The James Madison University Dance Program is part of the School of Theatre and Dance and presently offers a Bachelor of Arts degree. The focus of the Dance Program is to develop each student's abilities as a performer, choreographer and movement instructor. Developing critical and creative thought through written expression and discussion is also emphasized. Attention is given to the tools necessary to create, perform, produce and appreciate the art of dance. Faculty members work closely with each student in defining their individual path to a career in dance.

A combination of liberal arts curriculum and an intensive study of dance with many opportunities to perform gives the student a well-rounded education and the technical skills to pursue a dance-related career. The program offers progressive levels of modern and ballet technique, dance composition, history of dance, performance production and management, repertory ensembles and teaching methods. Other dance courses include jazz, tap, ballroom, improvisation and international folk. Included in the program is also a dance minor which can be combined with many academic majors offered by the university.

The JMU School of Theatre and Dance and Sentara RMH are proud to announce a new partnership. Sarah Gosselin, PT, DPT, will be providing physical therapy services and education for JMU dance majors.

Performance Opportunities

Students at James Madison University are invited to become actively involved in Dance Program activities. The activities and performing ensembles of the JMU Dance Program are as follows:


All freshmen will be part of the Associate Group Dance Ensemble. The Associate Group meets for a modern techniques class and repertory rehearsal once a week of each semester and members receive credit and a grade. The Associate Group performs in the student concerts each semester and hosts one guest artist per year. In addition to performing, Associate members will have hands-on experience in technical theatre and other production duties. All members of Associate are required to be registered for a modern, ballet, or jazz technique class.


The Contemporary Dance Ensemble is comprised primarily of dance majors. The company provides members the opportunity to perform and choreograph for showcases, student concerts and main-stage concerts. The Ensemble hosts two professional guest choreographers per year. In addition, members work with faculty choreographers. The company meets as a whole once a week. However, rehearsals take place throughout the week. Members receive credit and a grade for their participation in the company. The Ensemble performs occasionally for elementary schools, high schools, conventions and festivals. Admittance into the company is by audition. This ensemble is a cornerstone for the dance major experience and produces the spring, main-stage concert.


This pre-professional performing company is made up of selected dance majors who have a strong commitment to pursuing opportunities as performers, teachers and choreographers after graduation. Company members are selected through audition, and rehearse a minimum of 10 hours each week. The company performs the work of nationally known guest and faculty choreographers in one main-stage concert each year. It tours throughout Virginia and the region in a variety of performance arenas in the Spring. Only serious dance majors are asked to audition because of the depth of experience and commitment needed to participate in the Virginia Repertory Dance Company.

va Rep 2012 Richard Finkelstein


Each dance student at JMU can submit a work for audition into the Fall or Spring Student Concerts. Occasionally the Dance Program will bring guest choreographers to do special projects that will involve all majors. Many freshman and sophomore majors and minors find opportunities to dance in advanced major’s works. Finally, faculty will choreograph other pieces to be performed in the annual Dance Day concert in the studio theatre.

JMU is consistently selected to perform in the gala concerts of the regional festivals of the American College Dance Festival and has been chosen to perform in recent National American College Dance Festivals.


There are three main-stage productions, four studio theatre concerts, and two studio showcase performances that require stage managers, light and sound technicians, and other production crew members. No experience is necessary. This is an excellent way to get involved with the Dance Program and to learn all aspects of producing a dance concert.

Guest Artists and Residencies

The JMU Dance Program invites professional companies and guest artists to the campus to perform, lecture, choreograph and teach. A Master Class Series is part of the advanced modern and ballet courses and gives students extensive exposure to different styles and methods. All performing ensembles commission guest artists for special residencies to set choreography. Previous visiting guest artists have included companies such as the Erick Hawkins Dance Company, Joffrey II Dancers, Mark Taylor Dance Company, Murray Louis Dance Company, Richmond Ballet, and solo artists Daniel Nagrin, David Dorfman, Remy Charlip, Li Chiao Ping, Kei Teikei, Mark Haim and Lisa Race.

Axis Dance Company

Axis Dance Company, 2012.  Photo by Richard Finkelstein

Dance Faculty Expertise

The dance faculty consists of Suzanne Miller-Corso, M.F.A., Universtiy of Colorado, Boulder; Cynthia Thompson, M.F.A., University of Wisconsin at Madison; Kate Trammell, M.F.A., Temple University;  Shane O'Hara, M.F.A., Arizona State University; and Ryan Corriston, M.F.A, University of Washington.

 Each year the Dance Program hosts visiting guest artists and other talented adjunct instructors from the community.

VA Rep 2009
Program Objectives for the Dance Major
  1. The student shall develop an articulate individual choreographic voice, through coursework in improvisation and composition, frequent feedback from faculty and peers, and substantial opportunities to present work in both formal and informal settings

  2. The student shall develop creative potential as a performer, through training which emphasizes the integration of technical and expressive skills.

  3. The student shall have opportunities to develop rehearsal and performance skills through participation in one or more of the following: the Associate Group Dance Repertory, Contemporary Dance Ensemble and the Virginia Repertory Dance Company in works by self, peers, faculty, and guest choreographers.

  4. The student shall demonstrate knowledge of the historical, philosophical, and cultural dimensions of dance past and present, including people, places, and events that have influenced the development of dance as an art form, and the varying roles of dance and dance artists in society and world culture through coursework, the Master Class Series, and guest artist residencies.

  5. The student shall demonstrate the ability to analyze, write, and speak about dance, creativity, and artistic processes in course assignments that require the integration of theoretical knowledge.

  6. The student shall exhibit knowledge of anatomical terminology and basic principles of human structure and function, and demonstrate application of that knowledge towards more efficient, expressive, and sustainable dancing.

  7. The student shall experience a wide range of dance perspectives through coursework, the Master Class series, workshops, seminars and lectures by visiting professionals, and the opportunity to view work in performance both on and off campus.

  8. The student shall gain a basic knowledge of the interactive nature of the design process through coursework, as well as practical experience with the choreographic/designer dialogue.

  9. The student shall gain theoretical knowledge and hands-on experience in technical dance production areas to include: lighting and sound technology, costume construction, make-up design and implementation, set construction, production management and arts administration.

  10. The student shall gain experience designing and/or implementing movement experiences for people of diverse ages, backgrounds, and abilities, through coursework and additional opportunities within the program and the community.

  11. The student shall develop individual career goals and gain experience in professional skills including grant and resume writing, approaches to marketing, creation of a digital portfolio, and employment placement strategies.

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