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How large is the Dance Department?

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.

What is the technique curriculum at Cornish?

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:

  • Alignment and movement mechanics (pelvic and spinal placement, use of turn-out, connective patterns, overall posture)
  • Stabilization (use of core support muscles, ability to maintain neutral pelvis and torso)
  • Technical proficiency (knowledge of vocabulary, ability to pick up material, attention to details)
  • Artistic expression (qualitative range, use of weight, musicality, emotional investment in movement)

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.

What technique styles are taught at Cornish?

Modern Technique

Modern technique courses at Cornish do not focus on one particular technical style, but incorporate elements of Cunningham, Limón, Horton, Bartenieff Fundamentals, and other established modern technique styles, and also draw on other movement forms, such as yoga, Pilates, martial arts, capoeria, gymnastics, contact improvisation, jazz and ballet technique. In addition, one section of the modern curriculum is devoted to the study of Graham technique. For more information on the modern technique faculty at Cornish, see the faculty biographies of Pat Hon, Wade Madsen, Michele Miller, and Deborah Wolf.

Ballet Technique

The ballet curriculum at Cornish College also exposes students to both classical and contemporary ballet styles. Classes emphasize classical placement and style, and on an anatomically-sound approach to ballet. For more information on the ballet technique faculty at Cornish, see the faculty biographies of Steve Casteel, Iyun Harrison, Pat Hon, Vivian Little, and Lodi McClellan.

Technique Electives

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.

What is a typical daily and weekly schedule for a Dance Department student?

As a Cornish College dance major, you will spend a minimum of 16 hours per week in active dance technique classes. In combination with other Dance Department classes and rehearsals, most students spend between 25 and 30 hours per week dancing.
Most Dance Department classes occur during daytime hours, 8 am – 4 pm, Monday through Friday. College electives in other departments and Humanities and Sciences classes are held in the early morning (8 – 9 am), late afternoon, and evening. You can expect to spend about 30 hours a week in class time, with about 5 – 10 hours per week of homework and/or outside assignments.
In addition, many students find it necessary to work at a paid job during their time at Cornish. We have found that the maximum time that students can work and still succeed in their studies is around 20 hours per week. If you can afford to work fewer hours or not at all, we strongly recommend it.

What are the opportunities to perform and choreograph in Dance at Cornish College?

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

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 thier 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

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

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

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 Collaborations

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.

What career preparation does the Cornish Dance Department provide?

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.

Can I double major or minor in another artistic discipline at Cornish?

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.

How do I apply to the Cornish Dance program?

To apply for admission to the Cornish Dance program, contact the Office of Admission. Their website will provide you with up to date admission information, including application materials, audition dates, and deadlines.
All students must audition as part of the application process. We strongly encourage students to attend an in-person audition whenever possible. Auditions are conducted on campus, and at off campus locations throughout the country. Scholarships are awarded on the basis of audition performance.

What should I expect at a dance audition?

The Audition

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.

Auditioning by Video

The Dance Faculty strongly encourages you to make every effort to audition in person. You may either audition on campus during a scheduled appointment or at any of our off-campus audition opportunities. However, if distance prevents you from auditioning in person, you may send us your audition on DVD (American format).
Please note, you will be placed in technique levels for your first semester on the basis of this audition tape. Your audition tape should be 10 – 20 minutes in length. Please use the following guidelines to compile your tape:

  • If possible, you should be videotaped in your current dance class. The recorded image should show your entire body. The material you record should demonstrate your technical level and ability in ballet and modern dance.
  • The ballet portion should be 5 – 10 minutes in length. Please perform several barre exercises (plies, tendus, ronds de jambs, développés, grand battements) and center floor combinations including adagio, pirouette, petit allegro and grand allegro. If possible, the camera should be focused on the side of your body during the barre in order to record alignment.
  • The modern portion should be 5-10 minutes in length. Perform typical modern warm-up exercises demonstrating use of the spine; at least some of these exercises should be performed in a standing position. The tape should also include center and across the floor combinations that demonstrate level changes and use of floor space.
  • If you have choreographic experience you are invited to include samples of your choreography in addition to the ballet and modern exercises.

Two letters of recommendation are required if you choose to audition by videotape, one of which must be from a current dance instructor. These letters should accompany your videotape (sealed in envelopes and signed on the outside by the person who wrote the recommendation), or your references may send the letter directly to the Admissions Office if they prefer.

Audition Preparation

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.

Does Cornish offer classes for children and teenagers?

Yes, the Preparatory Dance Program is designed to give students ages 4 – 18 a high quality dance education, based in a strong foundation of ballet technique. For information about class schedules, enrollment, class descriptions, class levels and rates, please visit Preparatory Dance. For summer children’s classes, visit Summer at Cornish.

Does Cornish offer dance classes for non-degree seeking adults?

Cornish offers a limited number of dance classes that are open to non-degree seeking adults. These classes are generally limited to two courses per semester and are offered on weekday evenings.
In the past, course offerings have included ballet, modern, tap, jazz, hip-hop and African dance. These courses are designed for non-dance majors at Cornish College and are at a beginning level. They are open to non-degree seeking students on a space-available basis.
For more information about class schedule, enrollment, class descriptions and rates, contact Registration and Records. In addition, Summer at Cornish is open to youth and adults from the community. For more information, visit Summer at Cornish.