“Nearly every weekend that I tour the country with New York City Dance Alliance (NYCDA), I have multiple conversations with dance teachers, parents and kids about DANCING IN COLLEGE. Debating the pros and cons of dancing in college is a separate conversation. Let’s assume you hope to dance in a reputable college program…. somewhere. How do you pick the right school?
Here are a few of my tips for choosing the right program for you. I hope to take a concise/abbreviated approach. (Wish me luck!) As I say at every one of my weekend NYCDA Parents’ Forums… all of this is just my humble opinion. I offer it… hoping to help in some way.
DO YOUR HOMEWORK
– Why wait until your junior year in high school to start the process? Start earlier and have some college choices on your radar.
– Be open-minded. There are LOTS of good choices.
– Are you looking into Bachelor of Arts programs or Bachelor of Fine Arts? Be sure you research the differences. All college programs approach these differently.
– Dance Magazine publishes an annual College Guide. It is extremely comprehensive.
– The internet puts detailed info at your fingertips. Visit college websites.
– Does the college website have an alumni tab? What are their graduates doing now? Do you have similar aspirations?
– Does the college host guest faculty and guest choreographers from the professional world? Will the experience expand your professional dance network?
– Attend college chats/forums and pay attention to programs discussed by others. What schools are other talented dancers considering? Expand your knowledge beyond your immediate circle of friends and contacts. All input is valuable.
– The NYCDA Foundation College Scholarship Program currently supports dancers in 32 prestigious programs across the United States. I often offer this list as a good starting point. (See photo below)
– When attending ANY professional performances in your area, scour the artists’ bios. Where did those professionals go to school? Most will include it.
KEEP IN MIND: College is not only about the program and the classes. You will live in this city for four years! Are ready for an urban setting? Do want to navigate a subway system? Would you prefer something more rural? Location. Location. Location. It will affect your overall happiness in college. Where do you want to live… and what type of lifestyle will it offer you?
– Try to experience the school first hand. Yes… it’s an investment to travel around the country. But, it will help give you the peace of mind that you are making the right choice. Better to know, before you write a check for your freshman year tuition.
– Plan a visit in conjunction with another trip…. vacation, family visit, dance convention nationals, etc. Add a day and visit a college.
– Call ahead… maybe in September. When can you attend a performance? Observe some classes? Take a tour?
– Try to speak to dancers in the program. What info can they offer that no website will ever tell you?
– If you attend a performance, parents of some of the performing dancers will certainly be in the audience. Seek them out. Don’t be shy!! Ask questions. They understand the challenges of making a college choice. They lived it too. Plus… they can offer insight not included on any website.
– Can you envision yourself dong the work presented on the college stage? Be open minded. Remember, it should not look like your favorite ‘convention/competition’ style. You are choosing college to expand your vision of dance.
– Are the current dancers in the program well-trained? Would you be proud to share the stage with those dancers?
KEEP IN MIND: You should not choose a college program where you feel you may be the ‘star’. First of all, college programs usually treat their dancers as an ‘ensemble’. Also, college may be your last four years of intense training in a structured and supervised environment. It should definitely challenge you. Why invest $100K+… and four years of your life… and not be pushed in ways you can’t even imagine? Be sure to surround yourself with great talent. Your peers will inspire you. Together, you will find new levels of greatness.
Final piece of advice…don’t put your eggs in one basket. Be sure to audition for a handful of programs that interest you. Again, there are MANY good dance programs producing successful dancers. Do not be discouraged if you are not accepted to your ‘first choice’. Things do happen for a reason. Good things are awaiting you… someplace else. Embrace it!
Enrolling in a four year program is basically entering into a relatively long term relationship. No relationship brings a constant state of euphoria. Good relationships take work… and, ultimately, are well worth the effort. Four years of college is no different. You are invested in the school… and they are also invested in you! Enjoy and grow. These are four important years of your life… setting yourself up for a successful future!”
– Joe Lanteri