Department of Dance



M.F.A. in Experimental Choreography


M.F.A. in Experimental Choreography

The Program

UC Riverside's Master of Fine Arts in Experimental Choreography offers emerging and established artists a site for rigorous investigation in dance making, performance, and physical practice. Students in the MFA program, typically six quarters long, engage in a series of core choreography courses and select critical dance studies seminars, and fulfill the degree through design and direction of a choreographic project unique to their cumulative research. MFA students are equally enriched by the professional relationships they develop with our undergraduate population through teaching, directing, producing, and community engagement.

UCR’s MFA program is unique for the close relationship it maintains with the Dance Department's PhD in Critical Dance Studies, one of the preeminent programs for intellectual inquiry in the field of cultural, political, and historical studies of dance. Cooperation between these two programs, both conceptually and through intersecting curricula, contributes to the department’s embrace of dance making and scholarship as complementary modes of investigation.

Riverside, CA is an integral part of a dynamic constellation of landscapes including the high desert, the San Gorgonio Mountains, Los Angeles, and the US-Mexico border. UC Riverside is a place for our MFA students to participate artistically and intellectually in a generative environment of diverse economies and cultural perspectives. Several venues on and off campus, including our performance lab and the Culver Center of the Arts downtown, are available to foster this exchange.

List of Completed MFA Projects (PDF format)

Course Work

Students must complete 40 units of course work (10 courses) and 12-14 units of independent research for a final project.  Students’ total number of units of graduate and upper division undergraduate courses must equal at least 54.

The core curriculum, normally to be completed in the first two years of residency, shall comprise the following 16 units:

  • Dance 240: Improvising Choreography: Scores, Structures, and Strategies (4 units)
  • Dance 241: Creating the Experiment: Identifying the New (4 units)
  • Dance 242: Dancing Representation: Figures, Forms, and Frames (4 units)
  • Dance 243: Collaborating in Dance Making: Material, Methods, and Interactions (4 units)

Students must also take 4 units in each of the following:

  • Dance 180R (Dance Practicum: Pedagogy)
  • Dance 239 (Introduction to Graduate Study of Dance)
  • Dance 244 (Special Topics in Dance Making)

In addition, students must complete 8 units from the following critical dance studies courses:

  • Dance 254: Political Approaches to Dance Studies (4 units)
  • Dance 255: Historical Approaches to Dance Studies (4 units)
  • Dance 257: Rhetorical Approaches to Dance Studies (4 units)
  • Dance 258: Cultural Approaches to Dance Studies (4 units)

Students must also take Dance 301 (which does not count toward the total 54 units required for the degree) plus 4-6 graduate-level units of electives either within or outside the Dance Department. These units should be taken for a letter grade and can include, but are not limited to: any of the core PhD courses (Dance 254-258) not previously taken; a Dance 200-level seminar course in history and theory; Dance 280 (the Colloquium); the bundling of an upper-division undergraduate-level course with 2 units of 292 (Concurrent Analysis).

An additional 12-14 units are taken through Dance 297 or Dance 299 for work on phases of the final project. During the second year, students form a committee consisting of three faculty members, one of whom may be outside the department. The committee approves the project proposal and supervises the final project. The student's progress through the program culminates in the final project, which reflects a serious investigation of a specific choreographic problem. 

Final Project

During the second year, the student writes a 5-15 page proposal for the final project to be approved by the committee.

The final project could take the form of a concert of dances or some other performance event in which the student's research is made evident. Because of the experimental nature of the program, it is difficult to specify the exact form the project may take. For example, students may 1) undertake to create site-specific dances occurring in different locales over several months, 2) organize opportunities for interactive choreography with distinct groups of performers, or 3) choreograph a dance to be viewed on CD-ROM. 

Whatever its final form, the MFA project must demonstrate a thorough investigation and committed execution of a defined aesthetic concern. The MFA final project includes a written componentto be completed within one quarter following the performance event. This written component, a document, 20 to 40 pages long, articulatesthe aesthetic focus of the student’s research and provides a historical, theoretical, and even philosophical contextualization for the project. The written component should:

  1. describe and assess the process, choreography and final project performance(s), including references to the core studio courses, theory and historycourses and faculty dialogue, as well as lines of independent research.
  2. position the work in relation to the field – lineage, direct influences, similar inquiries by others -- and in relationship to other disciplines artistic or theoretical
  3. use the writing as an opportunity to develop language for articulating the work -- significance and potential next directions of creative research – for job talks, grant proposals, promotion, etc.
  4. addressissues posed by the chair and committee members
  5. not attempt to be a THESIS per. se., but be flexible andadapt in format to the particular project, with the guidance of the chair and approval by committee members.  It can (but is not necessarily required to) include or attach as appendix a pivotal paper written in a course, different kinds of writing, journal entries, scores, photographs and/or other relevant elements. Such appendices must be in addition to at least 20 written pages, in order to fulfill the catalogue requirement.

Moving-image documentation of the MFA project in 2016 takes place at the student’s initiative.  The Department is in process with the UCR Library to transfer from Dance to Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) moving-image documentation from previous MFA projects where such documentation has been given to the Department by the MFA student.  Publicity material posters generated by Kathy Deatley/the Promotions and Publicity Manager are archived on the Department of Dance website, usually annually.  Grad Division does not require formal filing of the written component document, which eases the time frame for completion in some ways. However it also means that Rivera Library does not shelve print copies of the written components. 

Normative Time to Degree

The normative time toward the completion of the MFA in Experimental Choreography is 7 quarters (2 years plus one quarter).

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More Information 

General Campus Information

University of California, Riverside
900 University Ave.
Riverside, CA 92521
Tel: (951) 827-1012

Department Information

Department of Dance
121 Arts Building

Tel: (951) 827-3944
Fax: (951) 827-4651

Graduate Program Inquiries: danceadvising@ucr.edu

Undergraduate Program Inquiries: judith.llausas@ucr.edu

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