At Cornish, you'll learn from the best teachers and the best dancers. That’s because they’re one and the same— our faculty are professionals in both arenas. They bring their immediate knowledge and accumulated experience from the stage directly to you in the classroom.
The dance program is close knit by its very nature. You’ll be spending 20 hours per week in daily technique classes with your peers as well as collaborating on creative projects, performances, and academics. You’ll choose from electives in pointe, partnering, men’s technique, hip-hop, jazz, martial arts, and an array of other dance genres.
Your dance learning is not just confined to the studio. We’ll introduce you to new disciplines, like dance intermedia and filmmaking, taught by the award-winning choreographer, Corrie Befort. Because we take pride in healthy dancers, we’ll train you in dance wellness. And you’ll learn the business of dance, so you’re as confident in the back office as you are in the spotlight.
Cornish's 100-year-old Dance Department has long been associated with groundbreaking dancers and choreographers like Merce Cunningham, Ann Reinking, and Twyla Tharp. Today, Seattle has one of the most active and innovative dance scenes in the country—in part because Cornish Dance alumni stay and create exciting new opportunities.
Choreographer Kate Wallich—one of Dance Magazine’s “25 To Watch” in 2015—founded the acclaimed company, the YC. Matt Drews, whose work incorporates elements of yoga, cofounded Pendleton House, a collective that has collaborated with dancers, musicians, sculptors, and multimedia artists. Award-winning alumna Amy O’Neal has performed, choreographed, and taught across the globe and still calls Seattle home.
Join us. The steps you take here will carry you over a lifetime.
Our BFA program is unique in its holistic educational focus that addresses the heart and mind as well as the body. We will give you the tools to create a sustainable life in dance: strong, anatomically sound technique; versatile performance skills; choreographic craft and creative voice; teaching and technical production experience; and knowledge of the business of dance. You will also develop an inner sense of self that will help you navigate the many opportunities available to you in dance.
At Cornish you will join a community of students committed to becoming professional dancers. For the first time in your life you’ll be surrounded by people who want to eat, think, sleep and dream dance. Our department atmosphere is warm and supportive, with students drawing inspiration from one another. The drive and focus of our students create an energy that is contagious and will help you work to your full potential.
We invite you to visit the Dance Department at Cornish College of the Arts and experience for yourself the excitement and energy of people who love to dance as much as you.
Intensive daily ballet and modern dance classes form the core of our technique curriculum, with elective courses offered in pointe, partnering, men’s technique, jazz, hip hop, tap, world dance, vocal skills, martial arts, conditioning and somatic techniques. Due to this variety of dance styles, our students have versatile performance skills. Our technique classes emphasize anatomically-sound technique based on efficient movement mechanics and the understanding of personal physical facility. Accompanying courses in anatomy and injury prevention teach you to make the most of your physical potential.
The Dance curriculum at Cornish places equal emphasis on physical mastery and creative expression. A three-year sequence of courses in choreography and improvisation develops your knowledge of choreographic craft and fosters the development of your personal voice. You will progress from simple movement studies to fully developed works as you learn choreographic structures and forms. As part of your choreographic training, you will learn to collaborate with students from other artistic disciplines, sometimes using digital tools to blend dance with video and sound.
In pedagogy courses you will learn how to apply your broad dance knowledge to teaching dance technique and community-based creative movement. Dance history and theory courses provide you with an academic foundation that stimulates artistic growth and allows you to see your present and future work in a historical context. Subjects such as music and movement analysis offer a broader understanding of the world of dance, while courses in stage production give you a working knowledge of the backstage aspects of dance performances. You will learn to create your own career opportunities by studying the business of dance: grant writing, fundraising, and concert production.
Coursework in the Humanities and Sciences Department supplements dance classes, giving you an opportunity to study the philosophical, literary, and historical contexts in which art takes place. This program gives students a general foundation in academic skills, such as research and writing, which will complement your education as an artist. You will also explore the full range of your creative interests by taking College Elective courses in the other Cornish artistic disciplines.
A senior project is the final requirement of your BFA program. You will select a specific area for study, working with a faculty member to develop the scope of your project. Most often this will involve an advanced level of choreography and a performance open to the public; however, senior projects may also explore video production, dance photography, teaching internships and historical research.
You will emerge from the Cornish Dance program with a broad knowledge of the practice, theory, and history of dance, ready to contribute your own innovations to the arts world of the 21st century.
The Dance Department offers students performing experience in a variety of settings. Cornish Dance Theater, the department’s performing ensemble, presents bi-annual concerts with choreography by faculty and professional guest choreographers, including re-stagings of historic masterworks. CDT also performs site specific dances in cultural venues and environments around Seattle. The annual New Moves student choreography concerts and BFA senior project concerts provide additional performance and choreographic opportunities. Dance students also participate in interdepartmental productions such as musicals and collaborate with students from other departments on special projects.
The Dance Department sponsors visiting artist residencies and master classes each year with some of the nation’s leading dance artists, including recent choreographic residencies to stage the work of Crystal Pite, Ohad Naharin, Robert Battle, Camille A. Brown, Merce Cunningham, Jose Limon, Danny Buraczeski, Donald McKayle, Bill Evans and David Dorfman,. Other recent guest artists include Ron Brown, Danielle Agami, Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen, Liz Lerman, Alonzo King, Twyla Tharp, Elizabeth Streb, Glen Eddy, Donald Byrd, Steve Paxton, Brenda Buffalino, Kristen Hollinsworth, Michelle Boule, David Leventhal, Summer Lee Rhatigan, Jennifer Tipton, Carla Maxwell, David Gordon, and Rhonda Miller. Dance students also participate in master classes with companies performing in Seattle.
The Dance Department emphasizes training healthy dancers who have both the self-confidence to enter a challenging field and the physical understanding that leads to professional longevity. Strength and flexibility exercises are incorporated into all technique classes to prevent injuries. A physical therapist serves as a consultant to the department, advising faculty and students on injury-related concerns and providing treatment on campus. The physical therapist conducts a performance enhancement screening for all new students that leads to an individualized corrective exercise program designed to enhance technical proficiency and reduce the risk of injury during the student’s time at Cornish and in their subsequent professional career.
Cornish College of the Arts maintains consortium agreements with Arcadia University and Butler University through which students in their junior year may pursue up to one year of study abroad. Through this program, Dance Department students have studied at prestigious institutions such as London’s Trinity Laban. More information is available in the college catalog.
Cornish alumni work in many areas of the dance profession from performance, choreography and teaching to related fields such as body therapies, conditioning techniques (including Pilates and Gyrotonics), costume design, arts administration and technical production. Dance Department graduates and former students have performed with prominent companies including the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, Trisha Brown Dance Company, Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, Mark Morris Dance Group, Shen Wei Dance Arts, Isadora Duncan Dance Company, American Ballet Theater, Ballet Hispanico, Milwaukee Ballet II, Ballet Nouveau, Malashock Dance, Peter Pucci and Dancers, Zoe Scofield, Lineage Dance Company, Silver Brown Dance Company, Scott/Powell Performance Group, Spectrum Dance Theater, Lingo Dance Company, and the Pat Graney Dance Company.
Our graduates have produced their choreography at Seattle’s On the Boards and Velocity Dance Center, and in New York at Dance Theater Workshop, Movement Research, Dance Space Center, Joyce Soho and other centers for innovation. The New Animals, Locust, d-9, the Three Yells, Dance Contemporary, Northwest Dance Syndrome, Coriolis Dance Collective, and Better Biscuit Dance are among the Seattle dance companies founded by Cornish dance alumni.
Cornish alumni have also succeeded in graduate studies at such respected programs as The Ohio State University, University of Arizona, University of Utah, University of California/Irvine, California State University/Long Beach, SUNY/Purchase and SUNY/Brockport.
For information about current Dance Department alumni accomplishments, please visit the Alumni section of our newsletter.
The Dance Department offers a four-year BFA in Dance. In addition to this standard degree option, the department offers two specialized BFA options: the Accelerated Degree Program and the Professional Dancers Program.
Through the Accelerated Degree Program, select students can complete their BFA in Dance in three years with some summer study. Technically proficient dancers with a strong academic record in high school are invited to apply to the ADP following their department audition.
The Professional Dancers Program awards up to two years of college credit for professional dance experience, enabling professional dancers to complete their BFA in Dance in a shorter time.
The Dance Department offers two specialized BFA options in addition to its four-year BFA degree: the Accelerated Degree Program and the Professional Dancers Program. In the Accelerated Degree Program, select students can complete their BFA in Dance in three years with some summer study. The Professional Dancers Program awards up to two years of college credit for professional dance experience, enabling professional dancers to complete their BFA in Dance in a shorter time.
The Cornish Pilates Matwork Teaching Certificate prepares students to teach Pilates mat classes in studios and gyms. The program requires an intensive workshop in Pilates matwork in addition to existing Dance coursework in anatomy, kinesiology, somatics and pedagogy. The Certificate Program is taught by core faculty Michele Miller who studied under the direction of Romana Kryzanowska and has been teaching Pilates for 20 years.
Cornish Dance majors have the opportunity to complete the initial two stages of trainer preparation in the Gyrotonic® conditioning system while earning credits toward their degrees. Studying at Seattle’s Gyrotonic Movement Center under master trainer Karen Mullin, students can complete the Progression 1 and Pre-Training courses, qualifying them for the Gyrotonic® Foundation Teacher Training Course.
The Cornish College of the Arts Dance Department does not offer a teaching certificate for the K – 12 school system. However, the department has entered into a formal agreement with the University of Washington Dance Program, enabling Cornish graduates to earn a Dance endorsement upon completion of the Master-in-Teaching degree through the University of Washington’s College of Education. Under the agreement, Cornish graduates who have earned a BFA in Dance and complete the University of Washington M-I-T program will qualify for a Washington State Residency Teaching Certificate with a teaching endorsement in Dance.
The Dance curriculum at Cornish places equal emphasis on physical mastery and creative expression. Students spend an average of 6 to 8 hours each day in dance courses, with a minimum of 16 hours of technique classes per week. In the Dance Department’s Accelerated Degree Program, select students can complete their coursework for a BFA in three years with some summer study.
Model Programs are updated at the beginning of each academic year. This PDF contains the current year’s model programs for this program. Students should refer to the model program that was in effect for the year and term of their entrance to Cornish. View archived catalogs and model programs.
Course descriptions are updated at the beginning of each academic year. This PDF contains the current year’s course descriptions for this program. For previous years, please refer to the online archive of catalogs.
Graduates of the Dance Department at Cornish College of the Arts are expected to achieve the following learning outcomes:
The Dance Department enrolls 80 - 90 majors each year. There are 6 core faculty and 15 - 20 adjunct faculty. The student/faculty ratio is approximately 9:1.
The core of the Cornish dance technique curriculum is daily classes in ballet and modern dance that emphasize anatomically-sound technique. All technique courses at Cornish focus on:
The Cornish College Dance Department believes that today's dancer must be able to execute an eclectic range of movement styles in order to succeed in the profession, and the technique curriculum is structured accordingly. Each technique course is co-taught by two faculty; over the course of a year, students study with eight technique teachers. As a result, students gain stylistically diverse performance skills.
In addition to the daily modern and ballet classes, students may take technique elective courses which include: pointe, partnering (ballet and contemporary), men's technique, jazz, world dance, hip hop, tap, conditioning, vocal skills, martial arts, yoga, somatic techniques and more.
The Cornish College Dance Department considers the opportunity to perform on stage and to choreograph work for performance to be integral components in the dance students' education. We present four fully produced concerts each year, in addition to an informal student-produced concert.
Three of the five concerts are dedicated to student choreography. First year students have several opportunities to perform and choreograph. The following is a summary of performance opportunities at Cornish.
Cornish Dance Theater is a fully produced concert at Broadway Performance Hall occurring each semester with choreography by faculty members and visiting professional choreographers. Participants are selected each semester by audition. Choreographers are advised to select a cast that will best fulfill their artistic vision. The curricular purpose of Cornish Dance Theater is to provide a professional caliber performing experience that reflects the highest level of competence developed within the studio classes.
All students are eligible and encouraged to audition. However, most freshmen are unable to perform in CDT due to conflicts between required first year courses and the CDT rehearsals. All sophomores perform in a "Sophomore Dance" during the fall of their second year.
Standards for participation in Cornish Dance Theater are intended to reflect professional expectations. In most cases, students prepare to participate in Cornish Dance Theater by performing in the student choreography for New Moves and the BFA Concerts.
New Moves is a fully produced concert showcasing student choreography. All students are eligible and encouraged to participate as performers and/or choreographers; in order to ensure sufficient choreographic opportunities for underclass students, the faculty restrict the number of works by seniors on this concert. Students indicate their interest in performing by attending student choreographer auditions and through informal student contact. A faculty committee selects the works to be performed on the New Moves concert through a critique and audition process. Any piece not selected for the concert may be shown in Terpsichore's Landing, an informal student-produced concert. The purpose of the New Moves Concert is to provide performance and choreographic opportunities for the Dance Department students.
Senior Project Concerts showcase the culminating choreography and performance of department seniors in fully-produced concerts at Broadway Performance Hall. Students indicate their interest in performing in senior choreography by attending senior choreographer auditions and through informal student contact.
Studio Concerts are produced by students in the department studios and campus theaters with minimal lighting. Usually there is a concert of student choreography produced during the spring semester (Terpsichore's Landing). However, there can be as many studio concerts as you have the drive and energy to make happen!
Interdepartmental performance opportunities include faculty collaborations with faculty from other departments and guest artist workshop performances, as well as student collaborative projects. Frequently there are interdepartmental collaborations as well, such as a musical and opera productions. Information about audition and rehearsal processes is posted in the department as it becomes available.
A BFA in Dance from Cornish prepares students for careers as performers, choreographers and teachers in the dance field. Many alumni create interdisciplinary careers, combining work as dancers with related work in the field such as performance production for dance (lighting design, costuming, stage management), dance photography and film, dance writing and criticism, arts administration, teaching somatic and conditioning techniques, acting, as well as many other types of work. A Pilates Matwork Teaching Certificate Program prepares students to teach Pilates mat classes at studios and gyms. Students may also complete the initial stages of the Gyrotonic Trainer preparation while at Cornish.
As performers, Cornish Dance alumni have worked with many of the most well-known dance companies in the United States, including: the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, Trisha Brown Dance Company, Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, Mark Morris Dance Group, Shen Wei Dance Arts, Isadora Duncan Dance Company, American Ballet Theater, Ballet Hispanico, Milwaukee Ballet II, Ballet Nouveau, Malashock Dance, Peter Pucci and Dancers, Zoe Scofield, Lineage Dance Company, Silver Brown Dance Company, Scott/Powell Performance Group, Spectrum Dance Theater, Lingo Dance Company, and the Pat Graney Dance Company.
Locally, Cornish alumni are members of nearly every Seattle dance company, performing widely at all locations throughout the Pacific Northwest region. Cornish College dance alumni are also well-known for creating their own professional opportunities by starting their own companies, dance schools, and producing organizations.
No, the curriculum and degree requirements of each of the artistic areas at Cornish are so demanding that you can complete only one degree at a time. However, you can pursue other artistic interests and fulfill your College Electives requirements by taking courses in the other Cornish departments.
Yes, in addition to the 4-year BFA, the Cornish Dance Department offers the Accelerated Degree Program, a 3-year BFA degree. Through the ADP, select students can complete their BFA in Dance in three years with some summer study. Technically proficient dancers with a strong academic record in high school are invited to apply to the ADP following their department audition.
The Cornish Dance Department offers a Certificate in Teaching Pilates Matwork. Under the direction of core faculty Michele Miller, all students have the opportunity to combine existing Dance course requirements with a special workshop in advanced matwork to prepare for careers as Pilates mat teachers. To earn the certificate, students must demonstrate knowledge of anatomy, pedagogy, basic movement patterning, muscle balancing and postural assessment, as well as Introductory through Advanced Pilates Matwork. Upon completion of the certificate program, students are qualified to teach Pilates matwork at private dance studios, health clubs and gyms.
Auditioning students participate in both a ballet and a modern technique class, and are observed and evaluated by a member of the Dance Faculty on the basis of previous technical training, body alignment, movement mechanics, expressivity, openness to feedback and individual artistic potential.
You should wear clothes that present a clean, simple line so that the faculty can see your body alignment clearly. For ballet class, you should wear a form fitting leotard, tights and soft ballet shoes (no pointe). You must be able to dance barefooted during the modern class. The modern class will include improvisation.
You should be in good physical condition for dance at the time of your audition. This means that you should be taking regular ballet and modern dance classes previous to your audition date (we recommend at least one ballet and/or modern class daily).
The audition includes a total of 2 – 4 hours of dancing; be prepared to dance for this amount of time without becoming overly fatigued.
You must have previous training in ballet and/or modern technique in order to be admitted to the Cornish College Dance Department. The amount of training you should have and exact type of training varies greatly by individual talent and drive, and quality of previous training. If you have limited training in either ballet or modern technique, we advise that you make a commitment to taking classes in this technique regularly before you audition.
At Cornish, education isn’t limited to the classroom. Many of Seattle’s leading dance professionals are on our faculty and students are encouraged to use the professional dance community as an extension of the classroom: attending performances, performing works by leading choreographers, presenting their choreography on professional showcases, and interning with companies. International companies ranging from classical ballet to cutting edge performance art tour regularly to Seattle. Through our partnerships with presenting organizations, students will attend rehearsals and participate in master classes with these prestigious companies. Cornish dance students have observed company class with the Netherlands Dance Theater and dress rehearsals of the Bolshoi Ballet and American Ballet Theater; they have also attended master classes taught by members of the Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, American Ballet Theater, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Jump Rhythm Jazz Project, Paul Taylor, Mark Morris, Trisha Brown, Stephen Petronio, Bill T. Jones, Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham, and Black Grace Dance Companies.
The Dance Department has four large, naturally-lit studios, all with sprung floors, barres and mirrors. Showers and lockers are available in the dressing rooms. All technique classes have professional accompanists. Sound and video equipment is available for student use. Dance Department performances take place at Cornish Playhouse at the Seattle Center or Broadway Performance Hall.
During the senior year, students are invited to pursue internships with Seattle dance organizations, facilitating the transition from student to professional dancer. Dance interns have the opportunity to learn firsthand the challenges of professional life by apprenticing with major dance companies, assisting dance teachers in public school creative movement classes and helping dance company administrators.