Contemporary techniques, composition, body work, and creative practices.

The cornerstone of our approach, we offer technical training in a variety of related, mutually supportive Contemporary and classical dance disciplines, improvisational methodologies, conditioning and restorative body work, courses in composition, filmmaking, voice, music, film and design for dance.

Instructor in a studio sitting down in front of a row of sitting students.


Our academic courses provide context to support artistic development, and increase understanding of our own bodies, the development of the field of dance in society, and the world we live in. These classes include: Dance History, Contemporary Dance Contexts and Theories, Anatomy, Pedagogy, and Career Paths/Cultivating a Career.

Group of dancers onstage under muted lighting


In rehearsal and in production, students are immersed in the act of performance and creation. Each term and throughout the three-year program, students experience and develop nuance with a variety of choreographic processes, and will learn necessary interpretive and production skills performing in Mainstage showcases. Additionally, third year student choreographies involving the entire student body are publicly performed every February in the annual Choreographic Workshop. These projects are eligible to compete for the The Winchester Prize, a funded opportunity to further develop and present the work in the renowned SummerWorks Festival. 

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Dance Arts Institute curriculum is offered in blocks. Sample schedules show a glimpse into the daily life of Dance Arts students.
Final weekly schedules will vary. 


Contemporary 1, 2, and 3

Contemporary is defined as “happening, existing, living, or coming into being during the same period of time”. Contemporary dance is not codified. As such, students will encounter diverse approaches to Contemporary technique principles throughout the three year program, shaped by resident faculty and visiting guest teachers and artists. Contemporary technique classes focus on building up knowledge of movement principles and learning to integrate them variously. The classes provoke personal investment in movement research, and a sense of responsibility towards learning and critical analysis. Students come to understand their body’s way of functioning, and learn adaptive strategies to embody and perform the class material efficiently, with specificity, and in correspondence with one’s anatomical reality. 

Ballet 1, 2, and 3

Ballet classes emphasize a functional and clear architectural base for the body. Exercises introduce lines and the basic classical positions of the arms, legs and head, and prioritize mechanics, movement pathways, transitions and their coordination, and consider speed, musicality and differentiation of movement qualities (attack). Exercises are constructed simply to promote receptive attention, an energetic play against gravity, sensorial availability and deep physicality throughout the class. For students with extensive previous ballet training, the class provides an opportunity to divest the material of stylistic associations.

Graham 3

The Graham technique is derived from the work of American modern dance pioneer, Martha Graham. This class provides dancers with an understanding and an experience of the use of the basic movement principles of contraction/release and spiral, beginning in the body’s centre and radiating into its extremities. One of the most dramatic of modern dance techniques, the Graham movement vocabulary has tremendous power and expressive potential.

Improvisation 1, 2, and 3

Movement improvisation is an essential creative tool and critical component of choreographic composition. Teachers will approach the course through the lens of their own practice, and students will encounter a variety of different physical and intellectual improvisational prompts. Exercises focus on ways of modifying existing movement, generating new material and developing tactics to disrupt habitual movement patterns. Small group improvisations connecting external factors (space, time and others) and internal sensations are introduced so that students develop a facility with the dual and mutually informed activity of shaping and reading actions. Solo and group assignments will be given throughout the semester to contextualize learning. At its most basic level, composition is about creating contexts for one’s work.

Students will also have the opportunity to study Contact Improvisation, a technique in which dancers support and utilize each other’s body weight while in motion.

Studio Practices and Repertoire 1, 2, and 3

Each term and throughout the three-year program, students will collaborate on the creation of new works with seasoned choreographers and local up-and-coming artists. The choreographers will lead the students through a creative process that requires them to achieve specificity while generating new movement addressing a specific concept or theme. The course is practice oriented, and introduces students to studio processes, interpretation, and collaboration. The course culminates in twice-yearly mainstage performances. Additionally, the third year class is featured in their Graduating Performance, providing them an opportunity to perform in smaller groups, and to work more intensively with a choreographer.

Composition 2 and 3

Composition classes culminate in the creation and showing of original student works. Third year students make written proposals for their projects and practice documenting their process as a means of identifying creative and perceptual patterns. Peer critical analysis is given at regular intervals during the development of the work. When the work is shared or shown publicly, students are required to introduce and contextualize it in a brief oral presentation. Understanding what we are communicating to an audience is an essential step in defining an artistic path.

Voice 1

Accessing one’s voice is foundational to an empowered practice. This course is centered around the connection of movement to sound, providing students with an experiential learning of vibration, rhythm, attuning, sounding and listening. The basics of sounding are introduced and students develop an understanding of the functional anatomy of the throat, mouth, face and torso as it relates to making sounds healthfully. The course promotes subtle attunement to one’s interiority and affirms its relationship to the outside world.

Music 2

Second year students acquire and sharpen musicianship skills in order to develop a fuller appreciation of music’s relationship to dance. The main areas of focus are: the elements of music, discussions surrounding the evolution of music up to contemporary work, learning to recognize, read, and respond to different musical meters, listening and developing basic sound editing skills.

Film for Dance 1 and 2

The first year course will provide students with an introduction to the genre of Dance Film. It will explore basic principles for critical viewing and provide an introduction to creating movement-based filmmaking. A strong focus will be placed on pre-production, directing, cinematography, and online video creation, as well as exploring new Filmmaking Techniques.

The second year course expands upon the hands-on practical experience in shooting and screening short films. Dance film-making is an essential skill for both online self-promotion and for choreographers interested in interdisciplinary creation and mixed media production.

Bouffon 1, 2 and 3

Bouffon is a physical theatre style exploring elements of burlesque, commedia dell’arte, farce, and satire, and at its heart is mockery pushed to the point of parody. Performance of this work is developed through the exploration of four families: the dwarves, the big bums and bellies, the hunchbacks, and the heretic priest. The physical approach to Bouffon forces students to break through their boundaries of self-consciousness and to empower them with a sense of boldness in performance presence.

Special Workshops/Seminars/Field Trips

Workshops, masterclasses, movement clinics, and seminars are given by guest artists and thinkers. Topics can range from health and wellness, art theory, career planning, movement clinics, to artist talks. Field trips to a gallery or a studio visit with a local choreographer are also scheduled.


Dance History 1

This course provides first year students with an anti-racist overview of developments in western modern dance in the 20th century, establishing a history that recognizes the foundations and multiple knowledges that have influenced modern and Contemporary dance. Students are encouraged to look at dance in economic, social, political, and art-historical contexts. Critical thinking and research skills will be developed through readings, discussion and assignments. Classes include video examples of the work of various key choreographers.

Contemporary Dance Contexts and Theories 2

This philosophy and critical theory course provides second year students with an opportunity to investigate selected philosophical, theoretical and thematic topics which are essential to situating and understanding the Contemporary dance and performances they see and do in the greater world of social, political and ethical systems, structures and ideas. The teaching of this course emerges from the teacher’s area of research, but modules in queer and gender theory, including non-western thought.

Anatomy, Functional Analysis of the Body, and Injury Prevention 1

This course gives the dancer a practical understanding of functional anatomy, including basic musculoskeletal physiology, the nervous system, and their application to the dance artist. Classes include exploration of functional anatomy — bony landmarks, locating muscle groups, and palpation on each other in a professionally facilitated manner. Discussions and physical workshops also focus on injury prevention, rehabilitation from a dance injury, stretching, and basic taping principles.

Pedagogy 2 and 3

Second year students learn the unique skills required for teaching creative movement to young children and youth including: developing age-appropriate movement material; time-management; working with props, books, and movement maps; creating movement material to support other subjects, such as math and science; and an understanding of provincial ministry dance guidelines.

Third year students develop the skills needed to teach Contemporary dance at the beginner, elementary, and advanced levels. Included are observation and discussion of teaching ethics and strategies, sessions with senior teachers on their teaching philosophies, and sessions with an experienced dance accompanist on the use of music in teaching. Students in second year practice these skills in a local elementary school while third year students participate in practicum teaching sessions in a variety of settings.

Cultivating a Career 1 and 2/Career Paths 3

Taught by core faculty and including seminars on specialized topics, these courses focus on portfolio career development and management, and living a creative life. Content covered  includes: grant writing, artist statements, developing budgets, fundraising, social media, website design, self-marketing, contracts and contract negotiation, networking, balancing childcare, academia, creating contexts for one’s own work, and more. Students will receive access to resources including links to arts advocacy groups, support service organizations, a list of Canadian presenters, international residency networks, artist job and call boards. These resources are extended to all graduates of the program.


Mainstage and Student Performances 1, 2 and 3

Each term and throughout the three-year program, students will collaborate on the creation of new works with seasoned choreographers and local up-and-coming artists, or in remounts of existing works. Additionally, third year students have their own Graduating Performance, providing them an opportunity to perform in smaller groups, and to work more closely and intensively with a choreographer. The choreographers will lead the students through a creative process that requires them to achieve specificity while generating movement that addresses a specific concept or theme. The course is practice oriented, and introduces students to studio processes, multiple creative methodologies, collaboration and interpretation. The course culminates in public performances each term.

Third year students present their own choreographic work in the annual Choreographic Workshop.The Choreographic Workshop is a Mainstage production that is the culmination of the Composition 3 course and involves the entire student body.

Additional Performances/Exchanges/Internships

In support of students and graduates effectively entering the field, we actively seek out additional, extra-curricular performance opportunities, exchanges with other institutions, and internships. Past initiatives include exchanges with École de danse contemporaine de Montréal, performances at the Canada Dance Festival (CDF), Paul-André Fortier’s October Sky at Nuit Blanche in Toronto, Toes for Dance’s inaugural Common Ground Festival at Lee Lifeson Park (October 2021), and Kaeja d’Dance’s 31 Anniversary. Through The Winchester Prize and a collaboration with SummerWorks, selected graduates have the opportunity to present work professionally for the first time.