MFA in Dance Class of 2021

Equipping the Imagination for Social Transformation

How far can we expand our imagination listening to faint voices of resistance? How do we move past the engrained relations between people and institutions?

We danced between established molds, confused ourselves along the way, and constructed propositions out of newly imagined bodies in thought. We stimulated the social imagination and shook assumptions we carried about the role of dance in society. We asked for dancing to take a central place in the conversation about how to move through the world, alone and together.

In 2021, we celebrate the members of our inaugural cohort, who have taken it upon themselves to ask “What can a body do?” concerning the socio-political challenges at hand. Answers did not come in superlatives such as more, higher, faster, sweatier. They arrived in complex, critical ways that interrogated entrenched assumptions surrounding our dance, choreography, and movement at large.

The first step is done. A new generation of artist-researchers is well prepared to make its mark. Affirming Black Lives, interrogating identities, gathering social movement, shaking established norms into an inclusive awareness, pointing to the fallacies of outmoded systems, and proposing the seeds for novel pedagogies—injecting new movement.

Of course, COVID-19 seriously affected the program and many of our plans. The impressive resilience of the students and faculty allowed creativity to prosper, even admit adversity. Working with these artists has been a time of wonder and growth, and I am grateful to have served as the inaugural director of this extraordinary graduate program.

I would like to especially acknowledge the work of my colleagues Thomas F. DeFrantz, Barbara Dickinson, Keval Kaur Khalsa, Purnima Shah, Andrea E. Woods Valdés, Ava LaVonne Vinesett, Tyler Walters, and Sarah Wilbur—as well as Dean Valerie Ashby; John Klingensmith, Senior Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at Duke’s Graduate School; Brittany Kelly, MFA co-ordinator; and the many unnamed individuals who were instrumental in establishing this unique program at Duke University.

– Michael Kliën

Director, MFA in Dance
Professor of the Practice of Dance

2021 MFA in Dance graduation brochure