UC Riverside’s Master of Fine Arts in Experimental Choreography offers emerging and established artists a site for intense investigation in dance making, performance, and interdisciplinary embodied practice. Over the course of six quarters, students engage in a series of core composition courses and select critical dance studies courses that focus on and address current and urgent questions in the field, and that center experimentation and interdisciplinarity in their approaches. Each quarter students pair with a faculty mentor, four quarters of which are for the Graduate Critique Panels (GCP), to engage intimately with their independent creative practices and show their work for critical feedback and progress evaluation. During the second year of the program students are required to share their work publicly as part of the MFA Fourth Quarter Showings (4QS), from which they begin to develop their final projects and form their committees. The final project demonstrates a thorough investigation and committed execution of a specific set of critical questions unique to their cumulative research, and includes a public artist talk and a written reflective/ theoretical document.

UCR’s M.F.A. program is unique for the close relationship it maintains with the Ph.D. 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. M.F.A. students are equally enriched by the professional relationships they develop with our undergraduate population through teaching, directing, producing, and community engagement. Several venues on and off campus, including our Performance Lab, Studio Labs, and the Culver Center of the Arts downtown, are available for students to share their research.

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 M.F.A. 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.

Course Work

Students must complete 40 units of course work (10 courses) and 12-14 units of independent research for a final project, over 6 quarters.  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 14 units in the following:
Dance 180R: Studio Pedagogy + DNCE 292: Concurrent Analytical Studies (6 units total)
Dance 239: Introduction to Graduate Study of Dance (4 units)
Dance 244: Special Topics in Dance Making (4 units)

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)
Dance 260: Special Topics in Critical Dance Studies (4 units)
Dance 264: Oral History and Ethnographic Methods
Dance 267: Choreographies of Writing

Students must also take Dance 301: Seminar in Dance Studies Pedagogy and Professional Development (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 Ph.D. courses (Dance 254-258) not previously taken; a Dance 200-level seminar course in critical dance studies; 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 DNCE 297 or DNCE 299 for independent creative research work with faculty mentors on their Graduate Critique Panels, and on phases of the final project. During the second year, students form a committee consisting of three – four faculty members, one of whom may be outside the department. The committee approves the project proposal and supervises the final project.

Final Project Proposal

M.F.A. students are required to write a 10-15 page proposal for their final project, to be approved by the committee, by end of fall quarter their second year. The proposal should make evident the needs of the student, including desired venue, material and production needs, as well as any collaborative expenses. Once a draft is submitted, a meeting will be called with the department’s production staff and the committee members to discuss logistics and budget.

Final Project

The final project may take shape in many forms in which the student’s research is made evident. For example, students may 1) undertake to create site-specific performances occurring in different locales over several months, 2) organize opportunities for interactive choreography with distinct groups of performers, 3) develop a digital media or film project, or 4) create a portfolio of many distinct but connected projects. Whatever its final form, the project must demonstrate a thorough investigation and committed execution of a defined aesthetic concern. Students are also required to give a 30 -minute public artist talk followed by Q&A, and produce a 20-40 page written document to be completed within one quarter of the performance/project event, which outlines the aesthetic focus of the student’s research, reflects on the creative process, and provides a historical and philosophical contextualization for the project.

The written component should:

Describe and assess the process, choreography and final project performance(s), including references to the core studio courses, theory and history courses and faculty dialogue, as well as lines of independent research.

Position the work in relation to the field – lineage, direct influences, similar inquiries by others — and in relationship to other disciplines artistic or theoretical.

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.

Address issues posed by the chair and committee members.

This written document is not a THESIS per se, but is flexible and presented in a format that reflects 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 an 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.

Publicity material posters generated by PAA’s 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 M.F.A. in Experimental Choreography is 6 quarters. In some cases students extend to a 7th quarter, depending on the needs of the student and with advising from the committee members.


The program is especially designed for established practicing artists who desire to return to university as a site for deeper engagement and reflection, individuals who demonstrate an invested creative practice and readiness to expand and challenge their established research.

Applicants to the program should demonstrate significant professional experience as an active dance, visual or performance artist making and producing work and a desire to contextualize their aesthetic inquiry through the study of historical, cultural, and political perspectives.

Applicants must have a B.A. or B.F.A. degree from an accredited institution.

Work Sample Requirements and Specifications:
a) Three digital samples of original creative work that exemplify the applicant’s research and point of view of their embodied praxis, are required. These should be provided via a stable online link and hosted by Vimeo, YouTube or any media player compatible with both Mac and PC computer playback.

b) Work descriptions and credits (75 words max) must be embedded in the info field of the online video, if possible, or submitted as an electronic document with other application materials. (In your Personal Statement, indicate clearly how you have supplied this credits info.) Samples should be what best represents the applicant’s choreographic practice and should ideally include at least one full-length work.”

c) Work samples should be what best represents the applicant’s choreographic practice and should ideally include at least one full-length work. Highlight reels or highly edited videos that inaccurately represent the work are discouraged.


Applicants are required to file an official application electronically to the Graduate Division. All completed applications that are received by January 5th will be considered for priority funding.

Financial Support
University of California, Riverside offers support in the form of Fellowships and Teaching Assistantships for the most highly qualified applicants. Financial aid for graduate study at UC Riverside is competitive, and is based on needs as well as merit. Students are encouraged to find alternative sources of financial support from grants and fellowships, from foundations, and in their respective countries. To be competitive for fellowships, application before January 5 for entrance for the following Fall Quarter is expected. Applications received after January 5 will be considered up to February 15.

Faculty Graduate Advisor
Jacqueline Shea Murphy, She/Her/Hers
ARTS 205

Graduate Coordinator
Hannah Braund, She/Her/Hers
ARTS 128
(951) 827-3944

Graduation Procedures and Deadlines
Petitions and Forms
Current M.F.A. Students
Alumni M.F.A. Projects
Dance GSA

M.F.A. Final Projects