National Medal of Arts winner Ping Chong juxtaposed the forceful words of James Baldwin from a 1968 speech with contemporary images of racist violence and killings of African American boys and men in Baldwin/NOW for February Dance 2016.

Photo by Natalie Fiol.

Backstage at Krannert Center

Dancers are movement artists and athletes who must make meticulous preparations before taking the stage so that they perform at the highest level, maintain focus, and develop the appropriate mental and emotional state to express themselves fully.

Photo by Natalie Fiol.


Choreographed by Ricky Perry for BFA Senior Thesis Concert: Stripped, 2015

Photo by Natalie Fiol

Aaron R. White

As the eldest of 11 kids, Chicago native Aaron R. White (BFA, Dance, '11) assumed from an early age that higher education was out of reach. Passionate about dance, he sent in college applications but didn't expect to enroll.

Not only was he admitted to the University of Illinois Dance program, but he was also awarded a four-year, full-tuition scholarship.

"Being able to attend Illinois, and being exposed to so many types of people, ideas, and a broader cultural understanding, opened up my world in a huge way," he said. "It opened up my life to what is possible."

Katherine Roarty

"I feel much more aware of who I am because of the U of I."

Pittsburgh native Katherine Roarty was drawn to Illinois because the Department of Dance gave her a true student experience. 

"The U of I was exactly what I needed to prepare me for my current life," Katherine says. "Being from Pittsburgh and moving to a school where I knew no one molded me to be able to adapt and still enjoy wherever I go."

Aaron R. White

"The U of I is an amazing place that will be extremely challenging, but it will train you so that you can function in a very intelligent and proactive way."

Dance alumnus Aaron White grew up in Chicago, in a single-parent family with 10 siblings. He had no plans to attend college, but his dance teachers Deidre Dawson (an Illinois physical education alumna) and Pierre Lockett encouraged him. After auditioning and receiving a scholarship, Aaron admits he "would've been a fool not to go." 


With one-on-one mentoring by acclaimed faculty members and guest artists, Dance at Illinois students receive rigorous training and opportunities to explore their own creativity as choreographers and performers. Called "a hotbed of choreographic innovation" by the New York Times, the department is one of the most respected in the United States. Undergraduates focus on contemporary modern dance, learn how the body works, and develop professional contacts around the globe. MFA candidates conduct original research, develop teaching methods, and address critical issues in the field.

Diana Shepherd
Class of2017

"Dance at Illinois is very welcoming and supportive, which makes it easy to make new friends and to explore who I am as a person and a dancer."

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