Frequently Asked Questions About Five College Dance

here, with you, there, choreographed by Sarah Lass and dancers, 2020 Five College Dance Faculty Concert at Hampshire College. Photo by Derek Fowles.

Whether you are a prospective Five College student seeking to learn more
about our dance collaboration or a current Five College student interested in engaging with us,
this page will answer some basic questions about Five College Dance.

If you have any additional questions, please reach out to
FCD Managing Director Melinda Buckwalter:

Return to the Dance Home Page


Frequently Asked Questions About Five College Dance

FCD is a collaboration of the dance departments and programs from Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, and Smith Colleges and the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and functions as a unique inter-campus program. Each of the five campuses offers its own distinctive program of dance. FCD pools the offerings and resources of these programs, creating one of the largest and most respected college dance programs in the nation. While other Five College programs exist in various fields, Five College Dance is the largest and the most active. Click here to read our full mission statement.

Prospective students apply for admission directly to our member institutions, are subject to their requirements and fees, and earn their degrees from them. Therefore, once you've decided which institution(s) you want to apply to, you should contact that campus's Office of Admissions for application info and deadlines. You can find links to each Office of Admissions on this page.

Being part of FCD gives students access to many additional resources and opportunities in the field of dance and dance studies. Students from any campus can take courses, audition for performance opportunities, attend lectures, and participate in master classes at any of the other four campuses. For example, a Hampshire College student can travel to Smith College for ballet class, or an Amherst College student can swing by UMass Amherst to participate in a master class. Since the Five Colleges are geographically close to each other (within 10 miles), and linked by a bus system that is free for students, enterprising students can take advantage of what each campus has to offer (see the Finding Your Way Across the Campuses section of this site for help).

While learning and performing at other campuses does demand creativity and advance planning, the FCD office and campus faculty strive to maximize student access to dance across the campuses, as working with a range of faculty members can deeply enrich a student’s artistic and intellectual growth. This access to diverse dance programs and faculty members, each with their own perspectives on and approaches to dance, is one of the most unique and meaningful aspects of being a student in FCD. We embrace that “dance” and “dancers” do not have fixed definitions, and our structure allows students to widely explore the field’s broad contours.  

Access to excellent broader educations at all five schools, alongside and in relation to dance studies, is also a major benefit. While pursuing a major or minor in dance, students can also major in other disciplines that enrich and enhance their study of dance theory and practice. The majority of our dance majors are double majors, although they can also choose to focus exclusively on dance. Some of our most accomplished dance alumni have also studied non-dance fields while in undergrad: agriculture, urban design, education, sciences, social sciences, mathematics, computer science, philosophy, engineering, politics and government.  Dance is a form that responds to and participates in broader society and knowledge, and our programs model this within their institutions of higher education. We encourage students to make connections across fields.

BA (all five campuses) BFA in Dance, (UMass only) and MFA in Dance (Smith only)

For all dance majors, curricula provide anatomically sound dance technique training; study and practice of choreography and performance; development of aesthetic and analytical skills; and an understanding of the cultural and educational contexts within which dance occurs.

Only the UMass BFA and Smith College MFA programs require an entrance audition. FCD offers appropriate training and resources for everyone from beginner to advanced dancers. For the undergraduate dance programs at Amherst, Hampshire, Smith, and Mount Holyoke Colleges, it is possible to begin your dance studies as a first year student and complete a dance major/concentration.

Yes! For students with significant previous dance experience, there are department-wide advanced placement classes for upper-level (levels 5 and 6) ballet and modern/contemporary technique. The advanced placement classes are open to all students, from entering students to seniors. You do not have to be a major to audition for advanced placement classes.

In a given year, there are over 100 dance majors/concentrators across the Five Colleges. Hundreds of non-dance majors also take dance classes and participate in performances each year.

There are 17 full-time faculty members, and 12-15 adjunct faculty members each year.

We offer Ballet, Pointe, Hip Hop, Contact Improvisation, Jazz, Modern, Contemporary, Tango, and West African Dance every semester. Other technique classes, including Musical Theater, Salsa, and Tap, are offered on a regular basis. You can find our current course schedule at the bottom of our main page.

We offer a range of courses in Dance History, Dance and Culture, Research in Dance, three levels of Composition, Dance Education, Dance in the Community, Scientific Foundations of Dance, Rhythmic Analysis, Lighting Design, Costume Design, and many others. You can find our current course schedule on our main page.

Across the Five Colleges, there are a total of 10 dance studios.

It depends on the course. The average number of students in FCD technique courses is 17. Lower level technique courses (e.g. Ballet I) generally have a greater number of students than advanced technique courses (e.g. Modern 6), and courses that are required for graduation as a dance major (e.g. Scientific Foundations of Dance) tend to have more students than courses that are not a requirement for graduation. No FCD class exceeds 30 students.

Yes, most Ballet, West African, and Modern/Contemporary technique classes have live accompaniment, as do some Hip Hop classes. Two of the Five Colleges have their own full-time music directors, and FCD also hires additional accomplished local musicians to accompany classes each semester.

Yes! There are over 20 performance events under the umbrella of the FCD over the course of an academic year. This includes faculty-choreographed concerts (both on individual campuses and cross-Five Colleges), student-choreographed concerts, and MFA and undergraduate thesis projects. The FCD organizes at least one major repertory project each year for which all FCD dancers may audition. Recent rep projects include Urban Bush Women's Batty Moves, Uri Sands’s One, Doug Varone’s Boats Leaving, Camille A. Brown's New Second Line, Bebe Miller's The Blues Project,  Bill T. Jones's Story/Time, and Pilobolus's Megawatt. Additional guest artists each year come to choreograph or restage work on Five College dancers. Recent examples include David Dorfman, Ephrat "Bounce" Asherie, Idan Cohen, John Heginbotham, Kinsun Chan, Sidra Bell, Vanessa Anspaugh, and Kathleen Hermesdorf. And, of course, our accomplished faculty members create work on FCD students every year as well.

We hold a Five College-wide audition for dances choreographed by faculty and guest artists during the first week of classes. Auditions for dances choreographed by students take place throughout the fall semester. Auditions for major repertory projects may be scheduled during the course of the year. Auditions on all campuses are open to all Five College students -- you do not have to be a dance major or in FCD classes to audition or perform, although some rehearsals may take place in repertory coursework. If you want to perform and are willing to seek out chances to do so, you will find no shortage of opportunities. We strive to make auditions as inclusive and open as possible to students of all levels and types of expertise.

Yes! FCD has an agreement with the UMass Fine Arts Center that three dance companies that perform as part of their Center Series will teach a master class  open to FCD students. Recent master classes include RUBBERBANDance, Philadanco!, Limón Dance Company, NW Dance Project, Emily Johnson, Bill Shannon, and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Five College students are also eligible to purchase tickets to performances at the UMass Fine Arts Center at the deeply discounted price of $10-$15 per ticket. 

FCD may occasionally have more extended engagements with an artist. For example, dancer/choreographer Alice Sheppard not only delivered our annual lecture, but also taught an embodied workshop and held a session about intersectional disability and dance. We collaborated with UMASS Fine Arts Center to bring body-based artist Emily Johnson for a semester-long virtual residency of class visits and public talks.

FCD's member dance programs often host additional master classes of their own, which FCD students are welcome to join. Recent guests include jumatatu poe, Netta Yerushalmy, Nicola Gunn, Kelli and Jed Forman, Allie James, and Annie Wong. Dance programs may host guests also in other capacities -- for example, we have welcomed choreographer and scholar Kate Sicchio for a workshop on dance and technology and choreographer/performer Yanira Castro to work with students in their classes.

We host an annual lecture with a major scholar or practitioner in the field who we feel expands our understanding of dance and dance studies. In recent years, we have hosted choreographer/performer/educator/arts leader Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, dancer/choreographer/activist Alice Sheppard, performance studies and dance scholar Ramon Rivera-Servera, and choreographer/performer Camille A. Brown.

Our production manager and assistant production manager work hard to prepare students for the technical aspects of producing their own work, from lighting design to budgeting to publicity to stage management. Students leave with a robust knowledge of how to produce dance outside of the college environment.

We also create systems of support and community for students on campus and post-graduation, such as a weekly email newsblast, an annual newsletter, in-process showings for feedback, professionalization workshops, an alumni mentorship program, and field trips. We are always open to student ideas for ways that we can support their creative processes, community-building, and professional/artistic/intellectual enrichment.

Lastly, we are a member of American College Dance Association, so students have the opportunity to show their work alongside students of peer dance departments in the region for adjudication.

One of Five College Dance’s unique strengths is that it educates remarkably well-rounded students: students who focus on dance with passion and intensity, while also devoting themselves fully to other academic interests. Many students choose to double major in dance and another field. FCD has the resources necessary for students who intend to pursue careers as performers and choreographers, as well as in related fields such as arts administration, production, dance education, dance history and theory, dance therapy, and somatic therapies. At the same time, FCD can also be a good fit for students who don’t intend to pursue a career in dance, but want the opportunity to study dance and dance studies at a high level while in college.

FCD alums have had impressive and varied professional careers. They have not only started their own dance companies or independent practices and danced for some of the most respected U.S. dance companies, but have also become dance administrators, educators, and technicians. They have been honored with Bessie and Fulbright awards. To learn more about the specific work of some of our alums, please see our most recent newsletter, available here.

Yes! When planning your visit, take a look at our current course schedule and identify a class or two that you would be interested in observing or participating in. Then, contact the home campus dance department(s) directly, and ask about observing/participating in those classes. Contact info for each dance department can be found at the bottom of this page. If you need more help planning your visit, feel free to contact director Melinda Buckwalter.

Dance courses on other campuses can be often used toward your home dance major requirements. Please check with your home faculty first about each course's eligibility toward your major's requirements.

You can subscribe here to receive our weekly e-blast, which aggregates dance and movement news, events, announcements, and opportunities at FCD, the dance departments, the campuses, the region, and beyond. Much of this can also be found on our website's Upcoming Events and Announcements page. You can also follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

You can find links to campus dance programs on our main page

Visit our Campus Admissions page for links to admissions offices