At Swarthmore, dance is a global discourse. The central intent of our program is cross-cultural study focusing on Africa/African Diaspora, Asia (both South and East), Europe/North America, and Latin America. The dance and music programs share an integrated approach to composition, history, and theory and believe this is essential to the understanding of dance as an artistic and intellectual inquiry.
The mission of the program is to offer students dance experiences that privilege a merging of embodied practice and history/theory in relation to more than one situated perspective (those listed above). Some courses are constructed to concentrate on one cultural context only (this is true generally in history, repertory, and technique). Others are built to put a variety of perspectives in conversation (first level composition, some history, some repertory, and all theory). The role of dance as a social change agent is also present in Swarthmore dance offerings. All dance studies courses engage students in an investigation of the relationship of dance to other arts and areas of thought.
At Swarthmore students make dances by developing an understanding of the principles central to creating movement dialogues. Dance makers learn how to craft movement in relation to space, time, and energy dynamics as well as emotional content. Composition courses in our program examine how these truths apply across stylistic preferences. Global dialogues that embrace a variety of dance histories and perspectives strengthen the study of composition. Advanced work in composition can provide students with opportunities for individual projects, including experimenting with new media in performance.
Swarthmore's dance history and theory curriculum is shaped to achieve three ends. Introductory courses ground students in relation to specific histories and current debates as well as teach basic research methods. More advanced courses ask students to put histories and theories in conversation with one another, especially in relation to cross-cultural investigation and social change. Individual projects allow a student to focus on one area of research, deepening investigation under the direction of a faculty mentor.
Repertory courses allow students to encounter a variety of dance vocabularies and approaches through performance. Working with dance faculty, guest artists, and fellow students, repertory participants connect their own dancing experiences with those of others (both practical and historical). Through regular participation in various repertory styles, students build knowledge about practice (as dancers and choreographers) and theory (as young historians and cultural scholars).
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, Contact Improvisation, Flamenco, Kathak, Modern, Taiko, and Tap.