Open Learning Community Courses

The Fine Arts Open Learning Community at Saint Mary’s College forges a meaningful connection between the greater arts community and the SMC dance and creative writing communities. Enroll in a course an learn more about what it's like to study at SMC.

MFA in Creative Writing:

Writer in the World (English 401 and 402) Practical Perspectives on Writing (1.5 units each) 

This course offers access to the Creative Writing Reading Series, Afternoon Conversation Series, as well as access to several professional writers, editors and agents that visit and meet with MFA students. In the course, students cover topics ranging from publishing to the many diverse pathways open to the professional writer. 


MFA in Dance:

Fall 2019:


Perfa 386 Laban and Bartenieff Movement Studies with Elizebeth Randall Rains (3 units)

Laban Movement Analysis (LMA) is a comprehensive and holistic system that examines the fundamental elements and layers embedded in all patterns of human movement, thus, providing a language for movement description and inquiry. The system is divided into four parts: Body, Effort, Shape, and Space. The study of LMA, including the physical study of the Bartenieff Fundamentals exercises, not only increases awareness of the basic principles of human movement, but can also provide a connective framework for how we as embodied beings create and communicate knowledge. This course will provide an examination of the theory and vocabulary within the categories of Body, Effort, Shape, and Space (BESS) after the students have taken the introductory and practical 2 unit BESS course. Through lectures, readings, class discussions, group projects/presentations, written assignments, and a final project, the student will be immersed in the perspective on human movement that the LMA system provides and the inquiries towards which it can be applied.


Perfa 342 Producing I: Structures with Rebecca Johnson (3 units)

Producing I examines the philosophy, principles, and practical applications of producing dance. Students will explore all aspects of getting a project into the public eye: direct mail, advertising, press and publicity, as well as considering larger issues, such as audience development.  The practical concerns of funding dance, i.e., grant writing, development strategies, and fundraising will be explored. Other topics include: intellectual property issues, artist’s relationships, contracts, and public relations. Students will hone their research, writing and presentation skills to become prepared for seeking funding for their projects.


January 2020:


Perfa 391 Choreography IV with Shaunna Vella (3 units)

Each choreography course is designed to enhance the skills and experiences of the individual student while also building new skills and insights. Choreography is at the core of what defines the Creative Practice MFA in Dance program and the goal is for the student to solidly shape their own artistic identity based on being a reflective practitioner who is critically aware of the reciprocity of theory and practice, i.e., the social, cultural, aesthetic and political contexts in which their performance practice is located. All choreography courses encourage the students to integrate the other areas of study in the program (phenomenology, somatics and social justice) in order for them to find and define their unique choreographic voice. During the course of the two-year program, the students have ample opportunity to be in a process-oriented environment marked by rigorous inquiry of artistic practice, the investigation of body, movement and choreography while being stimulated by their peers, the guidance of faculty and the public showing of their work in formal and informal contexts.


Spring 2020:


Perfa 381 Dance and Performance Studies (3 units)

Dance and Performance Studies is a seminar course that focuses on key issues in the theory of performance. Dance and Performance Studies has a multidisciplinary approach blending the strengths of anthropology, sociology, theatre studies, literary criticism, philosophy, history, and the arts. Performance practice will be analyzed across this variety of disciplines in relationship to dance. Topics can include issues of representation and identity, presence, community, social efficacy, space, corporeality, audience, and globalization. Students will apply different approaches and contemporary methodologies for analyzing performances of various kinds within their social, cultural, and historical contexts.  Students will develop thinking, doing, writing and speaking about performance and how it frames the experience of corporeality and embodiment.


Perfa 377 Somatic Movement Studies with Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen and Rosana Barragan (1 unit)  

Formalized study of Body Mind Centering taught in a one-weekend workshop on campus with Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen and Rosana Barragan.