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MFA in Dance Class of 2023

Published By Duke Arts / published on: May 2, 2023

Join us in celebrating the third cohort to earn Duke’s one-of-a-kind terminal graduate degree in dance practice! The Duke M.F.A. in Dance: Embodied Interdisciplinary Praxis (MFAEIP) supports artists whose creative research connects movement-based knowledge to critical discourses within and beyond the arts.

Artists move through our program with considerable self-direction, but complete significant graduate-level coursework outside of dance per our curricular design. The four artists that we celebrate this year have pursued bold creative projects, each of which reinforces Duke’s commitment to amplifying how artists make dance work across cultures, communities and contexts.

Artists Work Everywhere

This spring, Duke will award terminal degrees in dance practice and performance (M.F.A.) to Brooks Emanuel (he/they), Marika Niko (she/they), Leo Ryan (they/them) and Zhixhuan “Miki” Zhu (she/her). Each of these artists developed movement-based thesis works that explored the political, spiritual and social possibilities that dance enables. Despite their diverse movement lineages and research interests, Miki, Leo, Marika and Brooks truly meshed as a cohort, united through a shared investment in movement experiments that derive value from ritualized repetition. The creative contributions of the MFAEIP class of 2023 reflect the dynamism of its four-member cohort. In singular and exemplary ways, their research evidences:

  • the power of dance to inspire social somatic reflection among racial justice organizers and to heal from stresses and strains of justice work (Emanuel)
  • the potential of performance to amplify awareness of queertrans labor, beauty and endurance (Ryan)
  • the possibility of choreography as a practice of un-learning and re-wilding social interactions to resist oppressive norms (Niko)
  • the primacy of ritualized movement as a method of connecting emotion and sensation to spirituality amidst all manner of institutional constraints (Zhu)

In addition to close mentorship from Duke Dance faculty, Miki, Leo, Marika and Brooks engaged in expanded conversations with tertiary faculty advisors from Sanford Law; Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies; Art, Art History, and Visual Studies; and Cinematic Arts. This expanded interdisciplinary research community makes the Duke Dance MFAEIP uniquely positioned to support artists’ diverse cultural lineages and the abundant communities and contexts in which they work.

On behalf of the Duke Dance faculty and staff, we congratulate you on these major accomplishments. We can’t wait to witness what comes next. Well done!

—Sarah Wilbur

Director of Graduate Studies, MFA in Dance: Embodied Interdisciplinary Praxis
Associate Professor of the Practice in Dance
Duke University Dance Program

Brooks Emanuel dancing
Dancer performing Meshroom
Leo Ryan performing