School of Education launches new Dance Education certificate program

By Kari Dickinson

A new UW–Madison certificate program aimed at undergraduate students with an interest in dance education is now being offered by the School of Education’s Dance Department.

The 14-credit program in Dance Education, which launches this fall, will provide students with specialized knowledge specific to the field, and prepare them for a variety of careers that involve teaching dance or integrating dance in the classroom.


“There’s a high demand for dance in the schools, but it’s not being met,” says Chell Parkins, the Arnhold Director of Dance Education in the Dance Department. “I have been working with physical education teachers across the state and especially here in Madison schools, and what I hear consistently is that most people don’t feel well equipped to teach dance in their physical education programs.”

While it is not a teacher licensing program, the certificate will allow students majoring in dance or in other areas, such as elementary or physical education, to enhance their understanding of and develop skills in dance pedagogy.

The certificate will be valuable for dance majors who wish to expand their career options beyond performance. “When students go out into the world, they are likely going to be teaching — in community settings, in companies, in private studios, in schools,” says Parkins. “The Dance Education certificate will train them specifically in pedagogical strategies for teaching dance.”

Future educators — or current educators who have already completed a bachelor’s degree — can also complete this certificate to develop their expertise in dance and creative movement and learn ways of incorporating dance and movement in their classrooms.

UW–Madison students in a dance education course lead children through a series of movements. (Photo: Jack Ecke)

Parkins notes the certificate program is unique in the nation in its focus on cultivating students’ cultural awareness and sensitivity. “The students that come to take these classes are not only going to be developing dance teaching practices, but ones that are trauma-informed and that pay close attention to culture,” she says. “They will understand that culture is not a stagnant thing and doesn’t only mean certain racial or ethnic identities.”


“Understanding and experiencing culture through all styles of dance enhances relationships and appreciation among human beings,” adds Jin-Wen Yu, chair of UW–Madison’s Dance Department. “We are thrilled to have Dr. Parkins create and lead the long-due Dance Education certificate program. Manifesting the Wisconsin Idea, this Dance Education certificate will positively impact the lives of citizens in Madison and across Wisconsin. We are very proud of it!”

As the first university in the U.S. to establish a dance degree program, the Dance Education certificate furthers UW–Madison’s commitment to being a leader and innovator within the field.

“In the nation, eyes are on us to see what we do in dance education,” says Parkins. “As the birthplace of dance education, nearly a hundred years ago, this is a really important historical site. People are watching what’s going on in Wisconsin.”

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