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Minor, Division of Humanities


Michele Volansky, Program Director

Asa Trinh-Smith, Lecturer

Paula Klopnic, Lecturer


The Dance Minor program offered at Washington College is designed to give students dance technique, choreographic, and performance training with particular attention to artistry and proper anatomy and biomechanics. These are facets of dance that are viewed as mutually dependent and interactive. Fundamental to the training of the dancer is the building of the dancer’s body; so the program includes technical training in a variety of dance forms as well as Pilates, yoga, and ta’i chi chu’an and work in improvisation, dance composition, dance history, and repertory.


It is the goal of the program to teach vocabulary of dance movement and knowledge of factors that influence movement by introducing students to kinesthetic awareness so they may acquire the fundamental skills of various techniques and develop creative potential through improvisation, awareness of tempo, meter, accent, and phrasing in movement, spatial concepts, and floor patterns. Students also are exposed to appreciation of dance as an art form by exploring the work of dance artists; viewing dance performances on video/dvd/film, and in live theater; analyzing movement ideas, and composing movement studies based on compositional ideas, musical, or dance forms; understanding musical terminology as it applies to dance; and developing musicality in performance.

The Dance minor requires a combination of courses totaling 24 credits.  These credits must include:  DAN 203 or 204 (4 credits), DAN 227 or 228 (4 credits), DAN 233 (4 credits), DAN 310 (4 credits) and DAN 313 (4 credits) for a total of 20 credits.

A broad dance curriculum emphasizes both physical and cognitive skills and includes classes for academic credit in:

  • DAN 106. Jazz and Musical Theater Dance (2 credits)

  • DAN 108. Tap Dance (2 credits)

  • DAN 113. Ballet I: Beginning Ballet (4 credits)

  • DAN 203. Dance History I: Cultural Perspectives in Dance (4 credits)

  • DAN 204. Dance History II: Classical And Theatrical Dancing (4 credits)

  • DAN 213. Ballet II: Intermediate Ballet (4 credits)

  • DAN 227. Modern Dance I (4 credits)

  • DAN 228. Modern Dance II  (4 credits)

  • DAN 233. Dance Composition (4 credits)

  • DAN 310. Dance Production & Performance (4 credits)

  • DAN 313. Ballet III: Advanced Ballet (4 credits)

Course Descriptions

106. Jazz and Musical Theater Dance

Survey of musical theatre dance from late 19th century African-based dance forms through 21st century Broadway show styles. Focuses on the study of ballroom, ballet, jazz, and tap dance techniques, choreography, their integration in musicals, and selected repertory. “Jazz” is a compendium of movement styles that reflect African and European rhythms blended with cultural, historical, and social themes that produces a uniquely American style of dance. Includes jazz warm-ups, movement isolations, and combinations emphasizing rhythm, jumps, and turns. Some choreography, reading, and writing required.


108. Tap Dance

Tap is a distinctly American dance form that uses precise rhythmical patterns of foot movement and audible foot tapping to produce syncopation of sounds. Course will include instruction in basic steps such as Flaps, Shuffle Steps, Breaks, Time Steps, Waltz Clog, Cramp Roll, Riffs, Chugs, as well as complex patterns of the feet. Forms such as soft-shoe, waltz-clog, stage tap, “hoofing,” and Appalachian clogging will be explored. This course is open to all tappers, from beginning to advanced.


113. Ballet I: Beginning Ballet

Ballet is the spectacular, classical dance form that grew out of 16th century court dances. It has a tradition, a technique, and an aesthetic basis all its own. Codification of steps has been intellectual and based on geometrical-aesthetic principles. The ballet’s movement is motion dictated by taste and selectivity. Ballet I is an introduction to the fundamentals of classical ballet vocabulary; correct body placement; alignment; positions of the feet, head, and arms; flexibility; and basic locomotion in the form. The class is primarily a technique class with emphasis on proper technique at the barre, execution of movement in center and en diagonale with short variations of adagio and allegro. The course differentiates between classical and modern forms and investigates Cecchetti, Vaganova, and Bournonville styles. Some choreography, reading, and writing required.


203. Dance History I: Cultural Perspectives in Dance

An exploration of specific primitive and ancient cultures as well as contemporary world dance forms and their historical and cultural contexts, including pre-Christian civilizations—the African diaspora, America (Native American and Hawaiian dance and Meso-America), Polynesia, Asia, the Far East, India, Egypt, and Europe prior to the Golden Age of Ballet, and early social dancing and the relationship of dance forms to society and patterns of culture. This course will trace the role of dance as religious ritual, form of education, popular entertainment, and means of passing on a culture’s history—viewing dance in relation to the social, geographical, and political context of each period and culture.


204. Dance History II: Classical And Theatrical Dancing

An in-depth historical exploration of the development of theatrical dance in the Western world (ballet, modern dance, and theatrical dancing in Europe and America) with a special emphasis on the relationship between dance and other performing arts. The course examines the cultural forces affecting the development of these forms, their origins in Greek theater and Roman spectacle to the Renaissance, the Golden Age of Ballet, and through the 20th century, and the contributions of the major figures (choreographers, dancers, teachers, etc.) in the field.


213. Ballet II: Intermediate Ballet

This course continues the mastery of technique and skill of classical ballet. While emphasis is still on placement of the body, alignment, and proper technique at the barre, center, and en diagonale, variations of adagio, petite allegro, and grande allegro will be more complicated and more lengthy; and students should demonstrate improved physical control and coordination. Course includes ballet history and terminology and introduces partnering.  Some choreography, research, and writing required. Prerequisite: Ballet I or permission of the instructor.


227. Modern Dance I

An introduction to basic principles of modern dance as a creative art form: dance movement, body alignment, coordination, strength, and flexibility, movement vocabulary, dance sequences, and musicality. Improvisation exercises and short composition studies will be included. If taken for academic credit, concert attendance and two short papers are required. Focuses on a biomechanical approach to movement and basic principles and techniques derived from the American founders of modern dance—Graham, Cunningham, Limon, and Weidman. Some choreography, research, and writing required.


228. Modern Dance II

Continued exploration and development of modern dance technique, where expressive movement is highly selected, spatially designed, and organized through rhythmic structure. Focuses on both abstract and thematic material, complex sequences, and extended creative studies with emphasis on dynamics, direction, level, range, focus, floor pattern, space, and time. Course includes improvisation, taking weight/partnering, and short compositional pieces as well as choreography, selected readings, and writing of critiques. Prerequisite: Modern Dance or permission of the instructor.


233. Dance Composition

This course in choreographic theory and the study of the basic principles of dance composition explores the use of improvisation, movement dynamics, effort, meter, space, shape, and rhythm. Students explore compositional devices and develop solo and small group works. Students are encouraged to create in their range of vocabularies. Directed learning uses experiences with dynamics, rhythm, motivation, and gesture coordinated with aesthetic principles of form to develop studies and dances. Principles explored are applicable to dance making in a wide variety of styles, and students are encouraged to create in their range of vocabularies. Includes development of critical awareness, reading, writing, video and live concert viewing, movement studies, journals, and a final piece for public performance.


310. Dance Production

A practicum of theatre crafts and techniques involved in dance production, including lighting, sound, set and costume design and construction, makeup, stage-management, and filming dance. Includes choreography, production, and performance of student and faculty works, both on and off campus.


313. Ballet III: Advanced Ballet

Further development of ballet technique including differentiation between classical and modern forms; investigates Cecchetti, Russian/Vaganova, Bournonville/Royal Danish Ballet styles; and emphasizes clean line, technique, and vocabulary. Teaching methods and solo and group choreography are explored.  Some reading, research, and writing required. Prerequisite: Ballet II or permission of the instructor.


328. Modern Dance III – Advanced Modern

Continued practice in technique of modern and contemporary movement skills, including approaches to various styles, emphasizing the body as an instrument of expression and techniques for increasing kinesthetic sensitivity.  If taken for academic credit, concert attendance, writing assignments, and solo and group choreography are required. Prerequisite: Modern Dance II or permission of the instructor.