Dance Cultures MA

Build on academic qualifications and professional experience in the fields of dance, choreography and performance studies.

Why Surrey?

The MA Dance Cultures programme provides a critical framework through which to build on academic qualifications and professional experience in the fields of dance, choreography and performance studies. It will extend your knowledge and understanding of dance to national and international developments in the field of the arts.

Programme overview

Dance at Surrey has a leading reputation stemming from expertise in dance research and professional practice. The degree therefore provides students from diverse backgrounds with exciting opportunities to discuss and share ideas with both artists and scholars. With access to key archival, studio and theatre resources, the relationship between the theoretical and the practical enables Surrey students to build further on individual dance knowledge, theoretical enquiry and artistic interests.

The professional development of the dance graduate is another key to advancing an understanding of arts and cultural leadership and we provide individual internships at arts organisations, supported by visits from tutors. The School provides exciting opportunities to collaborate with students from other disciplines; for example, Theatre, Film or Music students often come together to collaborate on creating interdisciplinary work.

There are also opportunities to engage with PhD students across the various disciplines in the School of Arts, through regular research seminars, bi-yearly research weeks and postgraduate conferences that include papers and workshops, as well as practice-led research presentations.

Module Overview

You will study three compulsory modules, select one to two optional modules and, for a master’s qualification, research and submit a dissertation (purely written or including a practical component).

Module Descriptions

Performing Theories

This compulsory module explores the roles, positions and functions of authorial voices, texts and readers as employed in writing and dancing, choreography and performance-making. It investigates concepts and practices in creative work, such as translation, reconstruction and reinvention, and engages critically with circular interchanges between practice and theory deployed by artists, practitioners and scholars.

Politicising Practice

This compulsory module offers critical frameworks through which to consider the interplay of politics, cultures, industries and histories in twenty-first-century performing arts production and practices. It also seeks to develop a complex understanding of theoretical models that investigate the construction of the body, and social frameworks as a strategy to think through contemporary performance practice.

Theories of Embodiment

What kinds of bodies do we see on stage? How are our bodies trained, controlled and modified? How are bodies shaped and influenced by the social context in which they exist? In addressing such questions through philosophy, cultural studies, sociology, anthropology, history and biology, this module examines different constructions of the body, including the social body, the commodified body, the technological/cyber body, the biological body, the disciplined body and the phenomenological body. It explores a range of disciplinary frameworks to interrogate the idea of embodiment, and to examine how body constructs can be critiqued and how theoretical modes of enquiry relate to movement practices.

Culture, Power and Difference

This optional module examines a range of dance practices that have been represented as ‘cultural’ forms, situating their ‘cultural’ identity in relation to colonialism, nationalism and to global political and economic forces, as well as in relation to their historical context. Artistic practices and discourses will be investigated in relation to selected aspects of technological, social and cultural development in global dance, theatre and performance culture.

Choreographing Writing

This module explores the relationship between dance and text, dance as text, and textual representations of dance. Through a variety of readings that span through such fields as literature, feminism, phenomenology, gender and semiotics, as well as critical dance reviews, we will be examining the methods and strategies for translating choreographed action into descriptions of movement, dance and/or the event. Each week we will watch a different type of dance (for example, stage dance, dance for camera, site-specific performance, popular dance) and think about ways in which the genre might affect how to critically assess and write about it. We will practise writing as a form of choreography.

Professional Internship

This optional module allows students to participate in a professional internship in an established arts organisation of their choice, supported by a mentoring and peer-observation scheme. The scheme gives students the opportunity to engage in developing skills, processes and ideas that relate to their own field of work. It will feed into your professional career development, allowing you at the same time to discover and reflect upon how industries and practitioners operate within a contemporary context.

Teaching and assessment

In Semester 1 you are required to study two compulsory modules, alongside Research Methodologies that prepares you for your dissertation. These are modules which address the relationship between practice and theory in making performance work with reference to current debates and which provide a theoretical and methodological foundation for postgraduate study, focusing on twenty-first-century performing arts production and practices.

Building on work from Semester 1, Semester 2 offers another set of compulsory modules which enable you to further develop areas of interest using theoretical and/or practical methods of enquiry. During the summer, you will focus on your dissertation project, which may include a practical component, on an approved subject of your choice. Each student is assigned a tutor who guides them through one-to-one tutorials, and advises on the process of writing the dissertation, or on developing practical work if it is a practice-based research project.

In addition to the taught programme, a range of extra-curricular opportunities is available to students during their period of study. The School holds regular research seminars with guest speakers and bi-yearly research weeks where PhD students present their work. In addition, Dance & Theatre at Surrey runs a range of activities, such as the ‘Composer and Choreographer Weekends’ in collaboration with Music and Sound Recording, and regularly programmes a series of arts events on campus in which MA students are often involved, such as Performance Philosophy seminars featuring key practitioners and academics in the field.

MA students may also audit undergraduate modules, such as dance technique classes if they are keen to develop their dance training, or theoretical modules, to build up their intellectual apparatus.

The MA Dance Cultures is currently delivered primarily across two days of the week and part-time students attend on one of these days according to the module choices they make. Typically, a 30-credit module will comprise of ten 3-hour taught sessions and a 15-credit module of ten 1.5-hour taught sessions, plus extra time for personal tutorials and feedback sessions.

The teaching delivery of the programme varies according to the modules and includes seminars, lectures, practical workshops, independent study, visits and tutorials. Assessment methods are likewise dependent on the learning outcomes of a module and include performances, studio sharings, essays and presentations. Formative assessments are built into the compulsory modules in order that the students may be given effective individual feedback at an early stage.

Dissertation supervisors are allocated with great care and every effort is made to match student interest with staff expertise. Part-practical dissertations are welcomed and members of staff have extensive experience in guiding students through such projects.


The University Library contains the majority of set texts, key journals and conference proceedings in dance and performance studies scholarship for the programme. The MA Dance Cultures is also supported by the National Resource Centre for Dance, which is located on the University campus. Students have access to extensive facilities through IT Services, and additional support is available in the Learning Resource Centre in the University Library.

An office equipped with computers has been designated in the Nodus building for postgraduate students. The Nodus building, which is the home of Dance in the School of Arts, has a seminar room, the Seedpod, which is used for teaching. It provides a well-equipped, comfortable and welcoming space amongst the staff offices which is particularly suited for teaching MA students. Modules that rely in part or entirely on practice-based learning require specialist studio provision.

The studios in the Ivy Arts Centre, the PATS studio and the AC studio are dedicated dance spaces for the sole use of the School of Arts. In addition, new Guildford School of Acting facilities provide enhanced studio space.

Each student is assigned a personal tutor who provides academic guidance and pastoral support throughout the period of study. In addition, the University provides a range of student support services. These include a Medical Centre, Counselling Centre, International Office, Student Advice and Information Service, various library support services, Additional Learning Support and English language tuition.

Industry Links

Dance at Surrey has a long-established tradition of placing students in industry through its undergraduate programme. At undergraduate level we offer a professional internship programme that draws upon over 60 partners in the creative industries at internationally recognised companies and performing arts institutions. These include Sadler’s Wells, The Place, Independent Dance, Siobhan Davies Studios, South East Dance, Greenwich Dance Agency, Green Candle Dance, Dance4, Woking Dance Festival, and a range of smaller dance organisations and galleries in London.


The University awards two academic prizes:

  • The Janet Lansdale Prize awarded annually for the most outstanding MA dissertation
  • The Pauline Hodgens Prize awarded biennially for the most outstanding piece of coursework on dance analysis

Outstanding International Reputation

Dance at the University of Surrey has an outstanding international reputation for its contribution to dance research and teaching, which includes experience in practice-as-research and projects in collaboration with professional partners in the arts industry. As the first institution in the country to offer academic programmes in dance studies, Surrey has led the way for dance in higher education and is now in the great position of bringing many arts disciplines together under the new School of Arts. Strengths of the postgraduate programme at Surrey include:

  • A highly qualified academic staff including scholars and artists respected professionally at national and international levels.
  • A friendly and supportive working atmosphere, with good studio, rehearsal and teaching facilities, as well as a studio-theatre and a new theatre in the Ivy Arts Centre.
  • A wide range of high-quality performing opportunities, including high-profile shows at the Ivy Arts Centre, site-specific work and projects with visiting professional artists.
  • A professional internship programme with over 60 partners in the creative industries at internationally recognised companies and performing arts institutions.
  • Excellent employment prospects in education, the community, theatre and industry.
  • The University is less than 40 minutes by train from the international artistic scene of London, providing innumerable opportunities to see the latest dance, film and theatre work from Britain and overseas and to meet other dance practitioners, scholars, choreographers and dancers.
  • The National Resource Centre for Dance holds a unique archive of dance-related materials in the main University Library.
  • Optimum Fitness provides inexpensive sports therapy activity on campus.


Surrey’s approach to performing arts research critically engages with the archives of the past and the embodied practices of the present. It also rigorously articulates new frameworks for understanding interactions between dance, culture and the international professional arts field of the twenty-first century.

The interdisciplinary approach of the new School of Arts is sustained by innovative approaches to documentation, analysis and performance in a global context. Surrey has led the field in the development of choreographic practice and analysis, interdisciplinary performance-making, cross-cultural dance and popular dance research.

A number of themes and research clusters offer critical, historical and cultural scope to the current research agenda across the School of Arts. These include:

Archiving and Documentation

  • Performing the Archive
  • Archiving Performance
  • Human Motion Capture
  • Video Documentation

Creative Practices for Contemporary Performance

  • Composition, Devising and Improvisation
  • Adaptation and Reconstruction
  • Performances of the Popular

Artistic Production, Perception and Pleasure

  • Phenomenology and Temporality
  • Spectator Engagement
  • The Aesthetic

The School of Arts hosts and supports research centres, research groupings and networks, as well as individual research projects. Our research extends to partnerships with the artistic community; for example, in support of public debates or in the dissemination of arts practice through the digital and print media.

Ideas, Practices, Professions

We believe that a master’s programme should introduce the most exciting ideas and practices of the moment.

The MA Dance Cultures programme welcomes students from around the world and enables them to speak back to that world: through practices and ideas, through their professions and lives.

Dance at Surrey is closely related to Theatre, Film and Music. We invite you to find your own way through these intersecting disciplines and follow your own path.

We welcome applications from those who wish to develop existing or emerging careers, reflect on ideas and practices, and respond creatively to the contemporary professional world.

Related programmes

Postgraduate (Taught)

Professional development

Related departments/schools

Related research areas

Programme director

Dr Shantel Ehrenberg

Find out more

General Enquiries:

+44 (0)1483 681 681

Admissions Enquiries:


Programme facts

Type of programme:


Programme length:

  • Full-time: 12 months
  • Part-time: 24 months

Start date:

Sep 2015

Entry Requirements

Prospective students are normally required to hold a first or 2.1 honours degree at Bachelors level or equivalent in the fields of dance, choreography, cultural studies, performance studies or a related field. Non-graduates are accepted if qualifications and experience are equivalent to a degree. Applicants will be required to support their application with a sample of their work.

English language requirements

IELTS minimum overall: 6.5

IELTS minimum by component: 6.0

We offer intensive English language pre-sessional courses, designed to take you to the level of English ability and skill required for your studies here.


Study mode Start date UK/EU fees Overseas fees
Full-time Sep 2015 £7,000 £13,700
Part-time Sep 2015 £3,500 £6,900

Please note these fees are for the academic year 2015/16 only. All fees are subject to annual review.

A complete list of all fees for our Masters Programmes


Discounts for Surrey graduates

Thinking of continuing your education at Surrey? As an alumni of Surrey you could be eligible for a 10% discount on our Taught Masters programme fees.

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