Academic Program

Academic Program

The study of Dance as a liberal art requires an integrated approach to theory, history, and performance, experience in all three areas being essential to its understanding as an artistic and intellectual pursuit. There is no required GPA to be accepted into the program as majors and minors, but acceptance is through consensus among the faculty. The program offers three different areas of focus: Choreography, Dance Studies, and Individually Created. We highly recommend interested students to take our Dance Lab I: Making Dance (an introductory course integrating all aspects of dance making with no prior knowledge of dance required) in their first year. It must be completed before their junior year to be accepted into the program. If a student has not completed this prerequisite (in addition to one course each in Dance Studies and technique) at the time of an application for a major but has done good work in one or more courses in the program, the student may be accepted on a provisional basis.

Dance Studies

The central intent of our academic program is cross-cultural study focusing on the dances of Africa/African Diaspora, Asia/Asian Diaspora, and Europe/North America.  All courses in the program whether in Dance Studies and/or Choreography engage students in an investigation of the relationship between dance and other arts and areas of thought.  Our Dance Studies courses (which are intensive reading and writing courses) are cross-listed with Music, Anthropology, Asian Studies, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Religion and Theater.  Individual research projects allow a student to focus on their chosen area of study, deepening investigation under the direction of a faculty mentor.

Choreography/Dance Making

At Swarthmore, students make dances and become choreographers by developing embodied knowledge and conceptual frameworks central to creating movement dialogues and design.  Choreographers learn how to craft movement in relation to space, time, and energy dynamics as well as emotional and political content.  Dance Lab (I and II): Making Dance, Improvisation, and Choreography courses in our program examine how these principles apply across stylistic preferences and with experimentation with new media.  Global dialogues that embrace a variety of dance histories and critical perspectives strengthen the study of choreography from cross-cultural and inter-cultural perspectives.  We encourage students to develop their individual projects, find their own voice, explore cross-disciplinary collaborations, and refine their artistic statements. 


Repertory courses allow students to encounter a variety of dance styles (from African and Tap to Ballet and Modern to Kathak and Taiko) through studio learning and performance. Working with dance faculty, guest artists, and fellow students, repertory participants connect their own dancing experiences with those of others.  Through regular participation in various repertory styles, students build knowledge about practice (as dancers and choreographers) and theory (as young historians and scholars of culture).  The repertory courses are showcased every semester in the Fall and Spring dance concerts as part of Swarthmore College Arts Festival.


Understanding specific dance vocabularies and developing technical skills in one's body are rudimentary to practical dance study. At Swarthmore, we offer a variety of styles from around the world because we believe that any embodied trajectory, studied deeply, can provide both a basis to build individual capacity as well as tools for cross-cultural appreciation and dialogue. Students at Swarthmore can study African, Ballet, Kathak, Modern, Taiko, Tap, Salsa and Yoga.