all over the world, perform in leading companies, choreograph cutting-edge work, and form their own companies. They are also leaders in the fields of arts management and dance criticism and scholarship.