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Information Literacy


What Should Dance Majors Know?

By the time they graduate, dance majors are in possession of information literacy skills enabling them to conduct research in dance studies and navigate the extensive information resources that technology makes available in today’s world. They know what information is needed to complete research projects in the field and how to locate, evaluate, and effectively and ethically use such information. Furthermore, they are able to apply information literacy skills to independent and lifelong learning.

In the Dance Department’s theory courses, students acquire the following skills:

100 Level Writing Intensive Classes

DAN171, Dance in the 20th Century

  • Locating resources through the Five College Library catalog; narrowing down searches by using Boolean operators and specifying formats and collections.
  • Placing requests for Five College materials and interlibrary loans, and retrieving sources from external storage facilities.
  • Acknowledging the expertise of librarians and using their services.
  • Distinguishing between primary and secondary sources and knowing when to use each type.
  • Identifying primary sources in dance: films, videos and photographs of dances; choreography notations; sketches of dance décors and costumes; music scores and recordings; personal journals, letters, autobiographies and interviews of dancers, choreographers and other artists involved in a dance production; ads, posters, souvenir programs and reviews of dance productions, etc.
  • Conducting a basic evaluation of primary sources in terms of the source’s immediacy to the event, accuracy, purpose, reliability, partiality and point of view.
  • Describing and analyzing bodily movement and posture, either in live performances or in drawings, photographs and video.
  • Identifying newspapers and magazines that constitute valuable periodicals in dance , such as:
    Newspapers, Periodicals Access
    The New York Times Current issues Neilson Library level 3
    or online access
    The Village Voice Current issues in Josten Periodicals
    or online access
    Dance Magazine Current issues in Josten Periodicals
    Earlier issues in SC Storage Josten
    or online access
    Ballet Review Current issues in Josten Periodicals
    Earlier issues in SC Storage Josten
    Dance Now Current issues in Josten Periodicals
    Earlier issues in SC Storage Josten
    or online access
    Dance Theatre Journal Current issues in Josten Periodicals
    Earlier issues in SC Storage Josten

  • Obtaining information in standard reference volumes in the field, such as the International Encyclopedia of Dance.
  • Using full text databases specific to dance and the performing arts in combination with non-dance specific databases, such as:
    Dance & Performing Arts Databases Description
    Dance in Video Streaming video of dance productions & documentaries.
    Naxos Music Library Streaming audio of many labels.
    International Bibliography of Theatre and Dance (1982+) Comprehensive index to the performing arts worldwide.
    International Index to the Performing Arts Indexes 210+ scholarly and popular performing arts periodicals.
  • Non-Dance Specific Databases Description
    JSTOR (back issues excluding most recent 2-5 years) Complete full text backfiles for hundreds of scholarly journals in the arts, humanities, sciences, and social sciences.
    ArticleFirst (1990+) Tables of contents of 12,000+ journals in the sciences, humanities, and social sciences.
    Project Muse (current issues) Full text of 400+ scholarly journals in the arts and humanities, social sciences and mathematics.
    Academic Search Premier (1965+) Full text for 4,500+ scholarly publications in the social sciences, humanities, arts, and sciences.

  • Recognizing the central ideas in interviews, reviews, essays, scholarly articles and other varieties of texts.
  • Establishing the authority and trustworthiness of secondary sources, including those in the World Wide Web, and distinguishing between popular and scholarly texts. 
  • Assembling the bibliography for a basic research project, featuring an adequate balance between primary and secondary sources, and written, graphic and audiovisual formats.
  • Defining the concepts of intellectual property and plagiarism.
  • Knowing when to use direct and indirect quotes; how to quote, paraphrase and summarize information without incurring in plagiarism; and how to interweave quotes seamlessly into the body of a paragraph. 
  • Documenting the use of sources; becoming familiar with the citation formats of the Chicago Manual of Style or the Modern Language Association (SC Libraries' Citation Guides & Style Manuals).

200 Level Courses

DAN272, Dance and Culture

  • Developing a bibliography in stages; planning a comprehensive search strategy in accordance to the requirements of a specific thesis or research question.
  • Writing an annotated bibliography.
  • Expanding a bibliographic search by consulting the bibliographies or footnotes of books, articles and entries in encyclopedias.
  • Identifying major peer-reviewed journals in the field, such as the one listed below, and customarily accessing articles in these publications via full
  • text databases.
    Peer-Reviewed Journals Access
    Dance Chronicle Current issues in Josten Periodicals
    Earlier issues in SC Storage Josten
    or online access
    Dance Research Current issues via online access
    Earlier issues in SC Storage Josten
    Dance Research Journal Current issues in Josten Periodicals
    Earlier issues in SC Storage Josten
    or online access

  • Consulting the abstracts and conclusions of scholarly articles to establish their usefulness in investigating a specific subject.
  • Assessing the credentials of authors and understanding the value of referencing scholars who are considered respected specialists in their areas of study.
  • Working with secondary sources with an awareness that in their arguments authors present both facts and interpretations of these facts; quoting such sources with knowledge of whether the quoted information is factual or interpretive, and qualifying the quote accordingly.
  • Knowing how to use a quote of a quote if the original source is not available, and how to cite such second-hand quotes.
  • Recognizing the interdisciplinary character of much research in dance and, therefore, identifying reference works that provide context and background for topics on gender studies, literary studies, African American studies or any other field relevant to a research project undertaken as part of a course.
  • Acknowledging the diversity of the field of dance studies and understanding that dance scholars obtain data not only through the historical analysis of dance works and documents, but also through field work and ethnographic methods.
  • Showing proficiency in the use of terminology derived from dance history and dance anthropology.

DAN241, Scientific Foundations of Dance
DAN285, Laban Movement Analysis

Since the body is at the center of the practice of dance, dance majors also acquire skills to obtain biological, physical and aesthetic information from their own bodies. They learn how to use this information critically in the course of dancing, choreographing and analyzing movement. The following skills are promoted:

  • Knowing the biological, neurological and physical processes that support human movement; applying this kinesiological information to the development of strength, flexibility, resilience, alignment and bodily coordination.
  • Developing abilities for kinesthetic analysis; learning to simultaneously read and manipulate the body as the instrument of dance; critically processing the sensory information related to the body and the environment in which it operates.
  • Becoming familiar with Laban Movement Analysis’ categories of space, time and energy as a model for the examination of human movement; using this model to elucidate information about dance, and incorporating this type of information in performance, improvisation and choreography.
  • Showing proficiency in the use of dance-specific terminology derived from Laban Movement Analysis, dance kinesiology and dance composition.

DAN287, Analysis of Music

  • Finding and accurately naming music-specific information as related to dance, particularly with respect to rhythm and phrasing.
  • Recognizing aspects of basic music theory and the cultural, cognitive and emotional components of listening.
  • Understanding the categorization and dissemination of music on the internet, in the library, and on the street, in order to efficiently locate music suitable for dance.
  • Evolving an ethical and respectful approach to live and pre-recorded music as the artistic expression and intellectual property of composers, accompanists and performers.

Dance 300 Level Seminars

DAN377, Advanced Studies in History and Aesthetics
DAN399, Senior Seminar

  • Using WorldCat to regularly locate materials outside the Five Colleges; taking full advantage of interlibrary loans.
  • Locating sources that are not available in full-text databases; working with indexes of abstracts specific to dance and the performing arts.
  • Valuing the benefits of working with sources in archives and rare book collections such as the Sophia Smith Collection, Josten Library’s Rare Book Collection, the Jacob's Pillow Archive, the Harvard Theatre Collection and the New York Public Library’s Dance Collection
  • Working with an array of sources that may contain conflicting data, different perspectives or diverse interpretations of an event; negotiating the contradictions and variety in the information.
  • Qualifying the interpretation of primary sources in response to anticipated questions, objections and alternative interpretations.
  • Evaluating a scholarly text in term of its author’s construction of an argument, use of valid premises, treatment of evidence, and documentation of the sources. 
  • Assessing the critical reception of a publication by consulting book reviews. 
  • Reading a scholarly work with an awareness of the philosophies, theories or discourses that may inform the author’s intellectual affiliations (e.g, feminism, Marxism, postcolonial theory).
  • Realizing how dance scholarship relates to bodies of knowledge outside the discipline; recognizing that non-dance journals, such as the ones lited below, often contain articles on dance.
    Non-Dance Journals Access
    Drama Review online access
    Ethnomusicology Current issues in Josten Periodicals
    Earlier issues in SC Storage JostenCurrent or online access
    Journal of Black Studies Current issues, Neilson Library level 3
    Bound vols. 2000-2008, Neilson level 2
    or online access

  • Understanding that the theoretical study of dance is divided in several subdisciplines (e.g., dance pedagogy, dance kinesiology, dance aesthetics, dance anthropology, dance history) and that corresponding bodies of literature exist in each of them.
  • Acknowledging that certain topics fall outside the area of expertise of the faculty at the Smith College Dance Department and, therefore, being ready to search for expert advise from professors in other departments of the college or in the Five College Dance Department.

400 Level Thesis

DAN430d, Honors Project
DAN431, Honors Project

  • Managing an extensive, complex bibliography that requires a systematic organization of the sources according to types and formats. 
  • Identifying the key texts that have shaped the discussion of the topic under research; writing a review of literature that compares those texts’ contributions, limitations and methods, while assessing the current state of research in the topic.
  • Contributing original interpretations of primary sources.
  • Drawing on the input of the thesis’ advisor to conduct independent research.


The assessment of these skills takes place through a variety of assignments, in accordance to the level of each course. Tasks such as analyzing primary sources, evaluating secondary sources, compiling bibliographies, conducting class presentations, writing papers and completing a thesis give the students opportunities to show proficiency in the skills listed above.

May 20, 2010