Dance - Performing Arts - McDonogh School


The heart of McDonogh's dance program is the creative process. Students learn that dance is not about the final concert, but about the hours of patient and dedicated work that shape both the performance and the performer. Dancers of all experience levels face physical, intellectual, and creative challenges that teach them to rely on their intuition and focus to achieve self-expression. Students often work as an ensemble, with special attention to respect for self and fellow dancers, and many carry that ethic into careers as professional dancers. Most important is that the passion inspired through dance will spread throughout all aspects of their lives.

Lower School

Students in the Lower School are exposed to dance through creative movement classes starting in prekindergarten and continuing throughout their Lower School career.  Imagination, storytelling, and self-expression are key elements of these classes. Students also build on their own kinesthetic awareness through guided exercises focusing on gross motor skills and kinesiology.  

Middle School


Fifth and sixth grade students are introduced to dance as a method of self-expression. Class activities are grounded in creative movement and improvisation in order to help students become familiar with their bodies in relation to concepts of time, space, and motion. Dance is part of the “special subjects" program in these grades, meaning that students rotate into dance for periods of time as part of their physical education class. As a result, students get a good deal of direct instruction, which is particularly crucial at the beginning of their exposure to dance.


Seventh and eighth graders study some of the more technical aspects of dance, specifically jazz and musical theatre, while maintaining an emphasis on creative discovery. In the spring, they perform pieces choreographed by the Head of the Dance Program as well as student choreographers from the Upper School.

Upper School

The Upper School dance curriculum provides challenging opportunities for dancers of all ages, abilities, and interests. Along with the jazz and musical theatre techniques introduced in the Middle School, there are courses in tap, modern, post-modern, ballet, and African dance. Students are encouraged to create their own choreography, resulting in a creative and cooperative environment. This collaboration is furthered during studio performances, where students perform their work for their peers and receive constructive criticism. As the program progresses, students are given increasing autonomy, allowing them more freedom of self-direction and self-discovery. The annual winter dance concert, open to all upper schoolers, not just those enrolled in dance courses, is a showcase of talent choreographed by professionals as well as students. 

Dance is just one of many things I can never stop thanking this school for. It’s my career. It’s my life.

Nile Russell ‘00