Senior Work


Educational Goals

Project Design and Conception


Written Work

The Defense

Evaluation Criteria

Independent Project Proposal Form (pdf)

Production Handbook


This handbook has been prepared for the dance major or joint major planning their required senior independent project (DANC 0500). A senior project can take many forms, and this document provides an outline of the intention and educational goals of this independent work; a guide to the design, proposal, and approval process; an overview of the timeline; expectations for written work; as well as the criteria used to evaluate the project.

Educational Goals

Senior work has been integral to the dance curriculum since inception of the major in 1983-84. It is intended to provide a capstone experience tailored to the individual student’s area of interest and educational goals.

Our core curriculum provides all our majors, regardless of individual educational goals, experience in:

  • the creation and performance of original contemporary dance;
  • contemporary and traditional dance techniques;
  • creative process across the arts;
  • dance history and cultural study;
  • scientific, place-based, and experiential anatomy and kinesiology;
  • seeing, thinking, and articulating about dance, art and related issues as writers and speakers.

Electives within the program and in the greater college curriculum, together with individualized mentoring, support our students’ interests in deeper study of particular aspects of the dance field. Our curriculum is geared to guide advanced work in:

  • choreography and performance;
  • somatics, the study of the inter-relational and synergistic process between awareness, biological function and environment;
  • interdisciplinary and cultural study;
  • the creation and integration of videography and/or interactive digital media in dance;
  • lighting design and production for dance.

Our graduating students, regardless of individual educational focus, are expected to acquire the following:

  • an intermediate/advanced level of proficiency in contemporary dance techniques and choreographic methods, including improvisation;
  • the ability to pursue scholarly and experiential/creative research in dance;
  • an embodied understanding of their potential for creativity and agency in the world;
  • an appreciation for historical and cultural values expressed through dance;
  • the ability to contextualize their own and others’ work within the broad spectrum of dance as art and culture;
  • the ability to discuss dance, both analytically and accessibly, with others familiar or unfamiliar with the field.

Graduates should be ready for advanced university study in their area of interest or for entrance into the world of professional dance. History assures us that our graduating students are also prepared to carry their experience in dance into apparently unrelated fields, applying their whole educational experience to a variety of pursuits from psychology and social work to neuroscience, medicine and education; in short, wherever they wish to go.

Project design and conception

Senior independent work (DANC 0500) is tailored to each student’s educational goals and is arrived at through a proposal and advising process. The entire dance faculty considers, comments upon, and eventually approves or modifies the student’s proposal. Senior work is expected to consolidate study during the previous three years; challenge the student to develop further depth, skill, clarity and grasp in the chosen area; and demonstrate her/his readiness to pursue advanced work in this area.

The dance program does not have a predetermined format or predisposition towards a specific format for senior work. All projects include substantial research and writing, but may take many forms, based on the student’s area of interest and scholarship. Previous projects have been site-based performance pieces, a public presentation of a written research project, screenings of dance videos, and formal theatrical presentations. Interdisciplinary work across the broader college curriculum is encouraged.

A student is encouraged to begin designing and conceptualizing their independent project in their junior year, in consultation with their primary academic advisor. The academic advisor is not necessarily the project advisor, see below. Approval of a performance project is contingent upon the successful production of at least one piece in a fall or spring dance program concert. The project is typically completed during the last term of the senior year; January for Febs.


Three semesters before graduation (typically spring of the junior year), the student will:

  • Identify area of research, and formulate, broadly, the format of the project.
  • Identify the completion date, i.e. spring, winter, or fall semester.
  • Identify a primary project advisor. This should be a dance faculty member, but need not be the primary academic advisor. The faculty member must accept the request to be the project advisor.
  • Write a short description of the proposed work, if there is a public presentation involved in the project. This “blurb” will be used for publicity beginning in May of the year before project implementation.

Two semesters before graduation, the student will:

  • Draft a project proposal, based on the dance program’s project proposal form, enclosed in this document. This draft will be reviewed by the primary project advisor. A revised draft of the proposal is circulated to the entire dance faculty for review, discussion, and approval. Additional revisions may be required. For spring projects, the proposal deadline is October 1, for fall projects, the deadline is March 1.
  • Submit a projected budget as part of the proposal process. See the enclosed production handbook for additional details.
  • Identify and request a thesis committee, made up by the primary advisor, a second advisor from the dance faculty, and a third advisor from another discipline.
  • Assist the dance program with writing descriptions of the project for additional publicity.

During the last semester the student will:

  • Meet regularly with primary advisor.
  • Attend a weekly production seminar meeting, for projects with a performance component.
  • Work intensively to complete project.
  • Periodically present work in progress to dance faculty or committee.
  • Present results of research publicly. Exact format depends on the design of project, and is formulated in consultation with the committee during the proposal process.
  • Write a paper reflecting on the process and product of the project, this forms the basis for the defense meeting. See below for more details.
  • Attend a project defense, scheduled with the faculty committee at the completion of the project.

Written Work

For all but a written thesis, a reflection paper (around 10-15 pages) will be submitted to each member of your committee, dance faculty not on your committee, and the Lighting Designer/Technical Director three days in advance of your defense meeting. Keep a journal throughout to document your process including insights and changes. Your final paper should include and reflect on this process and evaluate your experience both in terms of quality and quantity of work. Be sure to address:

  • Risk and development in relation to previous work.
  • Choreographic process (evolution of project and working procedure with members of committee and dancers from audition to performance). How did final project differ from original proposal and why?
  • Organization (scheduling, showings, production aspects, publicity, tech).
  • Critical evaluation of quality of final project including lighting and costume, etc.
  • Lessons learned to be carried forward.

Other formats will require other written work, to be determined with the committee during the proposal process. All written work must conform to guidelines in the Chicago Manual of Style. Together with a DVD of your performance, this paper becomes a permanent record of your project. One copy will remain on file in the dance office for future students’ reference; one copy will be stored electronically in our program archive; and, a third will be bound and housed in Special Collections in the main library. See the program coordinator to read previous papers on file.

The Defense

At the end of each project, typically during exam week, a feedback session or defense is scheduled. All written work is completed and submitted approximately three days before this date. This discussion with the committee is an opportunity to reflect on the process and product of the project, to answer additional questions raised by the work, and to discuss how the independent project experience can inform and influence further work and study in the field of dance.

Evaluation Criteria

Students should come to the defense prepared to discuss their project in terms of the criteria for evaluation, listed below, as well as the program’s general educational goals presented above. Your project is evaluated on process as well as product.

The faculty criteria for grading your projects include:

  • Process (project proposal through production and feedback sessions)
  • Risk and development
  • Quality
  • Written evaluation and perception

Microsoft Office document iconSenior Thesis Proposal Form

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Each dance performance is a unique blend of individual energy and vision. This handbook attempts to address the needs of all dance productions in a general way, while allowing each production its own special life. These guidelines are to help facilitate a smooth process through production.


The dance program makes every effort to maximize your access of studio time. After classes and faculty needs, student concerts are given first priority. All rehearsals are scheduled through the office of the program technical director (T.D.).

  • Get daily schedules from each dancer at casting time and make a master schedule based on these. Together with the T.D. make a schedule of 1.5hour time blocks. Maintain the same times/days whenever possible. NOTE: Changes in weekly schedule should be done through the office of the T.D.
  • Type and distribute your rehearsal and tech schedules to your dancers, advisors, and T.D.
  • Plan the following dates with your project advisors and T.D.
    • Publicity Deadlines
      MCFA Event calendar: mid-May
      Fall Dance calendar: early August
      Winter/Spring Dance calendar: early December
      MCFA newsletter: beginning of semester of performance
    • Weekly production seminar
    • 1st showing: work is expected to be 50% complete
    • 2nd showing: work is to be 95% complete with costumes shown (or at the very least have simple costume colors, fabrics, and design.)
    • 3rd showing: work 100% shown in costume. It is from the video of this showing that final designs for lighting and sound are to be made. Any changes should be shared with T.D./designer before tech week.
  • Between each showing, plan feedback session with advisors, faculty and T.D.
  • Preparation for tech week: After your third showing a series of meetings are held with the designer/T.D. to discuss elements of your lighting and sound design, the cueing, color and flow of each piece, as well as the flow of the concert as a whole. Such issues as additional crew needed (provided by you) and final schedules are hammered out at this time
  • Performance week: The exact schedule will vary, but typically load-in of your production will begin on the Sunday afternoon before your opening night. You may be asked to attend Sunday evening. Make this performance week schedule known at the outset of your rehearsal period. Tech rehearsals can be planned around evening classes and seminars if T.D. is aware of conflicts.
      • Monday 6:30-10:30p.m.: 1st half of program cue to cue and run.
      • Tuesday 6:30-10:30p.m.: 2nd half of program cue-to-cue and run.
      • Wednesday: 6:30-10:30p.m.: Run-through
      • Thursday: 6:30-10:30p.m.: Dress Rehearsal/Video
      • Friday: 6:30-10:30p.m.: Opening Night
      • Saturday: 6:30-10:30p.m.: Closing Night and strike. You and all your cast members may need to assist in strike.
  • Final paper is due two weeks after your concert; a feedback session with your committee should be scheduled through your project advisor. You will be responsible for coordinating this meeting with your third advisor.


  • Begin work on costumes early! Try different ideas to get the feel of skirts vs. pants, weights of fabrics, colors, etc.
  • Get each dancer measured and arrange with the program costume assistant to search both the dance and theatre collections.
  • Arrange for fittings with the appropriate program and departmental person. Plan your pre-production time carefully to allow at least two weeks for alterations prior to performance week. Remember, you are expected to show costumes at third showing.
  • Clean and press costumes as instructed by program assistant. Take care of them during performances. Never clean costumes during performance run without permission or directions from costume assistant. (Some colors run, fabrics shrink, etc.)
  • Return all costumes personally. They should be cleaned according to the instructions of program assistant and returned to their original location no later than one week after closing.
  • All costumes purchases with Departmental funds are property of the dance program. NOTE: See Section D for Budget Information.


  • Early in your rehearsal process seek out the T.D. and Program Musical Director to arrange for your recording needs. You must have high quality, unscratched sources for sound. Order needed CDs early through the music library, or download needed tracks. Costs can be covered by your budget. See the TD to make a rehearsal CD. The musical director and T.D. will make master rehearsal and performance CDs for your concert, which will become the property of the program. Live music is considered a special effect and will be covered in the effects section of the handbook.


  • Note that additional funding may be available. Check here for information about funding opportunities.
  • Student 500, and extra-curricular productions are provided with the following services from the regular dance program budget at no charge to the project budget:
    • Standard posters (black and white, 11x17 on colored paper
    • Programs
    • Sound recordings (property of program)
    • Video recordings (property of program)
    • Lighting and sound equipment
    • Lighting design and direction
    • Sound design
    • Technical direction
    • Production Stage Management
    • Running Crew
  • Project Budget (may not be supplemented with personal funds).
    500 projects are budgeted up to $350.00
    These budgets must cover the following expenses:
    • Costumes (property of program)
    • Props (property of program)
    • Special Effects
    • Sets (property of program)
    • Publicity photos (property of program)
    • Invitations
    • Musicians' fees
    • Receptions
    • If you want a color poster, it must come out of your budget.
  • Budget requests are made in the following manner:
    • A preliminary "guess-timation" based on your general concept and made in consultation with your project advisor and the T.D. should be included on the production proposal form. This is not a firm figure, but it is to advise the program of the scope and complexity of your ideas
    • A final budget drawn up with project advisor and T.D. must be submitted and approved by the time of your second showing. You will then receive an account number and a letter of authorization from the Dance Program Director. No purchase may be made before you have an approved budget and authorization letter. All changes in budget must be approved in advance by the T.D. and project advisor. Anything bought for your concert becomes the property of the Dance Program. Important: Keep all receipts and give to Dance faculty budget administrator with a list of your expenses. Be thorough!


  • Live music with or without amplification
  • Slide or film projection
  • Video playback
  • Stationary or flying scenery
  • Mixed-live voices
  • Non-theatrical lighting fixtures
  • Whole bag of tricks and gadgets

Often you will have ideas for effects that you would like to try. These should be discussed with T.D. when you first propose your project. Often we are able to provide a whole range of effects without drawing on your budget. At times, the T.D. or designer may suggest an effect for a dance which they feel is appropriate.


  • Consider the size of the performance space as well as special effects.
  • Decide on a make-up session with dancers before run-through.
  • Dancers should be in make-up by Wednesday of Tech Week.
  • Students should bring their own make-up.


  • Depending on the nature of your concert's technical requirements, additional stage hands or prop assistants may be needed (provided by you).


  • All of your showings, dress runs and opening night performances are video recorded. A final master copy of your concert becomes part of the program's archives. You may have copies of this recording at any time. Members of your company may also request copies of your concert by providing the T.D. with a DVD. Requests for these copies should be made in writing during production week. An unedited copy will be available within 2 weeks of your closing. A fully edited copy may take up to one semester after the performance to complete.


  • Posters: See deadlines on project timetable.
    • If a non-program photo is to be included, arrange for a photographer (add one week).
    • If a drawing is to be included, arrange for an artist (add one week).
    • Gather information for posters:
      • dates
      • time
      • place
      • admission price
      • title of performance
      • sponsors of performance
      • phone number for reservations and information
      • state: Sponsored by Department of Theatre and Dance
      • names of cast members, alphabetical order, with correct graduation year
    • Proofread the posters (check all information to be sure it is correct!)
    • NOTE: Posters, programs, and invitations should be proofread and approved by your project advisor before printing.
    • Arrange for someone to drop off and pick up order at Reprographics.
    • Distribute posters, assisted by the program assistant. If you have particular places for posting, give that list to the program assistant.
  • Programs: See deadlines on project timetable.
    • Submit Word document with the following information:
      • short, edited dancer bios
      • Individual information for each piece:
      • title of dance
      • title of music/name of musician(s)
      • names of all performers (spelled correctly and in alphabetical order)
      • costume designer
      • program notes
    • Make up a "special thanks" list.
    • Proofread programs carefully!
    • Arrange for someone to drop off and pick up order at Reprographics.
  • Invitations: See deadlines on project timetable.
    • Design invitations: include the same information as on poster (approved by project advisor)
    • Make up a list of all names and box numbers/department office of all faculty and students to receive invitations.
    • Arrange to drop off and pick up order at Reprographics.
    • Address and send through campus mail.
  • Press Release: See deadlines on project timetable.
    • Write short article about the performance. Include all information on poster (date, time, place, admission price, sponsor) in first paragraph and then add any information of interest. Include your name and phone number for "contact" on top.
    • Take press release and photo to the MCFA Marketing office.
    • Send a copy of the press release to The Campus to be sure that the performance is covered.
  • Reviews: (Most papers do not review student concerts, but you can try)
    • Make up a list of local newspapers which may choose to review the performance.
    • Send an invitation to each paper with a note inviting them to review the performance (one month to two weeks ahead). Include tickets for admission, if necessary.
    • Arrange to have newspaper clippings collected of all reviews and copies made for those who want them.
  • Photos:
    • NOTE: Photo sessions are expensive. The dance program sponsors and coordinates a photo shoot each fall. This is the best way to obtain publicity photos for your work. Check dance program images first to see if there are usable shots available. If you need additional images:
      • Arrange for a photographer to come to a rehearsal or arrange a special photo session (one and a half months ahead for advertising purposes). This will be a project expense.
      • Speak with photographer in advance to inform him/her of any specific moments, locations, or lighting conditions you want photographed.
      • Arrange to have digital contact sheets sent to the Dance Office after the shoot.


  • Reserve space/supplies/personnel
  • Program funds may be used only for public receptions.

see your project timetable for specific dates


  • write publicity blurb and include with project proposal.

12-10 WEEKS AHEAD (based on 12 week semester)

  • auditions master schedule for semester turned in to T.D.
  • meetings with project advisor, T.D., Music Director
  • arrangements for space and personnel confirmed


  • meetings with collaborating artists: costumes, music, design
  • receive budget number and authorization from program director
  • photo session for poster (if necessary)


  • 1st showings: dances 50% complete
  • design meetings with T.D.
  • poster
  • order clean copies of all music


  • costumes designed/found
  • make-up
  • invitations


  • 2nd showings: dances 95% complete; all design components shown
  • press release final draft complete
  • schedule video feedback sessions with faculty
  • master sound recording


  • programs
  • reception: reserve space and notify food servers
  • stage manager and T.D. meet


  • final showings: dances and design elements 100% complete
  • make master CD
  • give tech schedule to dancers
  • schedule any final costume alterations

1 WEEK AHEAD (Tech Week)

  • arrange warm-up for dancers
  • reserve comp tickets for committee members, guests
  • photos and video

Post-performance: 1 week

  • all costumes cleaned and returned
  • all budget receipts turned in to program coordinator
  • schedule feedback session with faculty

Post-performance: 2 weeks

  • paper due with final budget accountin
  • feedback session

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Sample Project Timetable, with dates
Adriane Medina Timetable, Spring 2008


Week No.


Items Due


Feb 10-16

  • Auditions
  • Scheduling


Feb 17-23

  • Project overview


Feb 24-Mar 1

  • costume measurements
  • research board: costumes/lighting/set


March 2-8

      • music ideas
      • scenic ideas
1st showings: March 4, 4:30
    music ideas
  • scenic ideas


March 9-15

  • meet with Michael
  • press release draft due March 10


March 16-22

      • budget proposa
      • costume ideas
      • music/set choices made
2nd showings: March 20, 4:30pm
    budget proposa
  • costume ideas
  • music/set choices made


March 23-29

Spring Break


March 30-April 5

  • Poster and invitation design concepts
  • begin programs: bios, piece info, notes
  • final press release due March 31


April 6-12

  • invitations and posters due April 7
  • begin lighting concepts


April 13-19

  • final program copy due Friday April 18
  • distribute posters this week
  • revise research board
  • final lighting concepts
  • 3rd showing: April 15, 4:30 p.m.
    • music master CD complete
    • costumes complete
    • meet w/ Jenn about lighting by April 18


April 20-26

tech week


April 27-May 3

  • costumes cleaned, returned to shop


May 4-10



May 11-17

  • Defense: time TBD
    • paper
    • final budget

Program in Dance

Mahaney Center for the Arts
72 Porter Field Road
Middlebury College
Middlebury, VT 05753