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Student Handbook


The performing arts and especially dance is an essential and vital component to our community, our society, our global cultures, and to our commonly shared humanity.  Dance is one of the most physically demanding of the performing arts and that you are pursuing studies in dance is a testament to the importance dance has in your life.  Dance as a performing art is a demanding task master but, we as dancers are the happy recipients of much of what it has to offer.  We as aficionados of dance appreciate that dance is life affirming, life changing, and life informing.  The importance of mature and contemporary pursuits for the advancement of dance as an art form and the advancement of each student in their individual growth as emerging artists and human beings is a central tenet of the Case Western Reserve University Department of Dance.

Years of experience has taught us that to seek advancements in dance and the creative and contemporary arts, a mature and unobstructed commitment to self and trust in teachers/mentors is paramount and essential.  History provides countless examples of powerfully important artists and their commitment to self and teachers and enforces the fact that the pursuit of some irrational ideal or the less than full time commitment has little value. 

Dance is still a ‘verbal’ tradition in that dance is passed from one individual to the next – there is no other means to successfully and thoroughly transfer the information and no media can substitute.  The faculty takes this responsibility of transference of information from their experiences, education, and physical careers to those of the students very seriously.  While they are committed to education, they remain committed to themselves in continuing to explore their own contemporary work as teachers, researchers, and artists.

The faculty clearly understands the innate drive, passion, desire, need, and thirst for dance that we as creative artists have.  That being stated, it is hoped that the guidelines specified herein are simply reminders of expectations that are universally accepted as part of professional standards.  This dance department staunchly maintains these same expectations and standards for all students of the department.

This handbook does not serve as a concretized formula but rather a guide for direction.  It is the goal of the department to create a positive and healthy environment conducive to artistic explorations, creative thinking, engaging research, and individual growth.  These guidelines have been established to foster this endeavor while at the same time acknowledging the rigors of necessary technical and aesthetic training and academic expectations of this department and university. 



Welcome to the Department of Dance (sometimes referred as dance department) at Case Western Reserve University.  In an effort to guide and assist you as either a graduate student in dance or an undergraduate major, this handbook provides you with information about the department, faculty, procedures, and requirements.  Detailed herein are the guidelines, expectations, regulations, benefits and rewards of the degree program.

The department is designed to provide a structure whereby you can develop and mature as a dance artist as well as achieve the award of the Masters of Fine Arts, the Masters of Arts, or the Bachelor of Arts degree.  Throughout the educational process, certain standards will be stipulated which are designed to prepare you for the professional world.  All faculty members stand poised and available to assist.

The department has a long history and its design and scope has been researched, tested, and expanded upon for decades.  Though unusual in that it is situated within a research institution, the faculty takes great pride in that the department both fosters and demands professionally oriented creative work, research, and adherence to rigorous academic study all of which are in line with the mission of the university.  It is expected that the student of the department will place the requirements of the dance curriculum and associated activities such as production, rehearsal, performance, etc. as a high priority and that they will be responsible for making any needed adjustment to minimize interference in their availability to the aforementioned to maximize participation and educational success.

This handbook is to be used to guide, direct, and inform and helps to define expectations of students of the dance department.  Each student is required to familiarize themselves with these guidelines and to refer to either the graduate student guidelines or the undergraduate student guidelines for additional clarifications.  As with all instructional aspects of the dance curriculum, students needing clarification are expected to seek guidance from the faculty. 

The primary responsibility of the faculty does not include policing department or university policy.  The need of the faculty to repeatedly remind or reinforce any aspect of these guidelines or program policies for any student as well as any failure to adhere to any department policy or guideline set forth herein will be weighed considerably with regard to ongoing academic review.

A copy of these guidelines will be given to all new students and is available on the department of dance website.


The Department

The dance department offers the MFA in dance, MA, and the BA degree.  Emphasis is placed on the technical, aesthetic and academic training of every student with keen guidance that allows the individual to nurture their creative spirit and sharpen their cognitive, analytical skills.  This small department facilitates an intense interaction between students and faculty ensuring quality education and personal attention.


Embracing a philosophy of education that is committed to the development of the total individual, the curriculum centers around technique and choreography with a range of complimentary studies all providing experiential opportunities in keeping with the university’s mission and, for the undergraduate student, the university’s SAGES program.  Classes in modern and ballet provide the student with a strong technical base. 

There are obvious differences between the graduate and undergraduate curriculum requirements.  The undergraduate major and minor degree requirements are available through the general bulletin as is the recommended program of study for graduate students.

Concerts and Residencies

Given the department’s strong emphasis on the development and education of the creative artist, participation in performance/creative oriented events, productions, and residencies is inherent in being a student of this department.  For graduate students, participation is a clear demonstration of the commitment commensurate with not only graduate level work but that of established professionals.  Undergraduate majors are also strongly encouraged to participate but, it is clear that other academic scheduling issues may present conflicts.

Absence from any special residency, master class, production or any other related event will not be viewed favorably and repeated offenses will require the faculty to reconsider the student’s status in the department.


Special workshops and residencies are intended to provide students with opportunities to train with heralded teacher/artists and emerging choreographers.  Often included in the residencies are performances, technique classes, and repertory classes which provide opportunities to learn excerpts from renowned choreographic works by masters and contemporary artists.  Companies that have been in residence in the past include Taylor II, Trisha Brown, Sean Curran and Dancers.  Additionally, other guest artists have included Pascal Rioult, Joyce Herring, Diane Gray, Ken Topping, as well as notable alumni to name a few.

Student Concerts

Performance experiences provide opportunities to dance in works by master or guest choreographers and in works by faculty and peers.  The department typically produces an annual fall concert and MFA graduate student thesis concerts in the spring.  There are opportunities to perform in Mather Dance Collective (MaDaCol) both fall and spring. 


The dance department is proud to present a distinguished faculty whose credentials include professional experience and training with such heralded companies as the Martha Graham Dance Company, the Jose Limon Dance Company, the Erick Hawkins Dance Company, and the San Diego Ballet to name a few.  Holding advanced academic degrees, the core faculty also has international teaching reputations.



This department is best suited for the student seeking a professional level education.  The dance faculty is composed of professional artists and educators who are committed to providing you with a first rate, quality education.


The department strives to create a professional and supportive atmosphere for the mature student to develop and grow as a dancer and artist.  Behavior and conduct fitting of a student with professional goals is expected as is respect for fellow dancers, students and importantly the faculty.  Unprofessional conduct undermines your education as well as the entire educational process and will not be deemed acceptable.


In order to function as a student in a professionally oriented program, it is highly recommended that you prioritize your education, classes, and departmental responsibilities such that they take precedence above all extracurricular activities.  If you feel that there are extenuating circumstances that prevent such prioritization, you must speak with the department chair and/or your departmental academic advisor so that appropriate adjustments can be considered.  Your participation in activities within the dance department will be coordinated to facilitate ease in relation to all other academic requirements.



The evaluation process is an extremely important aspect of your tenure as a student in the dance department and ongoing review is central to the operational model of the department.  Designed to aid the faculty in considerations with regard to your development and progress, the process is intended to assist you in your development by providing professional, well thought out, and carefully considered evaluative feedback from the faculty.

For graduate students, technique and choreography evaluations of your performance will take place every semester and usually twice a semester with one or more faculty members.  A formal End of the Semester Meeting will occur with all of your instructors the day following final choreography showings.  Written copies of these reviews will be maintained in the department’s files.


Such evaluations will take many factors into consideration.  These factors include but are not limited to:

  • Course Performance (both dance and university core)
  • Professional attitude, behavior, and conduct in class and rehearsal including punctuality and preparedness.
  • Adherence to department and university guidelines
  • Demonstration of selfless commitment to your own education, craft development, pursuit of mature and contemporary aesthetic development, and thoughtful and intelligent scholarly work.
  • Fulfillment of dance department assigned responsibilities
  • Satisfaction of any applicable scholarly requirements
  • Commitment to aesthetic needs of the performing experience



Foremost as an undergraduate major, you are expected to complete the academic program set forth by the university.  As defined by Case Western Reserve University, “Advising” involves the assessment of completed courses and scheduling the courses that you will be taking for the next semester.  Each semester you will be required to schedule an appointment with your departmental academic advisor for programming.  The faculty member will help assess what university academic courses and dance department courses have been successfully completed and help you determine the courses for the next semester.  To ultimately receive the BA degree, you must complete all required courses.  For those pursuing a double major, the academic requirements of both majors must be satisfied.  The faculty is also available to assist you beyond typical course advising as applicable and appropriate.  Tutoring or other assistance can be made available, but the dance faculty must be made aware of your needs.

For both graduate and undergraduate students, a program of study is established and defined at the commencement of study and adherence to it is required.  Adjustments are only implemented after careful consideration of the faculty and are ultimately at the discretion of the department chair.  However, in certain circumstances, university policy may require permission for adjustments from authorities outside the dance department.


Technique Classes

University classes are provided to help you achieve your education goals.  Dance classes are the means by which you develop as a dancer and as an artist.  Dance is a craft art that requires self-discipline and regular and consistent practice and development.  Such development can only be achieved by participating in ALL classes.  No amount of competency surpasses the need for technique class.


Attendance and full participation in ALL dance classes is required.  Dance department policy on absenteeism is published, adherence to which is obligatory.

Given that the professor has carefully prepared your class material, arriving to class late is inconsiderate of the other students working in the class and not allowed.  Likewise, you will not be excused from class early. 

In the event of an injury or illness, your professor may stipulate an observance policy.  Importantly, it is encouraged that you communicate about injuries to the Dancer Wellness program faculty.


In the event that you anticipate a ‘known’ absence from class, you are required to communicate with the professor prior to class.  In the event that you need to notify your professor of an anticipated absence or tardiness, it is best to communicate this as early as possible.  Speaking with your professor is the recommended means of notification.  Notification of planned absence from class does not constitute such absence as being excused.  The designation of an excused absence is at the faculty member’s discretion and will be handled on a case-by-case basis.  In the event of a medical situation, documentation will be required.


Proper attire is required for all classes and rehearsals and adherence to published policy on attire is mandatory.  Sloppy or unclean presence in class will only result in sloppy and unclean results and is counterproductive.


Dance and dance training require discipline.  This discipline and the professional standards required by this program mandate that you take the responsibility of preparedness including punctuality needed for all classes and rehearsals.  At the conclusion of a technique class, acknowledgement of the accompanist and teacher is an expected professional courtesy.



Performing is at the very core of dance and the department aims to provide performing opportunities and experiences for the developing student. 


When concerts are produced, student participation in the many aspects of production is mandatory.  Most, if not all, graduate students will be assigned a production task whereas undergraduate students will be required to volunteer and assist in other matters of production.

Performance Eligibility

In order to ensure that performance experiences do not interfere with the successful completion of the degree program, academic standings will be a paramount consideration in determining performance eligibility.  With little or no exception, all students performing must be enrolled and maintaining successful status in a technique class.  Professional standards of the department require peak technical acumen for each dancer and cannot be compromised.  Additionally, the lack of consistent technique increases the chance of injury.  Injuries are extremely detrimental not only to the individual affected but to other cast members and to the entire production. 

Production Governance

Emphasized is the operational policy that the dance department is the producing authority for any and all presentations.  The choreographer(s), although responsible for adhering to the specified production guidelines, does not assume governance of the production itself.  Justification for the established hierarchical prerogative is the mature responsibility represented by program leadership for updating the standards of production in the professional workplace.


It is the goal of the dance faculty to promote inclusion of dance students in all dance program productions.  However, this does not obligate the department in any fashion with regard to casting nor does it allow for external dictation of casting choices.  Casting considerations for any dance produced by the dance department are welcomed from the choreographer.  However, final decision on casting lies with the artistic director and, in the case of thesis productions, thesis advisors. 

Casting adjustments will be made in cases where it is determined that it will benefit the dancer(s), the choreographer, the cast, and/or the emerging dance work itself and is at the discretion of the advising faculty.  Examples include but not limited to:

  • Injuries preventing a dancer from continued participation
  • A dancer’s time and energy are better served in maintaining satisfactory academic performance
  • A dancer’s technical acumen and level of proficiency is not in accord with the technical demands of the work


The successful production of student works is one of the goals and a significant component of the dance department.  However, student work is usually not produced until successful completion of the prescribed choreography classes in the program of study.  A written proposal detailing the intended work must be submitted and approved by the dance faculty prior to the commencement of rehearsals.  For those graduate students choreographing for MaDaCol, the requirement for a written proposal may be waived in lieu of direct consultation with the MaDaCol advisor. 

For graduate students, the requirements and expectation of such a proposal is outlined in the thesis handbook.  Undergraduate students will find guidelines for such proposals presented in the Senior Capstone class.  Choreographic material must also be presented along with the proposal.  Once approved, students will have a faculty member assigned to oversee, guide, and monitor progress.

Approval of a proposed work does not provide any guarantees with regard to ultimate programming or performance.  The advising faculty will ascertain whether the emerging work is programmable given the overall quality of work, acceptability of performance level amongst the dancers, and is concomitant with professional level standards.


All choreographers will have access to Mather Dance Center Studios for rehearsals.  (See facilities listed below).  Choreographers are expected to start and end rehearsals on time and to be prepared to utilize all rehearsal times productively.  Choreographers are to respect the start/end times of rehearsals as are all dancers, musicians, and all others required in the rehearsal.  This adherence to timeliness will instill a mutual respect among all involved. 

Demonstration of commitment, availability and responsivity to the choreographer/director, as well as both physical and psychological preparedness are essential.  Should there be any question as to what this entails, it is strongly suggested that you consult with the faculty. 

With the understanding that the quality of the result can be traced to the quality of the preparation, unsatisfactory performance in rehearsal will ultimately affect the outcome of the creative work.  Punctuality and attendance to all rehearsal is mandatory – there is no leeway here.  Given that the physical demands of a rehearsal are unlike a technique class in that there may be no ‘warm up’ section of the rehearsal, responsibility for advance planning falls to the individual dancer.



No visitors are permitted to observe any class or rehearsal (including ‘technical’ rehearsals during concert week) without prior approval.



Mather Dance Center (MDC) is the home of the dance department and houses all of the dance departments’ studios.  MDC, built in 1908, originally served as Mather Gymnasium for the Flora Stone Mather Women’s College until it was reconfigured to serve as the dance center it is today in 1975. 

It is important that this valuable resource be utilized efficiently to serve the needs of many and to protect it for future use.  Therefore, there are policies governing it use.

Studio Usage

The use of MDC’s studios is dedicated to the dance department and priorities have been assigned.  Published studio usage policy is found on the dance department’s website.

Studio space can be signed out for up to 7 days in advance.  It is important to realize the multitude of users of these studios.  Encouraged is a sensitive monitoring of total studio usage and the fair distribution of studio 1 usage. 

There may be instances where studio time is previously signed out but, later determined that its use is not needed.  In order to facilitate studio needs by other others, it is important to release unneeded studio time.


The protection of studio floors from outside elements, security of the building, and temperature control require that all windows be closed and locked when studio usage is complete.  The importance of this requirement cannot be overstated. 


Given that the majority of classes and rehearsals take place during cooler and colder months, maintenance of heat in the studio is paramount to ensure dancer health and safety.  At no time should a thermostat in any studio be set to below 70 degrees.  Fan settings may be adjusted in studio 1 and 3 for air flow.


Cleanliness and hygiene are extremely important factors in dance studios.  Therefore, there is no food or drink of any kind allowed in any studio.  (Pure water can be brought into the studio in unbreakable containers.)  In situations where a student is responsible for the studio usage, it is their responsibility to enforce this policy amongst the studio users.  Additionally, shoes are not allowed in any studio.  Exceptions to this are dance shoes and foot wear designated for MDC use only. 

Studio Privileges

Failure to adhere to any of these studio usage policies may result in revocation of studio use privileges.


Dancer Wellness Program

As part of the Dancer Wellness program in the department, events highlighting various aspects of dancer health and well-being will be scheduled.  Guest lecturers and teachers will conduct workshops and seminars designed to assist students in developing and maintaining a healthy lifestyle and regime that ensures professional longevity as a dancer.


At the beginning of every academic year, all students will undergo a dance screening process to identify individual physical and technical profiles.  Exercise programs designed uniquely for each student will be assigned for application outside of the classroom.  Each student’s progress will be monitored and guided by faculty.  Participation in the program is required of graduate students, undergraduate majors, and is highly encouraged for minors.


Additionally, all students are expected to demonstrate good health habits.  Good sleeping and eating habits are paramount for any highly, physically active person and are expected of all students.



Finally, students are encouraged to manage their daily schedules of all university activities and any employment such that they are not overextended.  Employment, when absolutely necessary, should not interfere with departmental activities nor jeopardize the student’s health.



Periodic meetings of dance students will be scheduled throughout the academic year.  Attendance is mandatory.



Dance department awards may be presented to selected dance graduate students, undergraduate majors, and minors at graduation or other special events.  These awards will be bestowed on those who have demonstrated outstanding accomplishments, contributions to the department, student life in the department, leadership, or other areas of excellence.



There are protocols to follow in the event that grievances arise.  These protocols are described in university policies and are also found in the graduate student handbook.  You are expected to follow such protocols.  Unprofessional conduct in any manner while striving to resolve such grievances will not be tolerated and could affect your standing in the department.


Updated August 30, 2016

Page last modified: October 27, 2016