MFA Monday: Megan Yankee

MFA Mondays

MFA rightHi Framers, happy Monday!

I think my favorite part of the Frame Dance blog is MFA Monday– for several reasons.  One is that is it a great reminder that we are not alone in the pursuit of dance as an advanced degree, a career, an art form, or as a tool for building communities.  It can be very isolating, especially when I don’t know all of you who read this. I wish I did!  Of course I can read the stats of viewers on the blog, but when it’s just numbers, I don’t always know if this resource is helpful.  But then there are those days that I get an email from someone who has been reading these columns, and has valued the wisdom that our fellow writers have shared and wants to participate in the conversation.  That is a VERY happy day for me.  It reminds me that although our career can at times be isolating, dancers are people who are generous with their knowledge and hungry for more.  I admire you.

Today we welcome Megan Yankee to the Frame Dance blog.  She opens a series today, and as the weeks unfold, you’ll hear from several of her colleagues about their MFA stories.  I am so very excited (and I’ve only had one sip of my coffee).  Here we go!


After the Master: Introduction

Many of the wonderful, previous MFA Monday contributors have provided guidance for facing the challenges leading into and during their graduate studies. Accordingly, my goal with this series is to provide a snapshot of the world after you’ve finished. My blog arch will be comprised largely of anecdotes from the subgroup of dance artists who entered graduate school during the Great Recession. Many of us are 35 years old or younger, came into graduate school with less than 5 years of making or teaching dance outside of school, and are now faced with an over-crowded and daunting job market.

If you’re anything like me, you fled that crumbling economy into graduate school for several reasons. Namely, my job prospects with a BA in dance were limited and graduate studies provided me with hope of inspiration and financial stability as a dancer. Teaching dance in public school was possible but limited and required additional schooling or certifications. Teaching in studios was financially precarious. Jobs that didn’t involve dance could pay the bills, but were largely uninteresting and could unwittingly cause creative atrophy if I wasn’t extremely disciplined with my personal practice and pursuit of non-academic performance opportunities. Graduate school offered me a way to further explore my craft alongside inspiring, intelligent peers AND the possibility of landing a position at a university that seemed financially stable and endlessly fascinating.

I have been fortunate enAmy Querin, Dance Artistwww.amyquerin.comough to find performance opportunities as well as teach for a semester at a wonderful private liberal arts university for a semester since my graduation a year ago. Based on advice given to me, I have applied for a few other university jobs that I felt truly fit my goals, talents and experience. I have been met with the all-too-common “thanks, but no thanks” that I hear many of my peers receiving. I have, after much toil, come to terms with this, although I still shoot out applications here and there. In place of sending out applications weekly or daily, I have turned to my local arts council and other funders for financial support and performance opportunities. This has also been met with marginal success. More on this in future articles.

If graduate school is near the top of your list of difficult life experiences, wait until you try to continue making or teaching dance after you graduate without the aid of academia. (Throw in a cross-country move after graduation and you may end up in break-down mode like I did, something I would never wish that upon anyone). What I didn’t read enough about in graduate school was the struggle outside of the studio that the choreographers we studied went through. Did Steve Paxton eat ramen noodles daily to save money? Did Martha Graham perform on the streets for tips? Did Trisha Brown have two office jobs to pay the rent? Maybe I was reading the wrong stuff; it’s certainly possible! But perhaps if I had sought out this kind of information, I might have felt a little more capable of making great dance without academia. Is it out of those struggles that great dance making emerges?

In the year since I earned my master’s degree, I’ve nursed dreams of starting a non-profit or my own dance company, building a tiny house on a friend’s patch of land atop a mountain in Colorado and everything in between. I’ve performed five times, attempted to learn aikido and tai chi and I haven’t finished a one of the many books that I’ve started. The forthcoming series of articles I have assembled is not meant to be a guide, dear dancer-reader, but a series of accounts of what life can be like after graduation if you don’t land a coveted tenure-track position. Admittedly, I am less interested in the artistic process for this series. I want to know what the life of MFAs is like outside of the studio because that outside life has a direct effect on the work being made or NOT made.

Coming soon will be two more articles written by yours truly on the topics I have introduced above as well as one article or interview written by each of my colleagues Erin Law, Gabrielle Aufiero and Amanda McCorckle. These fantastic women have taken separate paths after graduate school. Again, my goal here is not to guide you through life after graduate school, but to show the diversity of options (and any challenges associated with them) that we are faced with once we graduate. Stay tuned.

I welcome any reader’s desire to continue this dialogue through questions or comments. Please feel free to shoot me an email at


Megan is an indie dance artist that seeks opportunities to make and present dances in alternative spaces in order to expand the reach of concert dance. She is committed to presenting work and curating concerts in houses, busy street corners, warehouses, dance for film, online and in visual art galleries. She has performed and presented work nationally and internationally at the Nomad Express Multi Arts Festival in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso produced by Olivier, the Sonic Arts Research Center in Belfast, Northern Ireland, American Dance Festival, American College Dance Festival, Texas Dance Improvisation Festival, Movement Intensive in Composition and Improvisation in Lancaster, PA, Emerge and Exchange Dance Festivals in Tulsa, OK, {254} Festival in Waco, Texas, Out of Loop Festival in Addison, TX, and the Rogue Festival in Fresno, CA. She has had the honor of performing in works by Christie Nelson, Amie LeGendre, Larry Keigwin, Michael Foley, Jordan Fuchs, Sandy Mathern-Smith and Sarah Gamblin.

Megan holds (and runs with) an MFA in Dance from Texas Woman’s University and currently lives in Columbus, OH with her partner, John Osburn and their two dogs, Weecho and Lucy.

Tuesday Tunes: The Awesome 1980’s

Tuesday Tunes

Tuesday Tunes




The 1980’s saw great social, economic, and general change as wealth and production migrated to newly industrializing economies. The 1980’s saw the development of the modern Internet, cable television and music devices such as the cassette and the CD. Movies and wild music videos on MTV inspired popular dances like the Moonwalk, the Electric Slide, the Thriller dance, the Robot and many others. Check out these awesome dance moves that revolutionized modern dancing.


The Electric Slide


The Moonwalk


Footloose (Nuff Said)



MFA Monday: Little and Big Things

MFA Mondays

MFA right



Happy Monday Framers! Today we kick off a new MFA Monday arc written by the lovely and immensely talented Amanda Jackson!


MFA: Little and Big Things

Part 1 – Penguins, Collaborators, and Community… Oh My!

We’ve all seen him awkwardly permeating the web, penguining around in various social situations. He goes by Socially Awkward Penguin. While in grad school, my colleagues and I turned to the Internet abyss of memes and YouTube a little too often to escape stressful realities and enter other worlds of shock, awe, and wit. These moments of escaping together created bonds between us, albeit strange ones, that filtered into movement and theory classes, rehearsals and feedback sessions, and potlucks that doubled as times for mind-mapping. I would be withholding information if I didn’t tell you that some Internet gems even made appearances in our choreography.

Back to the penguin meme: The poor penguin offers an “Oh God No” reaction to a teacher that states, “Ok class, find a partner.” Although this is quite funny to me now as a teacher, the penguin’s offerings were slightly less relatable during grad school. Our cohort’s unique bonding experiences paired with TWU’s strong focus on Contact Improvisation made finding a partner more exciting than dancing solo.

We learned more about each other, through what I’ll call spontaneous movement puzzles, in extremely rigorous and generous class environments facilitated by our professors. We also learned through witnessing our partners’ thought processes and reactions as well as how they prefer to move and be moved, even beyond a physical sense. This is what drew many of us to the MFA program and to each other.

Back in 2010 a group of ten dancers from TWU, all in various stages of our MFA cycles, came together to form Big Rig Dance Collective – a Denton-based group that is now co-directed by myself, Whitney Boomer, Crysta Caulkins-Clouse, and Lily Sloan. The impetus for our collective was to create more outlets beyond the academic setting to develop a deeper collaborative process. Big Rig was also experimenting with new methods of inviting communities into our process through performances and workshops. We ultimately wanted more of everything and were eager to share with everyone! (As if our graduate work didn’t keep us busy enough.)

I share this with you because I think there is something intriguing about our grad school environment that encouraged our desire to connect communities through dance. Also sprouting from this environment were Muscle Memory, CholoRock, and Simple Sparrow. I am reminded of the energy that we all brought into this environment – It felt electric and contagious, an infinite cycle. In my mind, we fueled the environment just as much as it fueled us.

So in the spirit of community, I’ll leave you with some insights from my friend/colleague/co-director/fellow kitchen improviser:

“After I graduated and began working as an adjunct professor in the community, I was still as driven as ever to work in Big Rig, but I felt the harsh reality of being removed from the community from which Big Rig was born. All of my friends were still in grad school, and I was out. I missed out on the inside jokes, the basement banter, and simply the wonderful treat of moving and dancing with friends on a daily basis. It was very, very hard.

Throughout the continual journey of figuring out what we want Big Rig to be in our lives, I have realized that community is first. This sense of community might mean remembering to see each other as friends first. It means developing a rich and rigorous dance practice with each other, in the midst of our crazy schedules and busy lives. I feel best when I stop and remember the first reason that we ever started collaborating: we liked each other. We liked each other’s ideas, energy, spirit, and creativity. Out of that likeable attraction comes some of our best work.” – Lily Sloan

So as you are researching MFA programs, I think it is equally important to research the MFA students. Are they doing work that interests you? Are they welcoming and supportive of what you can bring to the cohort? Are they people with whom you can spend long nights in the basement watching ridiculous YouTube videos? These MFA students can become some of your strongest supporters and collaborators throughout your time in grad school and beyond.


A Jackson - Photo by Jesse ScrogginsAmanda Jackson holds an MFA in Dance from Texas Woman’s University. She is a performer, choreographer, educator, stylist, and avid cooking improviser. Her work has been presented across Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Louisiana with a notable experience at Harvard University with collaborator, Matthew Cumbie. Amanda is Co-Director of Big Rig Dance Collective in Denton, TX and Adjunct Professor of Dance at Tarrant County College Northwest.


Tuesday Tunes: The Funky 1970’s

Tuesday Tunes

Tuesday Tunes

In the 21st century historians have increasingly portrayed the decade as a “pivot of change” in world history focusing especially on the economic upheavals. In the Western world, social progressive values that began in the 1960’s, such as increasing political awareness and political and economic liberty of women, continued to grow. The dance world evolved as well with hip TV shows like Soul Train that kept teens up to date with the latest moves. Discos were popping up around the cities where people grooved to the beats of  ABBA, the Bee Gees, KC and the Sunshine Band, Donna Summer, Gloria Gaynor and of course…The Village People.


That’s Soul Dancing


Do the Hustle!


You didn’t really think I wasn’t going to do this one, did you?







MFA Monday: Amanda Diorio

MFA Mondays

MFA right



Happy Monday and thank you to the soldiers who have protected this country! 

We’re back with the final installment by Amanda Diorio.  Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy!



There is not enough time to do everything under the sun.

Entering the MFA program at UNC Greensboro I anticipated having loads of time to take heaps of courses both in and out of the department. At the start 3 years seems like a long time. In the end it went by so fast I remember wishing I could have taken more courses than I had time for. If you come in with all your prerequisites met many programs are only 60 credits total for an MFA intended to be completed in 3 years. That translates to 10 credits a semester, which usually ends up being 3 academic courses and a technique class (this of course depends on your department). When I was registering for fall semester of the third year and looking ahead to the final semester in the spring I was discouraged that I had not had a chance to take every course from every teacher I originally wanted to. I was comforted looking back on how much I was able to do while I was there but there was still a feeling that I could have done more. I came to the realization that even though the time seems to drag when you are working on the 20 page research paper with little sleep in the long run it goes by quickly (if you thought high school and college went fast just wait). Think about this when you start your program. Try to decide what it is you want to your studies to focus on early. This will help you to create space in your academic plan and allow you to touch on the subjects that interest you the most.

Go at your own pace.
I have a bad habit of comparing myself to others. I tell myself I am not doing enough because so and so did so much more in my same position. This is not a good attitude to have in general but certainly not while trying to obtain a terminal degree. Know your own limits in regards to stress, work load and sleep deprivation and respect them. Like every individual candidates deal with the stress and time management in their own way. I was marveled at some of my friends who took on so many projects while pursuing their MFAs both in and out of the department. Some of my colleagues were fostering companies and other artistic ventures outside of school. Some of them had families going into the department while others planned weddings and were pregnant while working on their degrees. I could barely handle taking care of my two cats and myself while balancing the heavy workload. Working outside of the degree also varied, several people found outside employment while a number survived on student loans. Deciding to participate and perform in other student and faculty works is also a decision that affects how much time you have left for yourself and your course load. I found it comforting to live less than a mile away from campus to get that extra bit of sleep, quite a few of my friends found it more stressful to be so close and decided on a small (or not so small) commutes. Your family, tolerance for stress and strategies for time management all play a part in your decisions and individuals have their own set of circumstances that determine how they handle things. Do not compare yourself to others and decide that you are doing too much or not enough. Find what makes you comfortable and be proud of your accomplishments regardless. This is your degree and you should be able to obtain it in a way that makes you proud but also maintains your sanity.

B0061P 0098Amanda Diorio is an adjunct faculty member at UNC-Greensboro and Elon University.  She teaches adult classes open to the public at the North Carolina Dance Project where she is also a member of the board of directors.  Amanda holds an M.F.A. in Choreography from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and a B.F.A. in Dance from Temple University. She has taught, produced, and choreographed dance extensively in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia, Florida and North Carolina at universities, studios, public and private schools and community centers. Specializing in Contemporary, Jazz and Hip Hop techniques she enjoys spreading peace, love and understanding through her teaching of dance, choreography and culture.

Tuesday Tunes: The Groovy 1960’s

Tuesday Tunes

Tuesday Tunes




The sixties were the age of youth. The movement away from the conservative fifties continued and eventually resulted in revolutionary ways in the cultural fabric of American life. No longer content to be images of the generation ahead of them, young people wanted change. Even dancing changed. Dancing was no longer about keeping the basic steps, instead it was all about how the music moved you. Your own personal dance style. The Watusi, The Twist, The Swim and a slew of others dominated the night clubs and beach parties throughout the decade. Here are just a few dances that made entertainment history.


 The Nitty Gritty


Dee Dee Sharp – Mashed Potato Time


 The Swim

MFA Monday: Observations

MFA Mondays

MFA right



Please welcome back Amanda Diorio to MFA Monday on the Frame Dance Blog. Enjoy, dear Framers and have a happy Monday!




Observations that helped me create my MFA thesis




It will happen.

As those of us who have worked in show business are well aware “the show must go on”.  It is amazing when you think about all that needs to get done in a production like an MFA thesis concert but miraculously it all happens.  This was a helpful attitude to take when I was working on my own concert.  I had no idea how all the work would get done but I knew that somehow it would all come together and of course it did.  Remember this when you are at your wits end and about to freak out about not finishing your work for the show.  One benefit of having a concert as a final project is that you have no choice but to get it all done. The dates have been set long in advance and cannot be changed.  This is one advantage that those seeking other kinds of terminal degrees do not have.  I have friends who have been working on their PhD dissertations for years.  The have no specific end time so it can be drawn out.  We as performers have the benefit of having a set date to be done by, a finish line to look towards.  When you are in the thick of it and your life has consisted of this crazy schedule for years it is hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel but remember grad school is not real life.  Your concert and your degree will happen.  Hang in there!



The project is still a part of the learning. 

While your final project is a reflection of your overall work in graduate school it is still a part of the learning process.  There is this sense that your thesis concert is representation of all your work in graduate school.  This is true to a point but you are still in graduate school while you are creating it, therefore making it part of a whole and not a separate entity representing your entire MFA education.  As a first year MFA candidate it is easy to look at the third years that are settled in and comfortable in their working grove and think of them as finished products of the program.  But as any third year will tell you, they are still in the thick of it.  After your concert is over you will have to defend it to your committee and get an approval in order to receive the MFA.  As you create your work you will learn new and valuable lessons along the way, thinking of this time as part of the learning process instead of the representation of that process can help you keep an open mind in terms of your own work.  I found it extremely helpful to gather opinions from my committee members during this time just as I had done in my previous choreography classes.  In the end I think this made my show better than it would have been had I considered myself a full-blown MFA while I was creating it.  Keep the learning doors open all the way until graduation (and hopefully beyond) in order to get the most out of your MFA education.


B0061P 0098

 Amanda Diorio is an adjunct faculty member at UNC-Greensboro and Elon University.  She teaches adult classes open to the public at the North Carolina Dance Project where she is also a member of the board of directors.  Amanda holds an M.F.A. in Choreography from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and a B.F.A. in Dance from Temple University. She has taught, produced, and choreographed dance extensively in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia, Florida and North Carolina at universities, studios, public and private schools and community centers. Specializing in Contemporary, Jazz and Hip Hop techniques she enjoys spreading peace, love and understanding through her teaching of dance, choreography and culture.

Tuesday Tunes: The Rockin’ 1950’s

Tuesday Tunes

Tuesday Tunes




The United States in the 1950’s experienced marked economic growth – with an increase in manufacturing and home construction amongst a post-World War II economic boom. The 1950s are noted in United States history as a time of compliance, conformity and also, to a lesser extent, of rebellion. However, in the mist of the Korean War and the Cold War, the sock hops were the hottest places to be for the young teens of the 1950’s. Kids crowded the dance floors twisting and twirling to the rockin’ tunes of Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Chubby Checker and the King himself.  Rock n’ Roll was certainly here to stay!


Rockabilly Dance


The Twist


Jailhouse Rock

Tuesday Tunes: 1940’s!

Tuesday Tunes

Tuesday Tunes




The 1940’s were dominated by World War II and  pulled the US out of the Great Depression. Women were needed in factories, agencies, companies and even baseball teams and the military to replace men who had gone off to war. Food, metals and various materials were rationed to help the Allies win against the Axis Powers that threatened the world. However, swingin’ new music from Glenn Miller, The Andrew Sisters, Artie Shaw, Count Basie and many others provided fast and up-beat songs for the latest dance crazes of the decade.


Glen Miller …. In The Mood (A tribute to the 1940’s)!


Andrews Sisters and Swing Dancing


The Jitterbug

MFA Monday: Stephanie Todd Wong

MFA Mondays

MFA right



It’s a new day, a new MONDAY. We welcome Stephanie Todd Wong to the Frame Dance blog. Enjoy her experiences today and for the next two weeks!


The Highs and Lows of My Personal Experience


I received my MFA from George Mason University in 2004 and I look back on those three years through a lens of extremes.  Fondness, frustration, pride, uncomfort, growth are all words I use often when telling others about my experience. For me, it was a life changing experience full of highs and lows, as I believe it should be for everyone.



Structure and resources:  I suddenly had both! Class everyday, someone consistently asking me questions, challenging me, reserved studio time for rehearsal and dancers waiting for me, deadlines etc. It is amazing the work you can create when you have what you need to create it and the structure to both support and push you to produce your best.


Friends and colleagues:  Some of my dearest friends were either colleagues I met while in school or my professors. The dance world is a small one and the relationships I built while in the program are just as important to me now as they were then.  Our paths cross consistently and we still find ways to help and support one another.


Growth:  I exited my MFA program a completely different artist than how I entered. I fully embraced the journey and allowed myself to be changed by it. The growth I experienced during those three years is probably one of things I’m most proud of.



University politics:  I wasn’t prepared for the reality of the politics I was exposed to during this time.  I’m not sure if it was because of my specific program or the difference between being an undergrad versus a grad student, but the politics involved were much more evident.  There were times I had to fight with administration to do what was best for me and I found it very frustrating.  But it was also an important part of the learning process.


Exhaustion/Life Outside the Grad School Bubble:  Or should I say the lack of my life outside the grad school bubble.  An MFA program is intense with a lot of demands on your time.  I taught adjunct while I was getting my degree and between teaching, my own classes, readings and assignments, rehearsals and performances, I was rarely anywhere other than the studio.


Cost:  Grad school is expensive and I’m still paying back my student loans. And while I don’t love writing those checks each month,  it was worth it for me.




Stephanie Wong - 20130303-1-2 webStephanie Todd Wong moved to Houston in 2008 after spending ten years in Washington DC as a dancer, choreographer, dance teacher and dance administrator.  Stephanie holds a BA in Dance from Mercyhurst College and received her MFA in Dance from George Mason University in 2004.  While living in Washington she was a dancer in the Dakshina/Daniel Phoenix Singh Dance Company, which performed in various locations in DC and New York City.  She also had the privilege of working with Lorry May, founding director of Sokolow Dance Foundation to learn and perform Anna Sokolow’s The Lament for the Death of a Bullfighter.  As a choreographer, Stephanie’s work was presented at both Joy of Motion and Dance Place.  Stephanie also spent time teaching dance and worked to create a high school dance program for The Flint Hill School in Vienna Virginia.  Beginning in 2007, Stephanie began working for Dance/MetroDC, the local branch office of Dance/USA, serving as its Programs Associate and ultimately its Interim Director.  In this role she was responsible for creating and executing all the organizations programming, including the Metro DC Dance Awards, a region wide awards program that took place at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.  Stephanie became Executive Director of Dance Source Houston in 2011 and currently sits on the Advisory Board for Arts + Culture Magazine and an Affiliate Working Group of Dance/USA.