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Academic Program

The study of Dance as a liberal art requires an integrated approach to theory, history, and performance, with experience in all three areas being essential to its understanding as an artistic and intellectual pursuit. Acceptance is through consensus among the faculty, and students should complete the requirements for admission to the major or minor in the first two years of study. The program offers three different areas of focus: Choreography, Dance Studies, and Individually Created (Special Major). If a student has not completed all the requirements for admission to the major or minor at the time of application but has done good work in one or more courses in the program, the student may be accepted on a provisional basis.

Dance Studies

At Swarthmore, dance students are encouraged to consider the links between aesthetics and politics, delving deeply into history or current practices to engage with dance as a global discourse. All courses in the program, whether in Dance Studies or Choreography, engage students in an investigation of the relationship between dance and other arts and areas of thought.  Many of our Dance Studies courses (which are intensive reading and writing courses) are cross-listed with Music, Anthropology, Asian Studies, French and Francophone Studies, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Religion, Peace and Conflict Studies, Theater, and Comparative Literature, as well as eligible for Interpretation Theory and Global Studies.  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, and Improvisation courses in our program examine how these principles apply across different dance forms and encourage 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/Ensemble 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 ensemble courses are showcased every semester in the Fall and Spring dance concerts as part of Swarthmore College Arts Festival.

Studio Practice

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, Hip Hop and Yoga.