By Susan Epstein of Dance Pathways
For years dancers were told that if they wanted to dance, they had to go to a big city (New York, LA, etc.) and start auditioning, taking classes, and going after that performing career before they were “too old”. Some teachers and professionals still advise that today, but more and more dancers are being advised to go to college. In fact the next time you go to a performance, read the program notes about the dancers. More than likely the performers graduated from a college program. This is because college dance programs are incubators for professional companies and careers. It’s a safe place to learn to be creative, develop your art and discover your future, wherever that may take you. Here are just a few reasons that going to college to study dance makes sense:
- At 18 are you sure you know what you want? College gives dancers an opportunity to experience several forms of dance, develop multiple interests, discover different dance centric careers and explore opportunities.
- It’s all about connections. The community you build at college will be with you, open doors for you and support you for the rest of your life. Not only your fellow students, but your professors, your guest teachers, lecturers and guest choreographers.
- More and more colleges are offering double majors or minors so dancers can learn about and pursue parallel careers.
- The experiences you get in a dance program are not just on stage. You will work backstage learning about stage management, lighting, staging, costuming, and makeup. You will create marketing plans for concerts, write press releases and critiques, and design posters. You might learn how to take photographs or videos. You will have opportunities to do administration work. Along the way you may just find out you’re good at any number of these jobs, and be able to turn those skills into paying jobs or careers.
- Most dancers end up teaching at one point or another. Dance pedagogy classes give you the skills needed to be an outstanding teacher.
- College programs and can open your eyes to dance careers like Dance Medicine, Dance Therapy and Exercise Physiology.
- Many programs offer certifications in Yoga, Pilates, Gyrotonics, Massage, etc. Again, ways to stretch yourself as a dancer.
- College programs teach more than just technique. Cognitive and analytical thinking, writing skills, and technology advances are just a few of the life skills one learns when pursuing a degree. Skills that will serve you well in the pursuit of any career.
Once you understand the importance of going to college to dance, the next step is to find the right one for you and your parents. There are several tools to help you with that, and most, if not all of them can be found online. You’ll want to do research (a.k.a. “Google it”) on things like faculty, program requirements, auditions, guest artists, performance opportunities, campus life, and more. You really can’t be “too prepared.” With proper research, you are well on your way to being a part of the vibrant dance community.