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Girls & Guys PG-13
Dancing in college: The big decision
By iPurplemember has saluted, click to view salute photos Comments: 527, member since Sun Jun 20, 2010
On Wed Aug 07, 2013 01:20 AM

I'm going to be a senior in high school this year and I've come across a huge, monumental decision: College. I'm very serious in my dance training and plan to take it to the professional level. I've been reading a lot about how dancers are increasingly waiting and going to college to study dance, either major or minor, before becoming professional, and how much it has helped them in the long run. It trained them to the degree and more that an apprenticeship would, plus they received a BFA that would help them later on after retiring, etc. Anyway, I'm still figuring out what I want, but I'm seriously considering the college route more than ever. Realistically, I don't have enough stage experience to be accepted into a company, nor do I feel like I've matured enough as a dancer or a person. An apprenticeship sounds like a good path for me, yet I'm thinking about college because I want that sound degree. So right now I'm looking into dance majors.

Now to the details. I have above average grades and could realistically get into a huge range of colleges (3.7-3.8 cumulitave GPA, 1690 SAT) One program that I am looking into extensively is the Indiana University ballet program. My mom went to IU, and she loved it. However, she went as a transfer student out of a junior college, and got a completely different major. I want to apply to a good variety of schools, and that's where I've begun my search. I'd like to know the names of some schools that have a very reputable arts program, preferably with a ballet program like IU does. I don't plan on applying to many colleges in California, my home state.

Here's my dilemma. My mom wants me to start at a junior college to save money and get my GE done, then transfer to another uni. That sounds like a perfectly fine and reasonable plan to me, but I'm worried about dance. Is it better to start out as a freshman in a university's dance program to get the four years of experience, especially if I plan on majoring in dance? I'd think it would be, but if I were to get my GE out of the way and then transfer I could focus solely on dance... basically I'm totally clueless about all of this. Help!

6 Replies to Dancing in college: The big decision

re: Dancing in college: The big decision
By Gioiamember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member Comments: 3024, member since Sun Jun 20, 2004
On Wed Aug 07, 2013 04:46 PM
This is purely anecdotal, but all of the girls that I know who studied dance in college never became professional dancers. Several of them dance with a company, but they are small companies that most people have never heard of and they only dance there part time and they hold down other full time jobs as well. Several of them are teachers, and several run their own studio. One works in admissions for the theatre department at the University she went to. I personally think that the amount of dancing you do in college just does not get you on the professional level. You either need to be dancing at a small company at the same time or somehow supplementing your dancing. Otherwise, you are 22 when you graduate and you have lost 4 prime dancing years that could have been spent with a company.

Of course there are exceptions to every rule, but college dancing does not usually give you the upper hand when it comes to getting in with a company. You need to decide what you want, do you want to perform with a company, or not?

Try to think to yourself: What would a degree in dance get me? I hate to say it, but not a whole lot. Of course you should strive to achieve whatever it is that you want, but college is not always the answer.
re: Dancing in college: The big decision
By slice Comments: 1247, member since Fri Oct 15, 2004
On Wed Aug 07, 2013 04:59 PM
There's been a lot of threads on the topic and you might want to also read through them (I just searched "dance degree") in addition to the advice you get here: . . . . . .
re: Dancing in college: The big decision
By iPurplemember has saluted, click to view salute photos Comments: 527, member since Sun Jun 20, 2010
On Thu Aug 08, 2013 03:31 PM
Gioia, I can see where you are coming from. My only worry is that if I start auditioning for companies right out of school, not necessarily HUGE ones but even smaller ones, that I might not have the stage experience or maturity to be in a company. A dance major is just one option that I've been exploring, and the IU arts program is closer to the intensity/quality of Julliard, from what I've heard (but not experienced in person.) I'm still looking around. I'm open to a gap year or apprenticeship also, to take classes and travel and audition.

I've also noticed that I tend to underestimate myself, so maybe it's just me... I was in a big dance show my junior year for my high school, and we have one of the most elite dance groups in the area. I got compliments on how I really get comfortable on the stage and with the choreography, and it shows in my face and movements. I also was complimented previously by a professional dancer when my studio did a little show, and she said the same sorts of things. Should I go for it and audition around, and perfect my technique? It would be great to talk to a dancer who went through a university dance program like that of IU or Julliard, and hear their experience. I really do love performing and the stage, and wish I could have more opportunities to perform.
re: Dancing in college: The big decision
By Theresamember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member Comments: 34923, member since Wed May 22, 2002
On Thu Aug 08, 2013 03:44 PM
Our tap instructor has a dance degree from Hope College, which is not only a dance program, but widely regarded to be among the best in the nation. And works FIVE different jobs, just to come even close to making ends meet.

Majere (who I hope doesn't mind my invoking her name here) was a dance major too. Worked in dance for a year, decided it wasn't for her, and now works at the library.

Dance degrees do not guarantee professional success.
re: Dancing in college: The big decision
By Gioiamember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member Comments: 3024, member since Sun Jun 20, 2004
On Thu Aug 08, 2013 04:35 PM
The thing about dance degrees is that they are not required for any job related to dance. There is no degree or qualifications needed to teach dance. There are no degrees or qualifications needed to perform. So my thought is that if you can achieve what you want in another way, then do that. Because college is damn expensive. It would take greater effort and motivation to research dance opportunities on your own, and get in with a school or company that will teach you what you need to know for a lot less than it would cost to go to college. Again, I don't think college is necessarily a bad idea, anything you do will be a good investment in your future. Once you know your end game though, it is about researching what others have done to get there and making your own game plan. If you had prospective scholarships, that might factor into your decision as well.
re: Dancing in college: The big decision
By iPurplemember has saluted, click to view salute photos Comments: 527, member since Sun Jun 20, 2010
On Sun Aug 11, 2013 02:08 AM
Thanks for everyone's opinions. I know that being in a company doesn't require any sort of degree. And I'm understanding that few people go on to have a professional career in dance, regardless of college education or not. I was curious, so I was searching through the Indiana University's Jacob's School of Music page for their ballet major and found their alumni page. . . .

This is probably nowhere near the amount of people that earned a dance/ballet degree, but these people have been successful in their endeavors and there are a lot of decent sized companies on there. (Fun fact: I noticed that Amanda Schull, aka Jody Sawyer from Center Stage, and also former SFB corps member went there! From what I've read she double majored in ballet and journalism, and also worked as an apprentice at SFB while there.)

I'm also considering double majoring or minoring in business or something business related, which is something I was thinking about whether or not I chose the dance major route.

Gioia: Because my mom went there, I think she did some special scholarship investment so that if one of her kids ever wanted to go to Indiana, they could have a partial scholarship. I'll have to ask her about it.