Dance

Overview

To succeed in today’s professional dance world, dancers need strong technique, choreographic skills, teaching knowledge and the ability to create their own opportunities. The Cornish College of the Arts Dance Department offers a challenging yet nurturing environment in which students can discover their own voice, moving beyond imitation to creative self-expression.

Letter from the Chair:

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.

Kitty Daniels
Dance Department Chair


Curriculum

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.


Dance Degree Requirements

Dance Model Program

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.

Dance Course Descriptions

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.

Dance Learning Outcomes

Graduates of the Dance Department at Cornish College of the Arts are expected to achieve the following learning outcomes:

  • Proficient dance technique that integrates physical mastery, somatic awareness, conceptual understanding, emotional investment and musicality.
  • Broad and stylistically versatile performance skills that are adaptable to diverse artistic endeavors, including intentional clarity, emotional engagement, physical investment and technical specificity.
  • Ability to make compositional choices by integrating craft with clear artistic vision and creative investigation.
  • Broad applicable knowledge of the practices, theories, histories and pedagogies of dance.
  • Knowledge of the body, understanding of personal physical facility and strategies for self-care.
  • Knowledge of technical theater, concert production and professional administrative practices.
  • A personal aesthetic direction shaped by individual interests and passions, knowledge of professional options and realistic self-assessment.
  • Capacity to form and articulate ideas and opinions, verbally and in writing, through analysis, reflection and synthesis.
  • Maturation developed through reflection, self-directed learning and synthesis of diverse areas of knowledge, fostering responsibility, accountability and a sense of self.

FAQ

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.

Professional Dancers

If you have extensive professional experience, you may qualify for our Professional Dancers Program, which awards up to two years of credit for significant professional experience. For more information, contact the Dance Department at dance@cornish.edu or 206.726.5079.


Faculty & Staff


Dance Accompanists:

  • Kofi Anang
  • Kevin Cook
  • Caroline Goodell
  • Marleen Land
  • Mary Ann Lee
  • Ryan Love
  • Ben Morrow
  • Angela Rinaldi-Gribas

Adjunct Faculty:

  • Tom Baker
  • Corrie Befort
  • Steve Casteel
  • Carla Corrado
  • Meg Fox
  • Hallie Kuperman
  • Vivian Little
  • Becci Parsons
  • Paula J Peters
  • Katherine Strohmaier
  • Alia Swersky

Administration:

  • Kathryn “Kitty” Daniels
  • D.J. Gommels
  • Malia Trick

Core Faculty:

  • Iyun Ashani Harrison
  • Patricia Hon
  • Wade Madsen
  • Lodi McClellan
  • Michele Miller
  • Deborah Wolf

Resources

FACILITIES

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.

DANCE WELLNESS PROGRAM

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.

VISITING ARTISTS

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 with Robert Battle, Camille A. Brown, Patricia Lent, Danny Buraczeski, Donald McKayle, Bill Evans, Lynn Simonson, Sean Curran, David Dorfman, Bebe Miller, and Joe Goode. 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, Gregory Maqoma, Lisa Race, Jennifer Tipton, Carla Maxwell, Abby Yager, David Gordon, and Rhonda Miller. Dance students also participate in master classes with companies performing in Seattle.

SEATTLE: A REGIONAL DANCE HUB

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.


Dance External Opportunities

INTERNSHIPS

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.

STUDY ABROAD OPTIONS

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.

Cornish Dance students and graduates interested in applying to the Teacher Education Program should contact the College of Education at the University of Washington.

K-12 TEACHING CERTIFICATE

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.

PILATES MATWORK TEACHING CERTIFICATE

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.

GYROTONIC® TRAINER PREPARATION

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.

News & Events

Dance Alumni Accomplishments

Our holistic approach and broad professional training prepare our graduates for successful livelihoods as performers, choreographers and teachers in the dance profession. Our alumni are especially successful in creating opportunities by forming their own companies, producing concerts, initiating teaching programs, and exploring collaborative and cross-disciplinary interests.

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.