For a short time , the global footprint of the program included a second location in Puerto Rico which served all of Latin America . In 2017 studios and classes were offered in San Juan which served as the summer residency site for the region .
“ With the move to Latin America , we really embraced the international dimensions of dance ,” said Christina Teague-Mann , assistant professor of dance and coordinator of international initiatives for the Linda Berry Stein College of Fine Arts & Humanities in which the MFA in choreography is housed . “ Our program was the first graduate-level degree in dance in Puerto Rico and the first low-residency MFA in Latin America . As we ’ ve broadened our footprint it ’ s been wonderful to share and incorporate different influences . Today we are truly a global program that honors the nuances of local cultures and geographies .”
Just like its students , the MFA in choreography has also been in transition over the last decade , evolving from regional to national to international prominence , and through the years , it has weathered a few storms , literally and figuratively . On Sept . 20 , 2017 , Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico as a strong category 4 storm with sustained winds of 155 mph . As a result , the Puerto Rico location was closed , and the 2018 summer residency that would have been held there combined with the residency at White Oak , bringing 34 artists and researchers together .
More recently , as the pandemic brought a screeching halt to many international endeavors in higher education , the MFA in choreography was able to continue throughout 2020 , due in large part , to the flexibility its low-residency format allows .
“ Response to COVID-19 created a focus on expanding the scope of choreography for sustainability and brought forward new understandings that were centered on the question : ‘ how do choreographers fit into the landscape of creative research for innovation and change ?’ said Teague-Mann . Specifically , faculty evaluated the pedagogical approach for the Examining Practice courses – core courses for the MFA Choreograph – to establish a solid foundation for the expanded conceptualization of choreography .
“ Attention to this expansion did not negate the students ' previous knowledge of choreography . Rather , it allowed the student ’ s previous knowledge to shift , taking critical perspectives into the choreographic movement – choreography as extended practice ,” explained Teague-Mann . “ In this way the body is subject , tool and material and converges with relational practices , aesthetics and participatory aesthetics to help structure ways in which choreography may enter into interdisciplinary dialogues .”
While the last few years have held challenges , growth and many successes , the MFA in choreography has steadily continued the work of advancing the careers and aspirations of its degree candidates . From the world ’ s biggest stages , to classrooms , to studios and businesses , they have taken what they have learned at Jacksonville University , and they have shared their transitions as performers , choreographers , researchers and any other roles to which they ’ ve ascended . They are the butterflies , and for a short time , the MFA in choreography was their encouraging , inspiring and creative cocoon .
“ It ’ s fascinating for me to go to conferences and to see our alumni being leaders in the field ,” Palmer said . “ To hear them say with pride that they came from our program shows that we ’ ve offered a degree that has prepared them for their futures , and I love that . ”
By Jacqueline Palsha
www . ju . edu / steincollege 7