Creative Current 2022-2023 - Page 6

College News

Transition at its Finest : MFA in Choreography Program Celebrates 10 Years

Ten years ago , the Master of Fine Arts in choreography at Jacksonville University received its first cohort of students . Since then , the work of its graduates has graced the stages of the Kennedy Center , the Metropolitan Opera , Broadway , Radio City Music Hall – the list goes on and extends , not just across the country , but around the globe . As the program celebrates its 10th anniversary , it continues to thrive as a modern instructional prototype with mass appeal .
“ I ’ m honored to have been a part of the growth and development of this program ,” said Cari Martin-Freiberger , professor of dance and director of the Master of Fine Arts in choreography . “ I am so proud of what the program and its graduates have accomplished . It ’ s a pleasure to work with artists who are committed to sharing their talents and advancing their careers through dance .”
A two-year terminal degree program , the MFA in choreography is structured to serve artists in transition , including performers transitioning to choreographers , choreographers to professors , and dance majors to positions of increasing prominence in the dance world . From its inception , the program anticipated the inherent need of its students to move their artistic processes forward while remaining engaged in their professional pursuits . As owners of their own studios , working choreographers , and teachers in their own right , students can pursue an MFA in choreography without taking a long hiatus from their important positions and careers . This flexibility is the result of the lowresidency format of the program .
Low-residency is a hybrid approach to education that integrates distance learning with in-person instruction . As such , degree candidates are not pulled from their local communities to live on campus . Instead , they are brought together with faculty for short durations . At the time of its creation , the JU program was one of the first low-residency MFA choreography programs in the United States , and the residency portion of the program continues to be a popular component of the curriculum .
“ In every cohort , we ’ ve always had international students ,” said Department of Dance Chair Brian Palmer . “ From the Middle East to the Far East , Europe … Bringing our degree candidates together for a five-week summer residency prior to fall term allows them to broaden their view of dance and gain a more global perspective .”
For many years , this immersive experience began with a 10-day retreat to White Oak Plantation , a 7,500-acre preserve on the banks of the St . Mary ’ s River , 30 miles north of Jacksonville . The location is best-known for its conservation efforts and houses some of the world ’ s most endangered species , including elephants , rhinos and giraffes , but until recently , it was also home to the Mikhail Baryshnikov studio . Tucked away among the trees and natural beauty of the preserve , the studio was once a favorite vacation destination for Baryshnikov and is where he founded his White Oak Dance Project which toured until 2002 .
“ The White Oak residency was a special and unique way to begin each year of our program ,” Martin-Freiberger said . “ It allowed students to fully immerse themselves in the creative process while bringing them together to connect and bond before starting their online classes .”
As the program moves forward , other locations are being considered for the summer residency . The July 2022 residency will be held in San Francisco , and to encourage participation from a broader pool of candidates , the graduate faculty hopes to develop a rotation of venues that will keep the summer residency fresh , relevant and global .
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