Contemporary Dance

Degree Requirements

  • This page outlines requirements for the Contemporary Dance major (BA, Contemporary Dance). Students can also study this subject as a minor or as part of a self-designed major (BA or BS, Liberal Arts). Students interested in dance who major in The Arts can choose the Arts in Context concentration (BA, The Arts), in which they combine the study of dance with the study of a liberal arts discipline. Many courses in the Contemporary Dance curriculum are suitable for students with any degree of previous experience, and the participation of nonmajors is encouraged.


    The curriculum of the Contemporary Dance program is structured around four focus areas: 

    Movement Practice

    Rather than using the familiar term "technique," the Dance program uses "movement practice" for its dance classes to signal an ongoing approach to physical exploration, as opposed to a linear path toward "mastery." With an opportunity to study movement practices ranging from ballet to contact improvisation to vogue, students consider diverse understandings of the body and virtuosity. Engaging in dynamic studio work, students and faculty ask: What can a body do?

    Choreographic Research

    In Lang's "choreographic research" courses, students explore varied approaches to the creative process as conceived and employed by some of the field's most adventurous contemporary practitioners. These courses frame dance making as a series of investigatory acts, an arena for research and discovery. Students work individually and collaboratively as choreographers and learn methods to describe, analyze, and critique one another's movement studies.

    History and Theory

    Lang Dance students engage in a range of academic seminars, analyzing dance through a variety of methodological and theoretical approaches and honing their skills as readers and writers. Working closely with faculty and peers (including students majoring in music, visual arts, theater, and a range of other disciplines) students think critically about the body and consider the opportunities and challenges that come with analyzing movement. In addition to considering dance in relation to other art forms, students learn to situate dance within social and cultural contexts.


    Each semester, students have the opportunity to work with guest artists in an intensive rehearsal process, presenting a re-staged or new dance in a public performance. Residencies often include a study of the influences that have affected the guest artist's life and work. Guest artists have included Sarah Michelson, Eiko Otake, John Jasperse, Luciana Achugar, Reggie Wilson, Souleymane Badolo, Beth Gill, Yvonne Meier, Ishmael Houston-Jones, Juliette Mapp, Sally Silvers, and representatives from the Trisha Brown Dance Company. Each year, one performance work is created by an artist-in-residence from Movement Research, a New York-based professional organization that serves as a laboratory for experimentation in movement-based performance arts. Recent MR artists include Juliana May, David Thomson, Ivy Baldwin, Jeanine Durning, Joanna Kotze, and Nami Yamamoto. 

    Requirements for the Major in Contemporary Dance (BA, The Arts)

    The Contemporary Dance major requires courses in the four focus areas listed above, distributed as follows. Students must receive grades of C or better in all courses taken to fulfill concentration requirements. To see which courses fulfill these requirements, visit the Lang course finder.

    Aesthetics course (3-4 credits). Choose one:

    • ULEC 2320: Aesthetics or
    • LINA 2002 Aesthetics Across the Arts or
    • Another approved aesthetics course

    Three Lang InterArts (LINA) courses (total 12 credits): identified by subject code LINA (LAIC before fall 2010)

    One Choreographic Research course (2 credits):

    • LDAN 2050 Choreographic Research Introduction

    Three Core Dance Seminar Courses (total 12 credits): 

    • LDAN 2502 Experiential Anatomy
    • LDAN 2018 Foundations in Dance Studies
    • LDAN 2040 Introduction to Dance History

    Movement Practice Courses (total 5 credits; currently 2-credit and 1-credit courses are offered). Choose from:

    • Introduction to Contemporary Dance Practices 
    • Contemporary Dance Practices
    • Contemporary Dance Practices, Continued
    • Trio of Contemporary Dance Practices
    • Modern Dance Practices
    • Introduction to Ballet Practices 
    • Ballet Practices
    • Ballet Practices, Continued
    • Hip-Hop Dance Practices
    • Hip Hop Dance Practices, Continued
    • Contact Improvisation Practices
    • Capoeira
    • West African Dance Practices  

    1 Dance Seminar Elective Course (4 credits) Sample courses:

    • Vogue'ology
    • I Have a Dream: Dance in Education
    • Dance History (a second course, in addition to the major requirement)
    • Politics of Improvisation
    • Debates in Performance Studies
    • Ephemeral Art
    • Practical Side of Performance
    • Arts Media Toolkit

    8 Variable Dance Credits - Studio or Liberal Arts (8 credits). These 8 variable dance credits can be fulfilled by either studio or liberal arts credits, in any combination, from courses within the Dance area of study. For example, students who become interested in the field of critical dance Studies could fulfill this requirement with two dance seminars; students more interested in performance careers could take predominantly studio courses such as dance practice and performance courses; and students more interested in creative practice could fulfill these elective credits primarily with choreographic research courses.

    Senior Capstone (4 credits), chosen from

    • Senior Seminar or
    • Individual independent project

    Total credits: 50-51

    Requirements Worksheet

    Only specific courses satisfy the major requirements, including electives. Courses should be chosen carefully, in consultation with the chair of the program. Students should track their progress using the program requirement worksheet for the year in which they declared their major in Contemporary Dance:

    2018-19 Arts Program Requirements worksheet