Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts in Dance (MFA)




Maura Keefe

Graduate Program Director

Mariah Maloney


Mapping: The Relationships Between Concert and Commercial Dance investigates the dichotomy of concert and commercial dance performance in the 21st century. Commonly set as polar opposites along a vertical hierarchy of value, I instead propose a horizontal spectrum based solely on context. I argue that context, the who, what, where, when, why, and sometimes how of dance making is what not only frames a particular work, but determines how the audience will then make meaning from what they see on stage. While both ends of the continuum have the potential to perpetuate stereotypes and accepted norms, I investigate the choreographic process itself to determine how those expectations either fulfill or challenge the work in fruition. I begin by defining concert and commercial dance as distinct forms of performance, intentionally setting them as absolutes as a way of illustrating the accepted hierarchy from high to low. I then deconstruct the notion of context by elaborating on each fundamental element as an equal contributor to the overall performance. Using examples from The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Twyla Tharp, Mia Michaels, and Rennie Harris as support, I demonstrate how acclaimed artists today have already began exploring this continuum on both stages of concert and commercial dance alike. I conclude with a description of two projects that I have worked on as a way of exploring dance performance through the lens of context. I first discuss Mapping, the physical embodiment of the preceding research, followed by a description of Brockport Breaks the Chain, a community-based dance project.

Included in

Dance Commons