What to Look For When You Visit a College Dance Department

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By Susan Epstein of Dance Pathways

This fall will begin your senior year in high school, and your serious search for the perfect college for you. Dancers have additional pressures because most dance departments require an audition for majors and minor candidates alike. August is the perfect time to narrow down your choices and plan for your campus visits.   Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your college tours.

Check the school’s websites to look for on-campus audition/tour dates to figure out when to go. Most schools combine campus auditions with tours of the campus and dance department, along with time to talk to students and faculty. October through January are prime times for visits and auditions.

You need to have a solid idea of what you are looking for in a program so you can zero in on which schools to visit. Knowing what you are looking for will help you craft a list of questions before you go.

Nina Nelson, Chair of the Dance Department at Western Michigan University, when asked what the most important thing to consider when picking a school is, said “You have to do a campus visit. Then you know you have found the right school for you when you get that tingly feeling during your visit.” She went on to say, “When we asked our students what made them choose WMU, they said that during the audition day on campus they were made to feel welcomed and they felt at home. They loved the dancing, but it was the human connection that made the difference.”

Things to consider on your visit:

  • See as many performances or rehearsals as you can. Watch a technique class. Can you imagine yourself doing the choreography? Is the work stimulating and motivational to you?
  • Does the department have partnerships with area professional or semi-professional companies? Are there collaborative opportunities?
  • What are the dance genres taught?
  • Take some time to talk to the students – see if you make a connection with them.
  • What kind of program is it? What is the career focus?
    • Commercial dance
    • Performing in a company
    • Education/teaching
  • How big are the technique classes?
  • What are the performing opportunities? Who are the choreographers for the shows?
  • Is there a senior project? What does it entail?
  • Is there a semester abroad or other special programs?
  • Who are the upcoming guest artists? What will they teach? Repertoire or technique or both?
  • Who are full time and who are part-time faculty? Be sure to get their bios and know who they are.
  • Outside of technique, what are the other dance degree requirements and other classes offered? Do any of these classes satisfy the college liberal arts requirements as well? Courses such as:
    • Pedagogy
    • Kinesiology
    • Choreography
    • Dance History
    • Art Entrepreneurial Studies
    • Improvisation
    • Stagecraft , Design and Production
      • Lighting
      • Costumes
      • Sets
      • Stage Management
      • Production Management
      • Box Office/House Management
    • Dance career exploration
      • Dance Medicine
      • Dance Therapy
      • Arts Administration
      • Grant and Critical Writing
      • Photography/Videography
    • Where are the alumni today? Do they still work in the field? In what capacity?
    • If you are looking for a double major, does the dance department have a good working relationship with other departments and are they willing to create an action plan that will work for the students? Will they help you to talk to the companion department while you are on campus?
    • What kind of job preparation/career services are offered?
      • Creating a resume and audition tape
      • Personal planning
      • Marketing yourself
      • Job placement services
      • Audition listings

Take your time, plan ahead and try and enjoy the process. Remember the 5 P’s: Perfect Planning Prevents Poor Performance.

1 Comment
  1. […] August blog on DDS is all about getting the most out of your college dance department visits . If you or your […]

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