Oct 31, 2020  
2019-2020 Academic Catalog 
2019-2020 Academic Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Performing Arts: Dance, Music, and Theatre

The Performing Arts Department offers a unique approach to the study of dance, music and theatre within a Liberal Arts context. Students receive conservatory-calibre training that prepares them for graduate studies or a career in the performing arts, while developing the critical thinking and communication skills that are the hallmark of a liberally educated person. All majors take a sequence of courses in their chosen discipline-emphasizing performance practice, history and theory, criticism and analysis in either music, dance or theatre. Performing Arts students are also encouraged to explore interdisciplinary pathways, through classes and performance opportunities beyond their home program.

The Performing Arts Department offers five separate majors:

  • Dance: Choreography and Performance
  • Dance Studies
  • Music
  • Theatre: Performance and Theatre Studies
  • Theatre: Design and Technical Theatre

The Performing Arts Department builds creative artists with strong foundational skills and adventuresome spirits. A team-taught core course cultivates thoughtful perception of the arts and introduces the distinctive languages of each medium. Rigorous studio and lab courses build technique, while classes in history, theory and analysis foster critical engagement with the substance and styles of dance, music and theatre. Students learn to discuss and analyze both classic and contemporary works, and to understand the arts in the context of the history of great ideas and artistic achievements that have shaped our world.

The capstone of the Performing Arts degree is the senior project, for which students produce a substantial original research paper or creative work demonstrating their command of artistic and intellectual skills appropriate to the undertaking.

Performing Arts’ signature values include:

  • Mentoring by faculty members who are both outstanding teachers and accomplished artists.
  • Frequent attendance at world-class dance, music, and theatre performances around the Bay Area.
  • Multiple and varied performance opportunities, beginning with the first year.
  • Challenging standards that help students achieve artistic excellence and professionalism.
  • Master classes, guest lectures and informal contact with professional artists, connecting classroom learning with the real world.
  • A welcoming and inclusive student cohort experience, in which students of all levels are supported and encouraged in their individual development.
  • Stimulating creative collaborations and intellectual exchange between programs.


Dana Lawton, MFA, Professor, Dance, Chair (Dance Technique, Choreography, Dance Appreciation, Dance Pedagogy, Yoga)
Rosana Barragán, MFA, Associate Professor, (Phenomenology, Choreography, Somatic Movement, Yoga, Dance Technique)
CatherineMarie Davalos, MFA, Professor, Dance Program Director (Dance Technique, Dance History and Theory, Choreography, Somatic Movement)
Rebecca Engle, MA, Professor, Theatre Program Director (Acting, Directing, Contemporary Theatre)
Daniel Larlham, PhD, Visiting Professor in Theatre (Acting Technique, Directing, Theatre History)
Julie Ford, D.MA, Associate Professor, Music Program Director, Vocal/Choral Arts Director (Sight Singing, Lyric Diction, Conducting)
Rogelio Lopez, MFA, Assistant Professor, Director, MFA in Dance, Resident Dance Costume Designer (Dance Technique, Choreography, Costume and Set Design, Ballet Folklorico)
Amissa Miller, MFA., Assistant Professor, Theatre (Dramaturgy, African American Theatre, Interactive Theatre, Playwriting)
Frank Murray, PhD, Associate Professor (Greek Theatre, Modern Theatre, Theatre Theory)
Lino Rivera, D.MA, Professor (Piano, Music History, Music Fundamentals, Chamber Music)
Martin Rokeach, PhD, Professor Emeritus, Music
Shaunna Vella, MFA, Adjunct Assistant Professor, Director of LEAP (Dance Technique, Dance and Social Justice, Repertory)
Jia Wu, MFA, Associate Professor, (Dance Technique, Chinese Dance and Diaspora Studies, Dance for the Camera)
Deanna Zibello, MFA, Associate Professor, Head of Design and Technical Theatre (Scenic Design)

Learning Outcomes

When they have completed the Performing Arts Program, students will be able to:

  • EMPLOY appropriately the basic technical terms generally used in an art form when discussing individual works, and identify specific elements of the aesthetic, historical and cultural context of a work of art by comparing it to others from the same context.
  • UTILIZE a cross-disciplinary perspective in the arts and a familiarity with the Great Books/liberal arts tradition to identify the ways performing artists draw inspiration from nature, history, imagination, and the creative ideas and influences of others.
  • RECOGNIZE similarities in structure (such as elements of phrasing) shared by all three performing arts and be able to articulate the significance of structural elements in the analysis of a work’s form and meaning.
  • ENGAGE in critical discourse that transcends personal opinion and acknowledges, respects and integrates the insights of other students from diverse cultural backgrounds.
  • DEMONSTRATE the capacity for sustained and focused rehearsal efforts and for working collaboratively with different directors and performers.
  • PERFORM the works of great choreographers, composers, and playwrights, as well as original/contemporary works of living artists.
  • ADAPT performance skills both in rehearsal and performance to the technical demands of specific masterworks of various styles and eras, as well as to original/contemporary works.
  • EXHIBIT performance skills beyond the foundational to professional level while effectively negotiating the anxiety/excitement of live performance, and be conversant with advanced techniques of the discipline.
  • USE discipline-specific writing strategies appropriate to the writer’s purpose and audience. [Examples: personal reflection; observation and description; critical analysis; evaluation; generating performance texts]
  • IDENTIFY, locate and evaluate discipline-specific scholarly sources. Demonstrate competency in selecting, summarizing, synthesizing and ordering research findings.
  • EMPLOY discipline-specific skills and methods, and demonstrate a capacity for goal-setting, time/resource management, problem-solving and self-reflection, in the realization of a capstone creative or research-based project.

Prerequisite Grade

Any course listed in this department with a prerequisite assumes a grade of C- or better in the prerequisite course or the permission of the chair to waive that provision.

The Dance program also offers a concentration in Dance Science; consult the Director of the Dance Program, Professor Davalos.

Split Major Agreements

Dance and Biology
Dance and Communication
Dance and English
Dance and Kinesiology
Dance and Studio Art
Musical Theatre and Studio Art
Theatre and Studio Art
Theatre and English
Theatre and Social Justice (Sociology/Ethnic Studies)

Students considering a split major or an individualized major must have a curricular plan approved and on file with the department and the Registrar’s Office by the time they have accumulated 22 graduation units. For further information on these or other split or individualized majors, contact Department Chair Dana Lawton at dlawton@stmarys-ca.edu.

Prerequisite Grade

Any course listed in this department with a prerequisite assumes a grade of C- or better in the prerequisite course or the permission of the chair to waive that provision.


    Bachelor of ArtsMinorOther Programs


      Performing Arts - Lower DivisionPerforming Arts - Upper Division