College is all about investing in your education, but it’s also the perfect time to meet a ton of people. The intense nature of a college dance program means you might have the chance to collaborate with anyone from visiting choreographers to MFA candidates to alumni—and those people can help lay the groundwork for your professional career. Dance Spirit asked two pros how they built lasting professional relationships that started in college.

University of Massachusetts, Amherst, dancers performing at a choreography show (Photo by Jim Coleman, courtesy Five College Dance Department)

Use the Resources On Offer

Many colleges provide built-in opportunities to network with peers at other schools (like during American College Dance Association conferences), and some have robust alumni programs to help put dancers in touch with each other. Taking advantage of those resources can help give you a leg up when you start seeking professional jobs.

Nashville-based New Dialect company member Rebecca Steinberg, for example, participated in the New York Professional Outreach Program when she was an undergraduate at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. NYPOP allowed her to visit NYC and connect with UMass alumni who had already started their careers. “I felt like I had an active web I could effortlessly slide into once I moved to the city,” she says.

Pursue the Options That Appeal to You

When you really click with a choreographer, make it clear you’d like to keep collaborating by expressing how much you appreciate their work and asking about future projects or auditions. Once you’ve built a relationship, you can ask them directly about opportunities.

UMass Amherst alum Rebecca Steinberg (photo by Jim Coleman, courtesy Steinberg)

Isabelle Collazo, an alumna of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, took a straightforward approach to her networking. “Paige Cunningham-Caldarella set choreography on our senior class,” Collazo says. “I knew she was based in Chicago, which was where I wanted to live after graduation, so I asked her to create my senior solo and she agreed.” And when choreographers see you at your best, they’ll be more inclined to recommend you to others. “As an associate professor at Columbia College Chicago, Paige introduced me to a network of Chicago-based dancers who have become some of my closest collaborators,” Collazo says.

After Graduation, Do the Legwork

Collazo suggests using social media to stay in touch with your college network. “The U of I dance department hosts a Facebook page where alumni regularly post performance and audition notices,” Collazo says. “The department also sends out an annual newsletter and maintains a website of alumni updates.” Steinberg suggests alerting your network if you change cities, or develop new artistic interests. “Ask people to help you make connections,” she says. “That’s been one of my most vital tools.” Collazo agrees, but cautions that the internet shouldn’t be used as a crutch to avoid showing up to things in real life. “It’s important to go to shows, auditions and workshops in order to stay involved,” she says—and to build real relationships instead of superficial ones. Ask people about their projects. “If you really want to work with someone,” Collazo says, “tell them.”

Sonya Tayeh led a master class for Pace students in May.
(photo courtesy Pace)

Calling all high schoolers: Pace University's Commercial Dance BFA program will host a weekend intensive for prospective students on its campus October 17–19. (And yes, you read that correctly: You can get a degree in commercial dance.)

Unlike a typical college tour, Pace's weekend experience will get you moving. You'll take class with members of the university's dance faculty, including Jess Hendricks and Ginger Cox. If you're a high school senior, you'll have an opportunity to audition for the university's dance department that Friday. There will be two Q&A sessions with the program's administration and students, and you'll get to see Pace dancers perform work by guest faculty members Andy Blankenbuehler and Mandy Moore. Registration begins September 17.

Busy that weekend? Many college dance programs host summer or winter intensives for prospective students. Our September issue includes essential information for more than 150 college and university dance programs, including the degrees offered and contact information. You can also get the latest college dance news delivered right to your inbox by signing up for the free DanceU101 newsletter.

William Forsythe with Jodie Gates, the director of USC's Glorya Kaufman School of Dance.
(photo by Ian Carney)

You may have read that legendary choreographer William Forsythe is leaving his company to join the faculty of the new BFA program at University of Southern California’s Glorya Kaufman School of Dance. (The school will enroll its first class for the fall 2015 semester.) Forsythe will be leading composition and improvisation courses and mentoring the USC International Artist Fellows—a program for emerging artists. He'll also serve as the the artistic advisor to the school's Choreographic Institute.

The university has also announced that dancers will have the opportunity to work with professors and students at USC's School of Cinematic Arts—particularly with the animation department. This is super cool, especially since we already know what amazing things happen when dance and animation meet (ahem, Duet). The collaboration, however, has already started: Take a look at the School of Dance's website, which was created by cinematic arts associate professor Mike Patterson.

Is college on your mind? Check out the Dance Magazine College Guide. It's got tons of helpful info on college admissions, auditions, finances and programs nationwide. And if you want to stay up-to-date on the latest college and university dance news, you might consider signing up for the monthly DanceU101.com newsletter. Get tons of info about college dance delivered right to your inbox. Click here to sign up.

It's natural to feel a little anxious about the future. You never know where life will take you; and for you graduating—or even rising—seniors, those feelings can get pretty overwhelming right around now.

But you're not alone. Even the pros have been in your place.

This spring, George Mason University hosted the American College Dance Festival Association's Mid-Atlantic regional conference. In addition to the many master classes, rehearsals, and performances of the weekend, the highlight was the "Life in Dance" panel, where students heard from a number of dance luminaries—including Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's artistic director Robert Battle, choreographer Kyle Abraham, and renowned dance critic Deborah Jowitt.

"As a student trying to make it in a highly competitive field, I'm worried about my future," said sophomore dance major Meredith Hermann. "But it was so inspiring to hear them say that when they were in our positions, they didn't know what was ahead of them either. They couldn't imagine it."

To help you get through these nerve-wracking times, Dance Spirit got the pros' five most inspiring quotes:

Robert Battle with members of AAADT.
Photo by Andrew Eccles

"One of the most important virtues you'll need is courage. And no matter where your journey takes you, bring that courage with you. Be open to adventure and don't be afraid of the dark." —Robert Battle

"You have to find your sense of humor. You have to find your tenacity. And remember that even on the worst days, it will get better." —Ashley Wheater, artistic director of the Joffrey Ballet

"Life takes you on its journey, and as long you have an idea of what interests you and what you love, you will be OK. You will make the right choices. Luck is a big part of it—but self determination is an even bigger part."

—Elisa Monte, director of Elisa Monte Dance

Elizabeth Parkinson and Keith Roberts in Twyla Tharp's Movin' Out. Photo by Richard Termine/CTFD

"Always have the spirit of, 'Let me see what this is.' Or, 'Could I be a part of it?' The key is staying open to new things."

—Elizabeth Parkinson, co-director of FineLine Theatre Arts

"I made my way from a girl to the dancer I am now through a series of accidents, coincidences, and surprises. You can't count on anything. I had a life I never could have anticipated, but it worked out alright—and I hope yours will too." —Deborah Jowitt

Interested in attending ACDFA's National College Dance Festival? It's June 4–7, 2014 at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. Click here for more info and a schedule of events.

(Quotes compiled by GMU junior dance major Nicole Montano.)

I remember my audition for Juilliard like it was yesterday. I can tell you which leotard I wore, where I stood at the barre—and that I didn't make it past the first cut.

I bring this up for two reasons:

1. It's college admissions season, when high school seniors anxiously await envelopes containing options and decisions surrounding their future. It's a terrifying time of year, and one that can be extremely exciting and heart-wrenching at the same time.

Juilliard students Daphne Fernberger and Lorrin Brubaker in Lar Lubovitch's Concerto Six Twenty-Two. Photo by Rosalie O'Connor

2. Juilliard's dance department celebrated another successful spring performance run this past weekend. Their sophomore, junior and senior dancers excelled in a repertory smorgasbord: Twyla Tharp's Baker's Dozen, Lar Lubovitch's Concerto Six Twenty-Two and Eliot Feld’s The Jig Is Up. It was easy to forget the dancers were students and not professionals the way they tackled Tharp's wiggly phrasing and Lubovitch's flowing, expansive movement.

Juilliard's Kristina Bentz in Eliot Feld’s The Jig Is Up.
Photo by Rosalie O'Connor

On Friday night, Dance Spirit's very own September 2013 cover guy (and Juilliard junior) Corey John Snide shimmied his way through Feld's quirky mix of Irish-jig-meets-Soul Train-meets-flower-child choreography.

While watching The Jig Is Up, I remembered one of Corey's quotes from the feature: "College has given me options for how I can make a living and feel fulfilled artistically. I'm not just trying to kick my leg up to my face anymore." He captures exactly what college dance has to offer. It's the time to explore everything we love—and don't love—about dance. It's awesome.

Choosing a school, however, is not always as awesome, or easy. When I was rejected from Juilliard, I was definitely disappointed in myself. But as they say, hindsight is 20-20, and I know now my reasons for choosing to audition there in the first place weren't exactly grounded. I didn't know Juilliard's rich history; I'd never seen a performance there; and I had no idea of which company I dreamed of joining after graduation. I hadn't considered what I truly wanted out of a dance education, compared to what the school—or any school for that matter—actually offered.

All classic mistakes.

But Dance Spirit is here to help. Check out "University of NYC" to find out what school in The Big Apple is really like. "Streamline Your College Search" offers countless tips to help you target your dream dance program. And look in your April issue for "I Have No Idea What I Want to Do After High School!" where you'll hear from five professional dancers about how they chose their paths—some heading to college and others directly to a career.

Want more? Sign up for the DanceU101 monthly newsletter to get program news and the "Real Deal" from college dance students delivered right to your inbox.

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