Career Guide to JMU Majors:
Theatre & Dance
Admission and Progression Standards:
Visit the Major Snapshots site to learn more about the admission and progression standards of this major.
Description of Major
The School of Theatre and Dance offers a Bachelor of Arts degree with concentrations in Theatre, Dance, and Musical Theatre. Minors are offered in either theatre or dance. Students may also gain Teacher Licensure in Dance or Theatre. The focus of the Dance Program is to develop each student's abilities as a performer, choreographer and movement instructor. Students in dance are taught versatility in movement style through a technique sequence in modern dance and ballet, with courses in Jazz and other dance forms. There is also a strong emphasis on individual creativity in the dance composition curriculum. Theoretical and practical knowledge of dance history, production and management is acquired through integrated experiences in the classroom, studio, performing and touring situations. Students have the opportunity to perform in works composed and directed by other students, faculty artists and guest choreographers-in-residence. There is a mandatory dance audition requirement for this major. The JMU Theatre Program combines the best attributes of a liberal arts education with professional training. It is directed specifically toward undergraduate students. There are three basic emphasis areas: (1) instruction in the theory and history of drama and theatre, (2) instruction in the practice of theatre arts and (3) a full production program on two stages. In the sophomore year, students enter one or more of the four tracks: Performance, Design and Technology, Theatre Studies, or Theatre Education. In addition to performance elements, students in theatre study theatre history, aesthetics, performance theory, and dramatic theory and literature. Students are also encouraged to participate in production activities and can gain credit through the theatre practicum courses. There are numerous opportunities to direct, design and perform. The Musical Theatre concentration combines many elements of the theatre concentration with additional requirements in dance and vocal performance. A mandatory audition or portfolio review and interview is required for admission to any area of concentration.
Tell me more about this field of study
The Musical Theatre and Theatre concentrations both have a liberal arts orientation, but offer significant pre-professional training. The undergraduate focus means that undergraduates act the parts, construct the sets, design and direct in the Studio Theatre, and fulfill the responsibilities for running each production. Students are exposed to the following opportunities: appreciation of great works of theatre by viewing productions, training to work within a group toward a defined goal, and training for a professional career or training sufficient for graduate level work.
The focus of the Dance concentration is to develop an individual's abilities as a dancer, choreographer, and teacher and also to develop critical and creative thought through written expression and discussions. Attention is given to: the tools necessary to create, perform, produce and appreciate dance; the historical, philosophical and cultural significance of various dance forms; and the art of expression and movement within the dance experience.
Tell me more about specialization
Students have many opportunities to be involved with productions because the School of Theatre and Dance sponsors several major productions a year in its main stage season, plus numerous productions in the Studio Theatre. The program also sponsors a summer children's theatre. The highly selective Musical Theatre concentration focuses on performance and provides opportunities for students to perform in mainstage and studio musicals as well as musical revues that are produced each year. Four tracks in the Theatre concentration (Performance, Design and Technology, Theatre Studies, and Theatre Education) allow for specialization within the major and concentration. In the dance program students can become more specialized in dance production, choreography, education, or performances.
Common majors or minors that complement this major
Some common combinations are Art, Art History, Communication Studies, Creative Writing, Cultural Communications, English, Film Studies, Health Sciences, Human Resource Development, History, Interior Design, Jazz Studies, Kinesiology, Media Arts and Design, Modern Foreign Languages, Music, Nonprofit Studies, Special Education Non-Teaching, Psychology and Women Gender Studies
A strong work ethic, an appreciation of the arts in general and their place in society, strong collaborative skills, a positive outlook and ability to promote themselves as artists and create employment opportunities for themselves.
Many graduates choose typical career paths associated with this major. However, some graduates choose unrelated careers that utilize skills and experiences developed during their years in college. Keep in mind, that some fields will require graduate study or further training. The listing below offers examples of possible career paths and is not meant to be comprehensive.
Who employs graduates?
Advertising Firms, Amusement and Theme Parks, Children's Theatres, College/Universities, Commercial Theatres, Community Theatres, Cruise Ships, Industrial Shows, Newspapers & Magazines, Not-for-Profit Theatres, Primary and Secondary Schools, Public Relations Firms, Radio Stations, Regional Theatres, Show Groups, Television & Motion Picture Studios, and Touring Companies.
Practicums are required in the theatre and musical theatre curriculums through mainstage and summer productions. Theatre and Musical Theatre faculty assist students in finding and procuring internships throughout the USA in the various areas of theatre. Dance students have several opportunities available to them. As a dance major a student would become a member of one of the performing dance companies that perform both on and off campus. The Virginia Repertory Dance Company has a modern repertoire and the Contemporary Dance Ensemble performs modern and jazz. Students should contact the faculty coordinator in either program that they are interested for more information.
View our list of internship coordinators for each major.
What are JMU graduates doing with this major?
Dancers and Choreographers
Film and Video Editors and Camera Operators
Music Directors and Composers
Producers and Directors
Art, Drama and Music Teachers, Postsecondary
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A broad range of resources on career fields, internships, and job search information is also available in the Career & Academic Planning Resource Center.
Make an appointment with a CAP career counselor to learn more about this major and your career options.
A few titles from our Resource Center related to this field include:
© Career & Academic Planning, James Madison University, 2013