by Riley Sheier, Dance into College Contributor

James Madison University’s “Intensive BA” in Dance combines the flexibility of a traditional Bachelor of Arts in Dance with a BFA program’s technique and performance opportunities.

Dance into College’s Kathy de Jong recently interviewed Matt Pardo, Assistant Professor of Dance at James Madison University to learn about the JMU dance program and their BA in Dance. (Full interview video below.) Matt highlighted the unique structure of JMU’s dance degree, including the dance curriculum, electives, performance opportunities, facilities, and application process. James Madison’s dance program offers a wide variety of experiences for students with a range of dance abilities and career interests.

Matt Pardo has an extensive background in concert dance, opera, and musical theater. He’s been a professor at James Madison for almost three years. Matt emphasized that the faculty of the JMU dance program each has their own “eclectic background” in dance, which benefits the students immensely.

The most distinctive aspect of JMU’s BA in dance is that the experience falls somewhere in between a BA degree and a BFA degree. James Madison’s “intensive BA”, offers a wide variety of performance opportunities. Matt states, “We feel really strongly about training artists, engaging artists, in multiple areas of the field. We really value our artists being well rounded, both in the studio and outside of that”.

Aside from offering an array of experiences within the dance department, students of the JMU dance program have enough space in their schedules to explore second majors in other areas of study. The faculty encourage students to find ways to utilize dance in careers outside of dance. They aim to assist their students in building a toolbox of skills they can use in various career paths. Similarly, within the dance department, students can choose from a multitude of electives that best suit their interests. These electives match the expertise of the individual faculty members and include courses such as jazz, tap, dance in the community, and dance and technology. The college’s motto, “create your own path”, represents the diversity of interests, dance abilities, and goals that the students of the dance program possess.

For students looking for the chance to perform, James Madison offers ample opportunities. They have three ensembles within their program with varying degrees of commitment. An ensemble for freshmen, a contemporary dance ensemble, and a more selective dance company are available for dance program students to join. These ensembles allow the members to work with guest artists, perform in the fall and spring, and form connections with their classmates.

Matt mentioned other unique aspects of JMU’s BA in dance. One of these experiences is the opportunity to perform abroad. BA students have traveled to London and Russia for performances, and the dean is currently working on a trip to Barcelona for a group of students. Furthermore, the program is looking to add a new minor in entrepreneurship. This minor is meant to teach dancers to make themselves brandable and marketable so that they can “build a life for themselves” beyond college.

Toward the end of the interview, Kathy and Matt discuss the beautiful facility that is home to the dance program. The Forbes Center contains three studios, a main stage theater, black box space, a concert hall, and several recital halls. This space truly allows the dance program to have the autonomy to create its own schedule, thus benefiting the students.

Finally, Matt shares information about the application process and opportunities for interested students. He explains how the dance program is a double gateway program in which the students must be accepted to both the university and the dance program. There is also a requirement for an audition either in person or virtually, to assess dance ability and fit within the program. Matt advises interested students to consider participating in the Next Steps Summer Dance Intensive. This program, along with dance visitation days, allows prospective students to gain insight into what it would be like to be a student of the JMU dance program.

To see Kathy’s full interview with Matt at James Madison University, click the link below. Be sure to subscribe to Dance into College on YouTube to get the latest on dance in college! Visit our website at to learn more about college counseling services for high school dancers interested in majoring or double majoring in dance or participating in a dance company or dance team.