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Master of Arts in Community Dance
Cultivating community through dance.

Master of Arts in Community Dance

In the Community Dance model, dance professionals engage with community participants through collaborative, inclusive practices that emphasize positive experiences and human diversity. Our program emphasizes the creative process in dance as a form of research and collaboration. In this model, dance is an adaptable, inclusive, socially relevant practice. 

Community Dance is a rapidly growing professional and academic field. Our M.A. program is the first in the United States in this hybrid, dynamic field. Our curriculum develops professionals who are knowledgeable, effective, creative advocates for dance as an inclusive and diverse practice. As a graduate, you will be prepared to apply that knowledge in practical community settings, to conduct original research, and to write funding proposals. You will be ready to explain the value of dance participation, and to lead dance experiences that foster community and enhance civic responsibility.

New research confirms the value of dance participation for children, youth, seniors, people of multiple abilities, people struggling with substance abuse or domestic abuse, people who need to feel connected to others through the joy of movement – in other words, everyone!

This program builds on the excellence and resources of the Ohio University School of Dance, an accredited member of the National Association of Schools of Dance. Our BFA and BA programs provide a rich culture of studio practice, performance, inquiry, and creative activity in which graduate students can deepen their artistry while developing competencies as teachers, community arts practitioners, arts administrators, and leaders.

Students in the M.A. in Community Dance can also complete the Arts Administration Graduate Certificate, offered through the College of Fine Arts, by taking three additional courses. This program develops competencies in public relations, cultural policy, marketing, advocacy, strategic thinking, and resource development.

Read Dance Magazine's profile on this groundbreaking MA, why Community Dance matters, and the career opportunities it offers.

Opportunities for Graduates

  • Teaching Artist in outreach programs such as those with Parkinson’s Disease, Community Action programs such as those focusing on domestic abuse shelters, anti-violence programs
  • Director of dance school or studio
  • Community-engaged Dance Artist/Choreographer
  • Arts administrator
  • Community youth group leader
  • Director of dance/movement program for senior center
  • Community Engagement Director for dance companies and non-profit dance organizations
  • Teaching Artist in community arts centers, dance companies, museums, pre-K-12 private and 
  • public schools, and other organizations
  • Dance Integration Specialist

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Frequently Asked Questions

What graduate options are offered by the School of Dance?

The School of Dance offers both a Master of Arts in Community Dance and a Graduate Certificate in Community Dance. The M.A. in Community Dance requires a minimum of 30 credit hours.

The Graduate Certificate is a 12 credit-hour program, which can be completed by degree-seeking students in a graduate program at Ohio University. This includes, but is not exclusive to, students enrolled in the Master of Arts Administration.

We welcome all graduate students with an interest in dance to contact us about opportunities to participate in our classes and events. Email the Graduate Chair, Dr. Tresa Randall:

Students in the M.A. in Community Dance can also complete the Graduate Certificate in Arts Administration, which will expand their knowledge and skills in grant writing, fundraising, and non-profit administration. Since there is some curricular overlap in these two programs, students could complete both the M.A in Community Dance and the Graduate Certificate in Arts Administration in 36 credit hours.

Ohio University offers a number of other graduate certificates that are relevant for Community Dance practitioners, including Gerontology, Global Health, Teaching English as a Foreign Language, Latin American Studies, African Culture through Music and Dance, and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.

What is unique about the M.A. in Community Dance?

The Master of Arts in Community Dance at Ohio University is the first of its kind in the United States. Unlike MFA or Master of Education programs in dance, our focus is on community engaged research, practice, and dance advocacy, and how the dance artist works in community settings. The Ohio University School of Dance is nationally known for its emphasis on dance composition and the creative process, and the M.A. applies that creative approach to diverse community settings. Community Dance involves communal dance-making processes, in which professionals invite members of a community to work in and through dance to express or experience something that they find significant. Community Dance values inclusion, diversity, and the transformative power of dance and movement.

Our program is located in a vibrant college town within a rural Appalachian area, where the arts play an integral role in the community. Graduate students in Community Dance will have many opportunities to interact and collaborate with community partners through the 30 Mile Studio project, Ohio Valley Center for Collaborative Arts, Factory Street Studio – a local non-profit, non-competitive dance school – and other organizations.

Where is the M.A. taught and how long is the program?

Our programs are taught on the historic Ohio University Athens campus, which is consistently ranked among the most picturesque American college campuses. Athens is located in Southeast Ohio, in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. A number of state and national parks are within easy driving distance, and there are several beautiful hiking trails adjacent to campus. Athens is home to an active live music scene, an extensive local food network, microbreweries, and many arts and cultural institutions such as PassionWorks and the Dairy Barn Arts Center. It is also 80 miles from Columbus, Ohio, one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States. .

The School of Dance at Ohio University is located in Putnam Hall, which has six studios with sprung floors, a studio-theater, a fully equipped Pilates studio, costume and technical theater shops, and other classrooms, offices, and lobby areas. It is handicap-accessible.


The program can be completed in three semesters. In select cases, students may be able to take all required in-person coursework in two semesters and complete the final semester, including the Capstone project, off-campus.

Do I need to have a degree in dance to apply for the M.A.?

An undergraduate degree in dance is preferred, but not required, for admission. In addition to an undergraduate degree from an accredited institution, successful applicants will have significant dance experience and a passion for bringing dance to community participants. Students without an undergraduate degree in dance may need to complete additional coursework to meet the competencies expected of graduates of the M.A. in Community Dance.

Is the GRE required?

No, the GRE is not required for admission.

I’ve already been working as a dance professional in community settings. Why do I need a master’s degree?

This degree is designed to give students a broad understanding of the diverse and quickly-expanding field of Community Dance and its varied settings, populations, practices, and goals. In this way, it will provide inspiration, theoretical frameworks, and networking opportunities that will be useful for even experienced practitioners. It will also provide a strong foundation in research methods and the current literature on the benefits of dance participation, which will enhance your ability to write successful funding proposals and be an effective advocate for dance in your community. You will gain essential skills and knowledge in four broad areas: dance skills/knowledge of the field; pedagogy; communication, collaboration, and administration; and research. Further, a master’s degree is required for many positions such as Teaching Artists in schools, and will make graduates more competitive for other positions.

What career opportunities are open to graduates of the M.A. in Community Dance?

Community Dance is a rapidly growing field, and we see clear opportunities for our graduates to find or create employment. Teaching artists, for example, represent a large and expanding sector of the dance employment field. They work for non-profit organizations, community arts schools or centers, dance companies, museums, K-12 schools, and organizations that specialize in school programming. Over the last ten years, the number of dance teaching artists employed nationally has grown significantly, and one recent study concluded that this rapid growth has outpaced the supply of qualified teaching artists. Related career opportunities include positions as community engagement or integration/inclusion specialists for dance companies or other non-profit organizations. For example, Very Special Ohio employs dance teaching artists, as do other non-profit organizations focused on health, wellness, and recovery. In fact, this is an area where we see great potential for community dance employment: with social services and organizations serving adults in recovery for substance abuse and domestic violence; adults with Parkinson’s Disease or other physical challenges; and other special needs adults. Similarly, we see the growing senior population as an opportunity, since research clearly demonstrates the benefit of dance participation among older adults. Finally, graduates of the M.A. in Community Dance will be prepared to create their own innovative new programs, studios, and schools, or to secure positions as Directors of existing programs.

Can I participate in Community Dance events without being a degree-seeking student?

Yes, there are many ways to participate in our dance events. Email Dr. Tresa Randall, Graduate Chair, to join our Community Dance contact list at:

Brianne Syzmanski

Featured News


MAA Graduate brings community dance focus to prestigious dance company Jacob’s Pillow

May 18, 2022

Soon-to-be Master of Arts Administration (MAA) graduate, and Toledo native, Brianne Szymanski was recently hired as the Community Engagement Programs Manager for the celebrated dance organization Jacob’s Pillow.

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