by CJ Cosas | News Editor

In a move to expand the ever increasing scope of Saint Mary’s College’s variety of graduate and undergraduate programs offered by the College, a new Master of Fine Arts program has been added: the MFA in Dance. The new program is one that is catered specifically to those working to become dance professionals and features two different degrees, depending on specialization. The MFA in Dance degree for Design and Production marks Saint Mary’s as the first college to offer such a degree within the United States, and the new program also includes the MFA in Dance in Creative Practice.

The program, which just began to be advertised in Fall 2013, is designed to emphasize student collaboration with one another and to create original student driven projects. While faculty members and staff act as mentors for the students, the program capitalizes on the benefits that students can garner from learning from one another, as well as from accomplished mentors. The faculty members involved with and that teach within the program include CatherineMarie Davalos, Rogelio Lopez, Rosana Barragán, Jia Wu, and Linda Baumgardner. Each faculty member is a performing arts professor, each additionally having their own unique backgrounds in a variety of different fields pertaining to dance and performance, including choreography, costume and set design, filmmaking, critical dance pedagogy, somatic movement therapy, technical theatre production, and light designing. Many are also accomplished performers of their own right, and their variety of experiences serves to truly exemplify the rich diversity that can be found even within just the Bay Area community.

The particular aspect that makes the Saint Mary’s program unique is the specificity and degree of specialization that the MFA in Dance in Design and Production offers. While many colleges and graduate programs do offer programs that offer specialization in certain areas like lighting and management, the program that Saint Mary’s offers allows for heightened focus on aspects of study of design and production that are techniques used precisely for dance. The course is a two year program that works both from a variety of perspectives to teach participants creative techniques and works that highlight the world of the dance performer.

The MFA in Dance in Creative Practice also takes a bit of a unique spin and differentiates itself from other similar programs with its multidisciplinary course structure. Aiming to teach both diversely and effectively, the program includes studies such as choreography, technical aspects of production, dance pedagogy, somatics, studies in body-mind integration, and more. The Creative Practice program has an additional option of participating through a low-residency option that allows for those that are interested to take the majority of their courses within just the month of January and June.

The inaugural class, the very first class to participate in the program, will begin in June 2014. For additional information, email the MFA Program in Dance at mfadance@stmarys-ca.edu or contact Graduate Programs in Dance Coordinator Jennifer Smith at jls12@stmarys-ca.edu or (925)-632-8183.

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