Guest Artists

You'll Learn from the Masters

George Mason University Dance Majors gain real world experience during guest artist residencies, during which artists from all over the world come to George Mason to set works on students which are performed during our annual gala concert in March

Our guest artist residencies are intense learning opportunities and a chance for students to make connections that are invaluable to their careers. After choreographers choose their casts, a challenging 10-day rehearsal period begins that parallels a professional work schedule. These long days result in a finished work that is performed in our 2,000-seat concert hall. Artists often return for the performances. We also enjoy watching our alums return to perform on the same stage where they began.

We believe dancers learn best through dancing—there's no better way to grow artistically than by working and learning within some of the most compelling pieces. The variety, the intensity, the vibrancy of being part of something excellent is what these residencies are about.

Everyone in my company loves visiting George Mason University. It’s a place where we can perform for an audience that loves dance and a place where we can teach students who love to dance. What could be better than that? It’s an inspiring environment. …I hold George Mason University’s dance program in high regard. The program is really doing something right. 

—Mark Morris

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2023-2024 Guest Artists

Over the 2023-2024 winter break our dancers worked hard at learning new repertoire. The Gala Concert on March 22 and 23, 2024,  featured four full-length works by four renowned choreographers: 

  • Kyle Abraham’s Drive, staged by Jae Neal
  • Rena Butler’s This, That and the Third, staged by Rena Butler and Madison Pineda
  • Martha Graham’s Steps in the Street, staged by Elizabeth Auclair
  • Susan Shields’ Visions and Miracles, staged by Susan Shields and assistants Lauren Ciccolini and Nateisha Reaves

Martha Graham

Kyle Abraham

Rena Butler

Susan Shields

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2022-2023 Guest Artists

The guest artists for 2023 and who were featured at the 2023 Dance Gala in March were:

  • Robert Battle’s Awakening, staged by Elisa Clark, dance artists, educator, and administrator.
  • Rafael Bonachela’s Variation 10, restaged for George Mason by Fiona Jopp of Sydney Dance Company
  • Manuel Vignoulle's Black and White, staged by Rena Butler, artist, choreographer, and dancer to stage
  • Doug Varone and Dancers's Double Octet, staged by Ryan Yamauchi and Daeyana Moss, from the company of Doug Varone and Dancers.

Robert Battle

Rafael Bonachela

Manuel Vignoulle

Choreographer Doug Varone

Doug Varone and Dancers visited George Mason in February 2023 for a one-week residency, including a performance at George Mason’s Center for the Arts—joined by George Mason students. The program featured Somewhere (2019), Short Story (2001), Aperture (1994), and Double Octet (2021). During the residency the dancers worked on perfecting Double Octet for the Dance Gala in March 2023.

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Doug Varone and Dancers with George Mason Dancers in Spring 2023
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Doug Varone and Dancers Perform at George Mason

Choreographer Robert Battle

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Choreographer Robert Battle working with George Mason dancers
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Spring 2023 guest residency with choreographer Robert Battle

Choreographer Manuel Vignoulle

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Manuel Vignoulle residency in Spring 2023
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Working on Manuel Vignoulle's 'Black and White' for the 2023 Dance Gala.
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An impressive roster of guest artists visit the School of Dance each year, engaging with our dancers through multi-day residencies and master classes.

During the 2022-2023 academic year, our majors have worked with:

  • Julie Nakagawa and DanceWorks Chicago
  • The Mark Morris Dance Group
  • Doug Varone and Dancers
  • Rena Butler
  • Justin Peck
  • Tiler Peck
  • Clifford Williams
  • Dwight Rhoden,
  • Nrityagram Dance Ensemble, and more.  
The students were extremely professional and well rehearsed, which speaks well for George Mason University’s dance program. The twelve student dancers stood out, but ironically for the fact that they blended so seamlessly into Varone’s work.

—Review of 2017 performance by Doug Varone and Mason dancers

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Rita Donahue, Mason alum and dancer with Mark Morris Dance Group for 15 years, returned to give a masterclass to George Mason students.
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Alum Kim Davis, a dancer with DanceWorks Chicago, returned to work with George Mason dancers during a 2019 Masterclass.
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In 2019, Victor Quijada (center), artistic director of RUBBERBAND Dance Group taught a Masterclass to the Dance majors.
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Dancers worked with Fiona Jopp from Australia's Sydney Dance Company on Rafael Bonachela’s "Variation 10," featured in the 2020 Dance Gala.

Guest Artists Experiences

Jean Emile

The guest artist experience with visiting faculty and Alvin Ailey alum, Jean Emile

A Tribute

A Tribute to Susan Shields's, 'Sunlit Song.'

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In the News
Doug Varone working with students at Mason
Doug Varone and Dancers

17 dancers were selected by esteemed Doug Varone and Dancers, one of George Mason’s 2023 artists-in-residence, to participate in upcoming performances. Eight of the students will perform alongside the company in February, and all 17 will perform at the Center for the Arts at the annual George Mason Dance Company Gala in the spring. The students will be performing a version of the piece, Double Octet.

George Mason dancers pictured in 2018 with Lar Lubovitch when they were invited to perform his Brahms Symphony at the close of the Lubovitch company's 50th anniversary season. 


Lubovitch said about the George Mason dancers, "They danced it very accurately, very beautifully and with great maturity, which is the thing one would least expect from people their age..."

Billy Smith was one of two students "plucked" by Mark Morris from George Mason's School of Dance upon graduation. The second was Durell R. Comedy. See Billy Smith's update video in 2024.

Header image: George Mason School of Dance juniors and seniors with A.I.M. by Kyle Abraham artist, Gianna Theodore, at an A.I.M Movement Workshop.