So you think you want to be a dance major in college. Great! What's the first step? RESEARCH! Spend some time on the internet looking for college dance programs that meet what you are looking for. Then, go visit as many of the schools that you plan to apply for as you possibly can. What you invest in researching prospective schools will be well worth it, especially if it prevents you from having to transfer to another school because you are unhappy with the school or program you originally chose. Before you begin your search, be aware of the following:
- TYPES OF PROGRAMS: Every college dance program has a different focus. Some focus on ballet only, some let you choose from a few different areas of concentration (ballet, modern, jazz, etc.), some offer a teaching track, or a choreography track, or even a technology track (i.e. dance on film). There are a ton of great programs out there, and it's up to you to do your homework to find out which one(s) have what you want! Juilliard's program has a dual focus on ballet and modern dance, and all students must study both forms. Juilliard also offers opportunities to hone your choreography skills. So if you are looking for a performance-based program in ballet and modern dance, and you might be interested in choreography as well, then you might want to consider applying to Juilliard! However, if you are only interested in hip-hop, or if you want to become a dance teacher right after college, or if you have never taken ballet before, then you will want to look at other programs. You can read more about Juilliard's Dance Division here.
- TYPES OF DEGREES: Generally speaking, a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in dance consists of about 50% dance course work and 50% academic credits in math, science, liberal arts, etc. over 4 years. A Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degree will skew more towards dance coursework, and a BFA earned at a conservatory will be even more dance-heavy. Some schools offer a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree because their dance courses are offered through the kinesiology or physical education departments, or because they have a strong focus on new technology in dance. BA and BS degrees generally allow more flexibility for double majors or minors, whereas BFA degrees are more focused and make it more difficult to complete coursework towards another major or minor. Every school is different in what it requires to earn the degree, so be sure to look for the dance major curriculum on the school's Web site. For the record, Juilliard offers a BFA and the curriculum can be found here.
It's also worth mentioning that some schools offer dance courses, but not an actual degree in dance. Dance as a major is relatively new (at least as compared to something like an English major), and many schools list their dance courses under other departmental headings - such as theater, kinesiology, physical education, or even music. You may have to dig a little to discover whether a school actually offers a dance major, and if so, under which department it falls.
Ok, I'll be back in a few weeks with some more "food for thought" with regards to audition processes and other factors to consider during your search for your perfect college program. You've got a whole summer ahead of you; get busy researching!