What to Expect from Duke’s New MFA in Dance: Interview with Michael Klien

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With the announcement of Duke University’s new MFA in Dance, there looms a sense of excitement and possibility for what the inaugural class (Fall of 2019) will bring to the growth and development of the program. We took a moment to sit with the director of the MFA in Dance, Michael Klien, to gain some deeper insight into what to expect from this new offering and who should apply.

At the heart of Duke's MFA in Dance is the theme of Embodied Interdisciplinary Praxis. What does that mean, and how is it unique compared to other dance MFA programs?

Duke's MFA program presents a new approach to graduate education in dance. “Embodied Interdisciplinary Praxis” captures well what want to achieve -- namely, ideas around embodiment that can “go to work” into the world. We don’t want to educate specifically for the dance or arts world, and as such the program is highly interdisciplinary by necessity. Duke’s variety of graduate course offerings paired with a wealth of research resources will equip students to pursue deep study across the intersection of dance and other fields. We are seeking to develop artist-scholars who can use dance as a means to address the issues our societies face.

Who is this MFA for?

The MFA in Dance at Duke University is conceived for the ambitious, eager, rigorous dreamer, who wants to make Duke University ‘their studio’. We are looking for an eclectic mix of dance-artists with an established practice and/or career, recent graduates as well as career changers who demonstrate a clear commitment to embodied practice.

Do I need to be a "technically trained dancer”?

Everyone moves, everyone can dance. We believe traditional technical movement ability to be an unreliable measure for an applicant’s potential for moving, innovation and research. We equally do not disregard technical ability, contextualizing it within its historical and social situatedness, but it is not a requirement for the program.

What kinds of career paths could this program prepare me for?

There is not one career path we propose and not one type of alumni we envisage. As an interdisciplinary program, students can intersect their dance research with fields ranging from health, education, public policy, business, religion, cultural anthropology, politics, and beyond -- the possibilities are truly limitless. Following completion of the program, students might pursue academic ambitions, artistic careers, and/or implement their praxis into other fields of work. Students interested can also obtain a Graduate Certificate in Social Entrepreneurship as part of the MFA, which can further help to bring their new ideas, methodologies, and mindsets to market.

How many people will be a part of the inaugural class?

Our cohort is small. Our annual intake will be between five to seven students with diverse backgrounds and research interests. As each student’s “path” in the program will be uniquely curated, this allows us to really supervise and mentor students individually and maintain intimate class sizes. Being part of the first cohort in the fall of 2019, students will have the opportunity to really shape the culture of the program.

What kinds of unique resources does Duke have to support the program?

Duke has so much to offer on a daily basis that students will be spoiled for choice in terms of engagement. There are numerous labs students can become an active part of, facilities designed for integrative performance technology, and spaces for the development and presentation of their own artistic work. Our brand new, state-of-the-art Rubenstein Arts Center paired with the beautiful and historic Ark Dance Studio offer inspiring spaces for students to research and develop artistic projects.

How can I apply?

Applications are being accepted now for the fall of 2019. You can find more information on how to apply and other guidelines available on our website. All applicants will be chosen on the strength of their research-proposal and its fit to Duke’s academic landscape.


Have questions about Duke University’s MFA in Dance? Contact michael.klien@duke.edu for more info.