woman in a pink dress who is enrolled in an MFA dance program

From Tisch to Codarts: These Are the Best MFA Dance Programs Around the World

10 min read

Are you seeking a master’s degree program that will further your education in dance science, dance pedagogy, and dance technique? While exceptional graduate dance studies programs are few and far between, there are several incredible courses in the U.S. and in Europe. From Hochschule für Musik und Tanz Köln in Germany to Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, these graduate programs will put you on the right track.

These are the Best Master of Fine Arts Programs for Dance Research, Dance Theory, and Dance Performance in the US

Tisch School of the Arts at New York University

The Tisch School of the Arts at New York University offers a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Dance through its Department of Dance. This program is designed to serve the needs of students who wish to become sophisticated professionals with advanced knowledge in the field of dance. It places a strong emphasis on performance and choreography, providing students with the opportunity to engage in intensive technical training, theoretical inquiry, and creative research and production. The curriculum encourages experimentation and innovation, with a view to contributing new insights and developments to the dance profession. The program also leverages its New York City location to offer numerous performance opportunities, workshops, and interactions with leading professionals in the dance world.

Famous alumni from Tisch’s MFA Dance program include notable choreographers and dancers who have made significant contributions to both the contemporary and commercial dance scenes. Graduates have gone on to perform with prestigious dance companies, on Broadway, and in film and television, as well as to establish their own dance companies. The school’s faculty consists of renowned practitioners and scholars in dance, providing students with mentorship and guidance throughout their studies. The strong network and location in New York City, a global hub for dance, offer each graduate student unparalleled opportunities for professional development and engagement with the arts.

The Juilliard School Graduate Program

The Juilliard School, located in the heart of New York City, offers a Dance Division that provides dance students with a four-year Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degree and a two-year Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree focusing on contemporary dance. The Juilliard dance program is celebrated for its rigorous training that prepares students to become versatile and dynamic artists. The curriculum is grounded in classical ballet and modern dance techniques but also encompasses a broad spectrum of dance styles and practices. The program aims to develop technically proficient dancers who are also creative artists, capable of choreographing, teaching, and contributing to dance in innovative ways. Juilliard’s facilities include state-of-the-art studios and theaters, and the school offers numerous performance opportunities, including new works by established and emerging choreographers.

Juilliard’s alumni network is a testament to the program’s excellence, with graduates going on to perform with top international dance companies, Broadway shows, and in film and television. Notable alumni include Paul Taylor, Robert Battle, and Lar Lubovitch, among others, who have significantly influenced the dance world as performers, choreographers, and company directors. The faculty comprises distinguished dance professionals who provide students with personalized attention and mentorship, preparing them for successful careers in the highly competitive field of dance. Juilliard’s MFA program is particularly designed for individuals seeking to deepen their artistic voice, with an emphasis on choreographic and interdisciplinary work, setting the stage for graduates to become leaders and innovators in dance.

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)

Further your creative work in dance by pursuing higher education from graduate faculty at UCLA.

The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) offers a comprehensive Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Dance that is known for its emphasis on choreographic research and performance. The program is designed for students who aspire to pursue careers as professional dancers, choreographers, and dance scholars. It encourages a blend of technical mastery, creative exploration, and academic inquiry, allowing students to develop their unique artistic voices. The curriculum covers a wide range of dance styles and cultural practices, alongside theoretical studies in dance history, criticism, and pedagogy. UCLA’s MFA in Dance also places a strong emphasis on collaborative projects and interdisciplinary work, providing students with the opportunity to work closely with peers and faculty from other arts disciplines.

UCLA’s Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance boasts a diverse faculty of accomplished professionals who are actively engaged in the global dance community as artists, scholars, and activists. This offers students a rich learning environment that is reflective of the contemporary dance landscape. Alumni of the program have gone on to achieve notable success in various capacities within the dance world and beyond, including performing in renowned dance companies, establishing their own dance troupes, and leading academic careers in dance education. The program benefits from its Los Angeles location, offering students access to a vibrant arts scene and opportunities for professional engagement and networking.

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California Institute of the Arts (CalArts)

The California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) offers an MFA program in Dance that is distinguished by its innovative approach to dance education and performance. This program is ideal for artists seeking to push the boundaries of traditional dance forms and explore interdisciplinary and experimental practices. The curriculum is designed to foster creative exploration, technical development, and critical engagement with contemporary issues in dance and society. Students are encouraged to develop their individual artistic voices through personalized projects and collaborations with artists from other disciplines, reflecting CalArts’ overall emphasis on interdisciplinary work. The program provides a supportive environment for experimentation, with access to state-of-the-art facilities and resources.

CalArts’ alumni and faculty include pioneering artists and thinkers who have made significant contributions to the field of dance and the arts at large. Graduates of the MFA Dance program have gone on to establish themselves as leading choreographers, company directors, and educators, often blurring the lines between dance, visual arts, and new media. The institute’s location in Southern California offers additional opportunities for engagement with the broader arts community, including collaborations with professional companies, arts organizations, and participation in festivals and events. CalArts’ commitment to fostering a diverse and inclusive community of artists contributes to its reputation as a premier destination for contemporary dance education.

University of Michigan

The University of Michigan offers a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Dance that is characterized by its holistic approach to dance education, combining rigorous technical training with theoretical studies. The program aims to prepare students for a wide range of careers in the dance field, including performance, choreography, dance education, and dance scholarship. It offers a comprehensive curriculum that encompasses a broad spectrum of dance techniques, choreographic practices, and scholarly research. The program is designed to support the development of innovative choreographers and thoughtful artists who are well-versed in the critical issues facing the dance world today. Students are provided with numerous performance and choreographic opportunities, including the chance to present their work in professional venues.

The University of Michigan’s MFA in Dance benefits from a highly experienced faculty of artists and scholars who are leaders in their respective fields. The program’s emphasis on both the practical and theoretical aspects of dance allows students to engage deeply with the art form while also developing a critical understanding of its place within broader cultural and social contexts. Alumni of the program have gone on to enjoy successful careers as performers, choreographers, company directors, and dance educators, both nationally and internationally. The university’s resources, including state-of-the-art performance and rehearsal spaces, and its vibrant campus culture, provide an enriching environment for students pursuing advanced studies in dance.

These are the Best Dance Programs for Graduate Students in Europe

The Place, London Contemporary Dance School (UK)

The Place, London Contemporary Dance School, is at the forefront of contemporary dance education in the UK, offering graduate programs that are deeply integrated into the professional dance scene in London. Its flagship Master of Arts (MA) in Contemporary Dance offers an intensive, innovative, and personalized curriculum that focuses on developing technical excellence, creative artistry, and a deep theoretical understanding of dance. Students are given the opportunity to work closely with renowned choreographers and dance professionals, engaging in performance projects and collaborative endeavors that prepare them for a successful career in dance. The school’s close ties with the London contemporary dance scene provide students with unparalleled access to professional networks, performance platforms, and internships with leading dance companies and arts organizations.

The school has produced a plethora of notable alumni who have gone on to make significant contributions to contemporary dance both in the UK and internationally. Graduates have founded their own successful dance companies, become celebrated choreographers, and taken up key roles within established dance organizations. The Place is renowned for its innovative approach to dance education, fostering an environment where students can explore and develop their unique artistic voice. Its comprehensive program, coupled with the rich cultural tapestry of London’s dance scene, makes The Place an ideal setting for aspiring dance professionals.

Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse de Paris (CNSMDP) (France)

The Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse de Paris (CNSMDP) stands as a beacon of excellence in dance education in France, offering rigorous training programs that cover both classical ballet and contemporary dance. Its curriculum is designed to provide students with a solid foundation in dance technique, while also encouraging creative expression and choreographic innovation. The school offers a Master’s program that emphasizes performance, choreography, and pedagogy, tailored to nurture the next generation of dance professionals. Through collaborations with esteemed dance companies and artists, students are exposed to a wide range of styles and practices, enhancing their versatility and understanding of the art form.

CNSMDP boasts an impressive roster of alumni who have gone on to achieve international fame as performers, choreographers, and directors of major dance companies. The school’s commitment to excellence is reflected in its faculty, composed of distinguished dance practitioners and scholars. Students benefit from state-of-the-art facilities, including spacious studios and a dedicated performance venue. The conservatoire’s location in Paris, a city with a rich cultural heritage and vibrant contemporary arts scene, offers additional opportunities for artistic inspiration and professional engagement.

P.A.R.T.S. (Performing Arts Research and Training Studios), Brussels (Belgium)

P.A.R.T.S., founded by renowned choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker in Brussels, Belgium, is a prestigious contemporary dance school known for its innovative curriculum and emphasis on choreography and performance. The school offers a unique training program that blends rigorous technical training with creative process work, encouraging students to develop their own choreographic language and artistic voice. P.A.R.T.S. is renowned for its holistic approach to dance education, integrating physical training with theoretical studies in music, drama, and the arts. This comprehensive educational model prepares students for a wide range of careers in the dance world, from performance and choreography to teaching and research.

The alumni of P.A.R.T.S. have significantly influenced the contemporary dance landscape, with many founding their own dance companies and receiving international acclaim for their innovative work. The school’s close relationship with Rosas, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s dance company, provides students with exceptional performance and internship opportunities, exposing them to the forefront of contemporary dance practice. P.A.R.T.S.’s commitment to fostering new talent and its vibrant international community make it a hub for emerging dancers and choreographers seeking to push the boundaries of contemporary dance.

Hochschule für Musik und Tanz Köln (Germany)

The Hochschule für Musik und Tanz Köln in Germany is a leading institution for dance education, offering a range of programs that emphasize contemporary dance, choreography, and performance. The Master of Arts in Dance Dissemination is particularly noteworthy, designed for those looking to deepen their understanding of dance as a social and cultural practice. This program combines practical dance training with theoretical courses on dance pedagogy, criticism, and the role of dance in society, preparing students for diverse careers in the arts. The school’s approach to education is deeply rooted in the belief that dance can be a powerful medium for communication and change, encouraging students to explore the potential of dance beyond traditional performance contexts.

Graduates of the Hochschule für Musik und Tanz Köln have gone on to achieve success as performers, choreographers, educators, and advocates for the arts. The faculty is comprised of accomplished professionals who bring a wealth of experience and insight to the classroom. Students have access to excellent facilities, including modern dance studios and performance spaces, which support their artistic and professional development. The school’s location in Cologne, a city with a vibrant arts scene, provides additional opportunities for engagement with contemporary dance and the broader arts community.

Codarts, University for the Arts (Rotterdam, Netherlands)

Codarts, University for the Arts in Rotterdam, Netherlands, is renowned for its strong contemporary dance program and international orientation. The Master of Arts in Dance offers an advanced curriculum focused on performance, choreography, and dance pedagogy, designed to equip students with the skills needed to excel in the global dance industry. The program emphasizes collaboration, innovation, and interdisciplinary work, encouraging students to engage with other art forms and cultural practices. Codarts’ international faculty and diverse student body create a dynamic and supportive learning environment, where students are challenged to think critically and creatively about their art.

Codarts has a long list of distinguished alumni who have made significant contributions to the field of dance, both in the Netherlands and internationally. Graduates have established themselves as leading performers, choreographers, and dance educators, known for their artistic innovation and commitment to the development of dance as an art form. The university’s extensive network of professional partnerships provides students with valuable internship and performance opportunities, allowing them to gain practical experience and build professional relationships. Codarts’ commitment to excellence and its position within Rotterdam’s bustling cultural scene make it a prime destination for aspiring dance professionals.

Finding the Right Program for You

When searching for the right graduate dance program, prospective students should consider a multitude of factors that align with their personal and professional aspirations. It’s essential to evaluate the curriculum’s focus, whether it leans more towards performance, choreography, pedagogy, or interdisciplinary studies, to ensure it matches your career goals. Investigate the faculty’s expertise and their engagement in the professional dance community, as mentorship from accomplished professionals can be invaluable.

Additionally, look into the program’s alumni network and their success in the field, as this can offer insights into the program’s ability to prepare students for a successful career in dance. Opportunities for performance, collaboration, and real-world experience are also crucial, as they provide a platform to apply theoretical knowledge and refine practical skills. Finally, consider the cultural and artistic environment of the institution’s location, as it can significantly enrich your educational experience and expand your professional network. Finding the right program is about aligning your aspirations with an environment that challenges, inspires, and prepares you for the future you envision in the world of dance.