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Five College Dance Department

Frequently Asked Questions

[Guest Artist Pamela Newell teaching at the 2015 FCDD Faculty and Guest Artist Audition]

Welcome! This page answers frequently asked questions about the Five College Dance Department (FCDD). If you have additional questions after reading this, please don't hesitate to contact Joanna Walker, the FCDD's Administrative Coordinator. She loves talking with prospective students and their parents, and is happy to help. 

What is the FCDD?

The FCDD 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 department. Each of the five campuses offers its own distinctive program of dance. The FCDD pools the offerings and resources of these programs, creating one of the largest college dance departments in the nation. Click here to read our full mission statement. 

How do I apply?

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 at the bottom of this page.

What is the benefit of being a student at one of the Five Colleges?

While each member institution has the resources to give you a complete education, being part of the FCDD gives students access to many additional resources and opportunities. Students from any campus can take courses, audition for performance opportunities, attend lectures, and take 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 the best of what each campus has to offer. This access to a diverse range of dance programs, each with its own perspectives on dance, is one of the great things about being part of the FCDD.

Another great thing about the FCDD is that the Department makes an effort to be inclusive. We don't operate with a narrow definition of who gets to identify themselves as a dancer. As an example, our annual FCDD fall lecture was delivered by disability culture activist Petra Kuppers in 2015, and by transgender dance pioneer Sean Dorsey in 2014. While our Department is not yet as diverse as we'd ultimately like it to be, we are engaging in these important conversations, and proactively looking for ways to increase diversity in our program.

Which degrees are available?

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

For all dance majors, our curriculum provides 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.

For BA students, our curricula integrate dance as a vital part of liberal arts studies.

For BFA students at UMass, the curriculum provides pre-professional training in dance.

For MFA students at Smith College the curriculum provides graduate-level training in choreography, performance, and teaching.

For non-dance majors, the curriculum provides a full range of theoretical and applied courses in dance as well as production experience. 

Is an entrance audition required to become a dance major?

Only the UMass BFA and Smith College MFA programs require an entrance audition. The FCDD offers appropriate training and resources for everyone from beginning to advanced dancers. For the undergraduate dance programs at AmherstHampshireSmith, and Mount Holyoke Colleges, it is possible to begin your dance studies as a first year student and complete a dance major/concentration. For students with significant previous dance experience, there is a department-wide advanced placement audition for upper-level (levels 5 and 6) ballet and modern/contemporary technique classes during the first week of classes in September. The advanced placement audition is open to all students, from entering students to seniors.

How many students are in the department?

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

How many faculty members are in the department?

There are 18 permanent faculty members, and 12-15 adjunct faculty members each year. 

What dance technique classes are offered?

We offer Ballet, Pointe, Contact Improvisation, Jazz, Modern/Contemporary, Tango, and West African Dance every semester. Other technique classes, including Classical Indian, Group Improvisation, Hip Hop, Musical Theater, Salsa, Tango and Tap, are offered on a regular basis. You can find our current course schedule here.

What other types of dance classes are offered?

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 here.

How many dance studios are there?

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

How big are dance classes?

It depends on the course. The average number of students in FCDD 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 FCDD class exceeds 30 students.

Is there live accompaniment for dance courses?

Yes, all Ballet and Modern/Contemporary technique classes have live accompaniment. Three of the Five Colleges have their own full-time music directors, and the FCDD also hires additional accomplished local musicians to accompany classes each semester.

Are there performance opportunities?

Yes! There are about 35 performance events under the umbrella of the FCDD over the course of an academic year. This includes faculty concerts, student concerts, and thesis projects. The FCDD organizes at least one major repertory project each year for which all FCDD dancers may audition. Recent rep projects include Pilobolus's Megawatt, Delfos Danza's Full and Empty, Gallim Dance's Wonderland, and Ohad Naharin's Echad Mi Yodea. There are additional guest artists each year who come to choreograph or restage work on Five College dancers. Recent examples include Idan Cohen, Pamela Newell, John Heginbotham, Kinsun Chan, Sidra Bell, and Kathleen Hermesdorf. And, of course, our accomplished faculty members create work on FCDD students every year as well. There is a department-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 are scheduled during the course of the year. Auditions on all campuses are open to all Five College students. If you want to perform and are willing to seek out chances to do so, you will find no shortage of opportunities.

Does the FCDD regularly offer master classes?

Yes! The FCDD has an agreement with the UMass Fine Arts Center that every dance company that performs as part of their Center Series will teach at least one - and sometimes more than one - master class open to FCDD students. Recent master classes include Doug Varone and Dancers, Bridgman|Packer Dance, Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan, Stephen Petronio Company, Grupo Corpo, Martha Graham Dance Company, Alonzo King LINES Ballet, Parsons Dance, and Kyle Abraham/ The FCDD's member dance programs often host additional master classes of their own, which FCDD dancers are welcome to join. As a side note, Five College students are eligible to purchase tickets to performances at the UMass Fine Arts Center at the deeply discounted price of $10-$15 per ticket.

What kind of careers do FCDD graduates have? 

One of the unique strengths of the Five College Dance Department 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. The FCDD has the high-level 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. The FCDD 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 at a high level while in college.

As for FCDD graduates who have gone on to professional careers in dance: FCDD alums have won Bessie and Fulbright awards; started their own dance companies (i.e. Stephen Petronio, HC ’74); and have danced with artists and companies such as Bebe Miller, David Parsons, Lucinda Childs, Trisha Brown, Doug Elkins, Winnipeg Contemporary Dancers, Ballet Nacional de Caracas, Metropolitan Opera Ballet, Louisville Ballet, Faye Driscoll, Ailey II, and Pilobolus.

When touring one or more of the Five College campuses, can I observe/participate in a dance class? 

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 email Joanna Walker in the FCDD office.

Thank you for your interest in the FCDD. We look forward to dancing with you soon!

Links to the admissions offices at each member institution:

Amherst College
Hampshire College
Mount Holyoke College
Smith College
UMass Amherst

Links to the dance programs at each member institution:

Amherst College Theater and Dance Department
Hampshire College Dance Program
Mount Holyoke College Department of Dance
Smith College Department of Dance
UMass Amherst Dance Program