Fine Arts Community Courses

Saint Mary’s College forges a meaningful connection between the greater arts community and the SMC dance and creative writing communities through open enrollment courses. Enroll now.

MFA in Creative Writing Courses:

Writer in the World (English 401 and 402) Practical Perspectives on Writing (1.5 units each) 

Students sharing work with community partner

Wednesday's, 2-3:30pm, SMC Campus

This course offers access to the Creative Writing Reading Series, Afternoon Conversation Series, as well as access to several professional writers, editors and agents that visit and meet with MFA students. In the course, students cover topics ranging from publishing to the many diverse pathways open to the professional writer.


MFA in Dance Courses:

Bonnie and Rosana Headshots  

Perfa 377 Somatic Movement Studies with Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen and Rosana Barragan (1 unit)

March 14 & 15, 10am-4:30pm, SMC Campus

Formalized study of Body Mind Centering taught in a one-weekend workshop on campus with Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen and Professor Rosana Barragan. Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen is a movement artist, researcher, educator and therapist and the developer of the Body-Mind Centering® approach to movement and consciousness. An innovator and leader, her work has influenced the fields of bodywork, movement, dance, yoga, body psychotherapy, childhood education and many other body-mind disciplines. This course will focus on glands and fluids from the Body-Mind Centering perspective and focusing on aspects of embryology.


Perfa 381 Dance and Performance Studies (3 units)

Fridays, 3:15-5:15pm, Course is delivered 100% online and participants from anywhere in the world can register

Close up of a pair of point shoesDance and Performance Studies is a seminar course that focuses on key issues in the theory of performance. The course is a multidisciplinary approach, blending the strengths of anthropology, sociology, theatre studies, literary criticism, philosophy, history, and the arts. Performance practice will be analyzed across this variety of disciplines in relationship to dance. Students will apply different approaches and contemporary methodologies for analyzing performances within their social, cultural, and historical contexts, developing a framework that captures the experience of corporeality. Course is completely online.



Perfa 310 Lighting Design I:  Lighting design methodology (3 units) Dancer practicing in mirror

Lighting Design I is an in-depth look at the lighting design process for dance. Students will develop an understanding on how to utilize technology, tools, and skills inherent to the lighting design process as well as develop a vocabulary to communicate with production crews and artists. Students will ultimately bring forth a design that emphasizes the ideas and impulses of the choreography and illuminates the movement––thereby enhancing the full realization of the project.


Perfa 375 Dance Technique (1 unit)

Advanced training in a dance form such as Somatics-based Ballet, Gaga, Flamenco, various approaches to contemporary dance, African dance and other non-Western forms.


Perfa 377 Somatic Movement Studies (1 unit)  

Formalized study of Body Mind Centering, Laban Movement Analysis, Bartenieff Fundamentals, Dynamic Embodiment, and other systems approved by International Somatic Movement Education and Therapy Association (ISMETA).

Dancer spinning in studioPerfa 384 Somatic Movement Seminar (3 units)

This course is a combination of lecture, seminar discussion, and embodied practice. The course will define somatic education, present its historical antecedents, discuss its theory and correlation to choreographic processes and offer different modalities of somatic movement education and therapy.A strong emphasis is placed on Dynamic Embodiment (unique blend of Body-Mind Centering®, Bartenieff Fundamentals and Laban Movement Analysis) in connection to other somatic movement disciplines such as Alexander, Feldenkrais, Continuum.The Somatic Movement Seminar is an essential course in the MFA in Dance curriculum, adding significantly to what other areas of the program such as phenomenology, critical dance pedagogy, dance and social justice, and the somatic movement practice courses focus on.


Perfa 391 Choreography IV with Shaunna Vella (3 units)

Photo of Shaunna Vella dancing outside near tree

Each choreography course is designed to enhance the skills and experiences of the individual student. Choreography is at the core of what defines the Creative Practice MFA in Dance program with a goal for students to shape their own artistic identity based on being a practitioner who is critically aware of the reciprocity of theory and practice, i.e., the social, cultural, aesthetic and political contexts in which their performance practice is located.During the course of the two-year program, the students have ample opportunity to inquire about artistic practices and simultaneously explore the body, movement, and choreography with the stimulation of peers and faculty guidance at their side. Students will also be granted the opportunity for public showings of their work in both formal and informal contexts.





Elizabeth Randall dancingPerfa 386 Laban and Bartenieff Movement Studies with Elizebeth Randall Rains (3 units)

Laban Movement Analysis (LMA) is a comprehensive system that examines the fundamental elements in patterns of human movement, providing a language for movement description and inquiry. The system is divided into four parts: Body, Effort, Shape, and Space (BESS). The study of LMA, including the physical study of the Bartenieff Fundamentals exercises, provides a connective framework for how we as embodied beings create and communicate knowledge. This course will provide an examination of the theory and vocabulary within the 4 categories after having taken the introductory and practical 2 unit BESS course. Through lectures, readings, class discussions, group projects/presentations, written assignments, and a final project, students will be immersed in the perspective on human movement that the LMA system provides.



Perfa 342 Producing I: Structures with Rebecca Johnson (3 units)

Producing I examines the philosophy, principles, and practical applications of producing dance. Students will explore all aspects of getting a project into the public eye: direct mail, advertising, press and publicity, while considering larger issues such as audience development.  The practical concerns of funding dance, i.e., grant writing, development strategies, and fundraising will be explored. Other topics include: intellectual property issues, artist’s relationships, contracts, and public relations. Students will hone their research, writing and presentation skills to become prepared for seeking funding for their projects.