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The Ruby is a catalyst for creativity and a home for making art at Duke.

Duke Launches MFA in Dance

Published By Jennifer Prather
Published on: December 18, 2017

As Duke's Dance Program moves into its new home in the Ruby, it announces the establishment of Duke's second MFA degree.

Logo for Duke Dance

2nd MFA for Duke

Duke’s Dance Program now has a master of fine arts degree to add to its undergraduate offerings.

The MFA, approved by the Duke University Board of Trustees earlier in December, will distinguish itself by emphasizing the interdisciplinary research environment of the university and being open to all forms of dance and human movement, said program director Michael Kliën, associate professor of the practice.

The university, which currently offers undergraduate majors and minors in dance, felt it was time to take the next step forward, Kliën said.

“We are excited to launch a new MFA in dance that will take the lead in artist-based research of dance in the United States,” Kliën said. “Duke heads the way with the first MFA in dance amongst its peer institutions.”

The Dance Program is currently moving into the new Rubenstein Arts Center, which opens next month. The MFA is Duke’s second; the first, the MFA in Experimental and Documentary Arts, debuted in 2012.

Three dancers pose in the second floor dance studio of the arts center.
Sara Yuen, Gabby Cooper, and Milan Hamilton strike poses in the "cube," the second-floor dance studio at the Ruby. Photo by Chris Hildreth, Duke Photography.

“With the opening of the Rubenstein Arts Center in January 2018, Duke’s Dance Program has a new home and stunning studios,” said Scott Lindroth, Duke’s vice provost for the arts. “From this foundation, the MFA in Dance can make the most of the full research resources at Duke.”

The MFA will take an interdisciplinary approach, Kliën said.

“Dance comes in many forms, shapes and disguises,” he said. “We are approaching dance as an expanded form, as human movement. The MFA will be based in interdisciplinary study, meaning that we never just accept dance as a disconnected art-form, but are actively looking for connections to other fields of knowledge, whilst honing in on a contemporary practice of dance and choreography.”

Another mission of the MFA is to prepare educated and socially responsible dance artists, educators and scholars, who are well-grounded in performance, creative works, theories, and the social and cultural contexts of dance.

A man against a black background.
NY-based dancer Chase Granoff performs a work by Michael Klien, director of the new MFA in dance program. The program will be housed in the new Rubenstein Art Center. Photo by Brigid Pierce.


“One could say our students will unearth ‘Embodied Knowledge in Service of Society,’” Kliën said. “Furthermore, the MFA and its students will also add a new quality of artistic enquiry and engagement to Duke at large.”

Seven students will be accepted each year, beginning fall 2019, for the two-year program. The Duke Dance MFA will collaborate with the American Dance Festival located in Durham, and MFA students will participate in ADF summer programs.

“We are thrilled to develop, in partnership with ADF, a new summer platform for graduate-level research, which will be at once engaging, experimental and thorough. This will allow students to collaborate and share their work with the wider ADF and Durham community, enabling them to be part of the conversation around dance at an international level,” Kliën said.

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