Dance Curricular Approaches

A group of women perform a dance routine
Photo credit: John Seyfried

Students are encouraged to explore the dance field through a variety of approaches. As such, the Dance Program is divided into four areas of study:

Soma refers to the living body. Somatic study awakens, educates and empowers individuals to become responsible and accountable for creating change in their bodies and lives. Exploring somatic education increases your awareness of the intricate relationship of body and mind and the world around you. This focus is particularly well-suited for those students who want to continue their education in the field of body therapies and sports and arts medicine as well as those students who want to learn all they can to enhance their own health and well being. This area of study offers both theoretical approaches and movement practices to increase kinesthetic awareness and an understanding of what creates optimal physical performance.

Because dancing is about thinking as well as doing, the Oberlin Dance Program offers a series of courses under the heading Critical Inquiry. These classes investigate the many layers of aesthetic, cultural and historical meaning in a variety of dance forms, both popular and theatrical, American and global. While the primary goal of these courses is to bring an intellectual analysis to the study of dance, they also require students to draw on their own embodied knowledge. Through these offerings, we hope to broaden our students' awareness of the multiple perspectives in the growing field of dance studies.

Situated within the liberal arts, technical skill building courses are offered in a range of genres and levels which support the rich physical, intellectual and imaginative process of becoming a dancer. These courses serve students who wish to explore dance as part of their broader education, those pursuing dance in combination with related arts, and those who intend to dance professionally. Students choose from a variety of courses based on their interests. Techniques taught on a regular basis are: modern dance, African dance forms, contact improvisation, Capoeira Angola, and ballet. All students are encouraged to expand their notions of what it is to dance as they develop and refine their knowledge of alignment, spatial awareness, rhythm, dynamics, and expressive range.

Dance making is most often a collaborative endeavor with composers, video artists, designers and performers. Oberlin has a rich history of encouraging and supporting experimentation in the creation of new work in dance and its allied fields. The Dance Program offers courses in choreography, improvisation, and collaboration, often taught in conjunction with faculty from other arts. Students have many opportunities to bring their work to the stage—or alternate venues—in performances which range from fully produced concerts of student work to informal showcases produced by the students. Many events come to fruition outside of the classroom; most exciting are all the concerts originating in other arts departments that are populated by dancers and choreographers from our program. The Oberlin Dance Company performance, a concert with choreography by faculty and guest artists, concludes each year in Hall Auditorium.