Overview and Learning Goals


The Department of Theater and Dance offers a major in theater and dance that integrates studio technique, history and theory, and original creative work within the performance and study of theater and dance.

Students may major in theater and dance with a concentration in either theater, dance, or interdisciplinary performance. Students may also choose to minor in theater or dance.

The theater concentration at Bowdoin combines practice and theory to develop students’ skills as innovative theater artists and thinkers. Students explore theatrical performance through critical study, collaborative productions, and the development of independent study projects. The curriculum includes studio-based courses in production (e.g., acting, directing, design, and playwriting), as well as courses focused on performance history, theory, and criticism.

The dance concentration provides a coherent course of study through a range of classes in dance technique and repertory, choreography, improvisation, and critical dance studies, among others. It offers multiple levels of technique in modern dance—a term designating a wide spectrum of styles that focus on an inventive, unrestricted approach to movement. Other dance techniques and styles (e.g., hip-hop, Afro-modern, jazz) are also offered periodically.

The interdisciplinary performance concentration allows students to take courses in both theater and dance to create an individualized curriculum across these disciplines. Students work closely with an advisor to determine a coherent course of study and appropriate electives as needed.

Learning Goals

At Bowdoin College, our approach to the study and practice of theater and dance is informed by two key ideas that articulate our goals as an engaged and creative performing arts community.

"The purpose of art is to impart the sensation of things as they are perceived and not as they are known... Art is a way of experiencing the artfulness of an object; the object is not important." ~Viktor Shklovsky, Art as Technique

"If you know a thing theoretically, but you don’t know it practically, then you don’t really know its whole theory; if you know a thing practically, but don’t know it theoretically, then you don’t really know its whole practice." ~C.E. Montague, A Writer’s Notes on His Trade 

Following Shklovsky's idea that art—most especially the performing arts—enables new perspectives and Montague's observation that to understand anything one must wrestle with both theory and practice, the department seeks to engage students who not only want to create for the stage, but also to use performance to explore and transform the world around them. The Department of Theater and Dance thus aims to empower and challenge students within an environment that fosters rigorous thinking, imaginative exploration, and the development of performing artists and thinkers who will shape performance in the twenty-first century. Although they will engage the field of theater, dance, and performance studies in different ways, all students in theater and dance will:

1. Develop embodied presence in creative thought, critical writing, engaged debate, and performance practice.

2. Identify and articulate a personal creative process that informs a liberal arts education.

3. Explore and refine performance tools and techniques in order to develop as artists and scholars.

4. Analyze, evaluate, and embody texts and movement practices across cultures, examining the power and effect of performance.

5. Develop a commitment to better engage the imagination in service of a just and equitable future.

6. Learn and practice effective collaboration.

7.  Practice courage, stamina, and perseverance through the processes of revision, rehearsal, and critique. 

Options for Majoring or Minoring in the Department

Students may elect to major in theater and dance or the English and theater interdisciplinary major or to coordinate a major in theater and dance with digital and computational studies, education, or environmental studies. Students pursuing interdisciplinary or coordinate majors may not normally elect a second major. Non-majors may elect to minor in dance or theater. English and theater interdisciplinary majors may elect to minor in dance, but not theater. 

Department Website

This is an excerpt from the official Bowdoin College Catalogue and Academic Handbook. View the Catalogue