Creative and Performing Arts
As unions of intellect and emotion, the creative and performing arts are highly valued at Sarah Lawrence. Equally integrated, our instruction combines theory and practice to offer students a full range of paths into each discipline. Writing and visual arts courses bring students together in workshop seminars and allow for in-depth analysis of craft and artistic direction in individual conferences. Music, dance, and theatre courses consist of three or more components (some required and some optional) to provide a balance of theory, performance, history, and specialized work.
The Sarah Lawrence College Dance program presents undergraduate students with an inclusive curriculum that exposes them to vital aspects of dance through physical, creative, and analytical practices. Students are encouraged to study broadly, widen their definitions of dance and performance, and engage in explorations of form and function.
Basic principles of functional anatomy are at the heart of the program, which offers classes in modern and postmodern contemporary styles, classical ballet, yoga, Feldenkrais: Awareness Through Movement®, and African dance. Composition, improvisation, contact improvisation, Labanotation, dance history, music for dancers, dance and camera, teaching conference, lighting design/stagecraft, and performance projects with visiting artists round out the program
Each student creates an individual program and meets with advisers to discuss overall objectives and progress. A yearlong series of coordinated component courses, including a daily physical practice, constitute a Dance Third. In addition, all students taking a Dance Third participate at least once each semester in movement training sessions to address their individual needs with regard to strength, flexibility, alignment, and coordination, as well as to set short- and long-term training goals.
A variety of performing opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students are available in both informal and formal settings. Although projects with guest choreographers are frequent, it is the students’ own creative work that is the center of their dance experience at the College. In order to support the performance aspect of the program, all students are expected to participate in the technical aspects of producing concerts.
We encourage the interplay between theatre, music, visual arts, and dance. Music Thirds and Theatre Thirds may take dance components with the permission of the appropriate faculty.
In the interest of protecting the well-being of our students, the Dance program reserves the right, at our discretion, to require any student to be evaluated by Health Services.
Prospective and admitted students are welcome to observe classes.
The Music program is structured to integrate theory and practice. Students select a combination of component courses that together constitute one full course, called a Music Third. A minimal Music Third includes four components:
- Individual instruction (instrumental performance, composition, or voice), the central area of study around which the rest of the program is planned;
- Theory and/or history (see requirements below);
- A performance ensemble (see area requirements below);
- Concert attendance/Music Tuesdays (see requirement below).
The student, in consultation with the faculty, plans the Music program best-suited to his or her needs and interests. Advanced students may, with faculty consent, elect to take two-thirds of their course study in music.
The Sarah Lawrence College Theatre program embraces the collaborative nature of theatre. Our objective is to create theatre artists who are skilled in many disciplines: actors who write; directors who act; theatre makers who create their own projects; and sound, set, and lighting designers who are well-versed in new media and puppetry. Students have the advantage of choosing from a multidisciplinary curriculum taught by working theatre professionals that also draws on the resources of the College’s Theatre, Music, and Dance programs. At the heart of this curriculum are focused programs in acting, directing, playwriting, and design, with supplementary offerings in production and technical work.
Theatre students are encouraged to cross disciplines as they investigate all areas of theatre. The faculty is committed to active theatre training—students learn by doing—and have put together a vocabulary that stresses relationships among classical, modern, and original texts. The program uses a variety of approaches to build technique, while nurturing individual artistic directions.
The Theatre program examines not just contemporary American performance but also diverse cultural influences and the major historical periods that precede our own. Courses include Alexander Technique, acting, comedic and dramatic improvisation, creation of original work, design, directing, movement, musical theatre, playwriting, puppetry, speech, solo performance, voice, and the art of bringing theatre into the local community.
Beginning students are required to enroll in a Theatre Techniques program, supplemented by at least one component of their own choice. Continuing students create an individualized Theatre Third with the guidance of their don and the theatre faculty. Components are chosen to extend skills and interests and to develop performing and practical experience. There are open auditions for faculty-, student-, and guest-directed productions; there is a proposal system for student-directed, -written, and -devised work within the season production schedule.
The theatre faculty is committed to the philosophy that students learn by doing. Classes provide a rigorous intellectual and practical framework, and students are continually engaged in the process of making theatre. The program helps students build a solid technique based on established methodologies, while also being encouraged to discover and develop their individual artistic selves.
Wide-ranging opportunities are available for students to learn by doing. Students may participate in internships or fieldwork in New York City theatres and theatre organizations. The College’s Theatre Outreach program is a training program that uses music, writing, theatre techniques, and the visual arts to address social and community issues. The outreach course has been a vibrant component in the curriculum for more than two decades, encouraging the development of original material with a special emphasis on cross-cultural experiences. Many theatre components include an open-class showing or performance. In addition, there are multiple performance and production opportunities in acting, singing, dance, design, directing, ensemble creation, playwriting, and technical work that are available to students throughout the academic year.
The College’s performance venues include productions and readings sponsored by the department in the Suzanne Werner Wright Theatre, a modified thrust stage, and the Frances Ann Cannon Workshop Theatre, as well as student-produced work in the student-run black-box DownStage Theatre. Workshops, readings, and productions are also mounted in the black-box Open Space Theatre and in various performance spaces throughout the campus.
Students enrolled in a visual arts course at Sarah Lawrence College work in a new environment created to support the College’s unique arts pedagogy: a philosophy of teaching that not only encourages an individual investigation into the nature of the creative process but also provides a setting to foster the exchange of ideas across artistic disciplines.
While courses are taught in the traditional seminar/conference format, the Monika A. and Charles A. Heimbold, Jr. Visual Arts Center is specifically designed to break down barriers among visual-arts media. It features ateliers that give each student an individual work area for the year—while its open classrooms and movable walls encourage students to see and experience the work of their peers in painting, sculpture, photography, filmmaking, printmaking, drawing, visual fundamentals, and digital imagery. Students may enhance their work in a chosen discipline by enrolling in a workshop—a mini-course—selected from 10 offerings annually. In some visual arts courses, a particular workshop will be required. This recently developed program expands students’ technical skills and enables them to utilize different media in the development of their work. Workshops are open to students of any visual arts medium, promoting even more interaction and understanding across disciplinary boundaries and furthering the College’s overall emphasis on interdisciplinary work
The Heimbold Center, a high-performance “green” building, embodies an environmentally friendly approach that features safe alternatives to toxic materials, special venting systems, and an abundance of natural light. In addition to well-equipped, open-space studios, individual ateliers, and digital technology in every studio and classroom, the building also includes space for welding, woodworking, clay and mold-making; a common darkroom, a digital imaging lab, and critique rooms; a sound studio, a screening room, and a large exhibition area. The Center’s doors open onto a mini-quad, allowing students from throughout the College both access to and inspiration from their peers’ works-in-progress.
The Visual Arts curriculum is reflected in—but not confined to—the Heimbold Center’s visual arts facilities. The building also houses courses in visual culture, increasing the integration of the creative arts and the humanities. The College’s proximity to New York City brings recognized artists to campus to lecture and also gives the students the opportunity to visit hundreds of galleries and some of the world’s major museums.
Faculty members are working artists who believe in the intrinsic value—for all students—of creative work in the visual arts, the inseparable connection of the creative arts and the liberal arts, and the necessity of art in life. All visual arts faculty and their students have access to technicians, based in the Heimbold Center, who can provide technical support in most areas.
In 2013-14, various workshops in the visual arts disciplines will be offered that serve to broaden students’ vocabulary and technical skills. In the past, workshops in Metalworking, Letterpress, Web Design, Drawing, Water Color, Woodworking, Artist Books, Final Cut, Sculpture Methods, and Photoshop have been offered.
In Sarah Lawrence College’s nationally recognized Writing program, students work in close collaboration with faculty members who are active, successful writers. The program focuses on the art and craft of writing. Courses in poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction are offered.
In workshops, students practice their writing and critique each other’s work. The program encourages students to explore an array of distinctive perspectives and techniques that will extend their own writing ability—whatever their preferred genre. Conferences provide students with close, continual mentoring and guidance and with opportunities to encounter personally their teachers’ professional experiences. Teachers critique their students’ writing and select readings specifically to augment or challenge each student’s work. In conferences, student and teacher chart a course of study that best allows individual students to pursue subjects and issues that interest them, to develop their own voice, to hone their techniques, and to grow more sophisticated as readers and critics.
The College offers a vibrant community of writers and probably the largest writing faculty available to undergraduates anywhere in the country. Visits from guest writers who give public readings and lectures are an important component of the curriculum throughout the year.
Sarah Lawrence College also takes full advantage of its proximity to the New York City literary scene, with its readings, literary agencies, publishing houses, and bookstores—as well as its wealth of arts and culture. The city provides fertile ground for internships in which students can use their writing training in educational programs, schools, publishing houses, small presses, journal productions, magazines, and nonprofit arts agencies.