"When a biology major asked if I was illiterate because I studied dance, I realized just how much of a joke my field of study is to some people."
That's how Camryn Eakes, a junior dance major, opens her incredibly powerful open letter asking fellow Chapman University students to (as the title puts it) "Recognize the complexities of the dance major." It's a frustration that's way too familiar to just about every dancer: We've all had this beloved art form of ours questioned, ridiculed, trivialized or worse.
Eakes' passionate writing speaks to so many of the misconceptions that drive dancers CRAZY, along with the huge demands our art form puts on us:
"Dance requires us to be willing, to expose our rawest self to any set of eyes. Every day, I must be willing to relive both the euphoric and depressing memories I house in the deepest depths of me. That's my job; that's our job. We are storytellers, protesters, advocators, thinkers, entertainers, actors and innovators. Studio time is our lab, our calculator, our pen and paper. It is not enough just to physically show up to class. Our growth and talent is a full-time investment inside and out of class and that's just part of being an artist. We cannot destroy our bodies with alcohol and all-nighters. Our bodies are our tools and something we can't purchase over and over again when it breaks. The professional artist lifespan is only so long as our health will last, that we cannot afford nor want to lose any time we have enjoying and delving deeper into what we cannot live without."
You can read the complete version of Camyrn's letter on The Panther's website. And check out this video of Camryn dancing—she's obviously a gorgeous mover and a beautiful writer.
Hey guys! Anyone headed to University of California, Los Angeles, this fall? How about Sarah Lawrence College? Both schools are adding amazing choreographic talent to their dance department: Sarah Lawrence welcomes prolific downtown choreographer John Jasperse as the new director of dance, while Kyle Abraham will join UCLA as a faculty member.
Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion dancers in Pavement (Photo by Steven Schreiber, courtesy Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion)
This is amazing news for dancers at both institutions—but it also has positive ramifications for college dance, nationwide. When departments invest in professors who can offer students a mix of theory and technique, coupled with professional experience, everyone benefits.
Cheers to everyone starting college! Tweet us at @Dance_SpiritMag and let us know how your first week has been. Curious about life as a college dancer? Be sure to check out our September issue—it's full of super helpful information, like where today's top choreographers are teaching. Not sure where to start in your college search? The Dance Magazine College Guide gives you a rundown of hundreds of options.
Happy learning and dancing!
Juilliard dancers in Nacho Duato's Gnawa (photo by Nan Melville)
If you’re planning to dance in college, chances are you’ve been pondering life after high school for quite some time—and that’s a good thing. “It’s never too early to start thinking about college,” says Alison Green, an advisor at Minnesota’s Saint Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists. Many collegiate dance programs require an extra application step—that dreaded audition—and waiting until the eleventh hour can add extra pressure to your decisions.
Not sure when to do what? Follow this timeline, which starts your freshman year of high school, to help you stay on top of college prep and keep the process as stress-free as possible.
Your freshman year:
• Start forming a general list of schools that may interest you. Then, look at those schools’ academic requirements, says Kate Walker, dance department coordinator at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas, TX. If one university requires its applicants to have taken three years of a foreign language, for instance, it won’t be too late to fit that third year of French into your schedule.
• Start a running list of activities and accomplishments, including any major performances, awards, summer intensives and master classes.
Your sophomore year:
• Look back at your preliminary list of schools, and start thinking more deeply about your interests and what you’re looking for in a dance program. Do you want to cross off any schools? Add new ones? Now is a good time to fine-tune the list.
• Start planning college visits, which can begin as early as your sophomore year and continue until the fall of your senior year. If possible, drop by college campuses when school is in session and students are around so you can get the most out of your trip. “Ask if you can watch dance classes, and definitely go see a student performance,” says Donna Faye Burchfield, director of the School of Dance at the University of the Arts, in Philadelphia, PA.
• Many colleges ask for teacher recommendations with your application. Green says that sophomore year is a good time to start developing relationships with dance instructors or your favorite academic teachers whom you might ask to write those letters of recommendation. “Be a leader in class and ask for their advice,” Green says ”You want to make sure they get to know you.”
The summer between your sophomore and junior years:
• Many college dance programs offer summer intensives for prospective students. Attending one can be a great way to determine if you like a particular school—and keep up your training during the summer break. “You can get a slice of what life may be like at that college or university,” Walker says.
• “Start doing some research on what the curriculum looks like at your prospective schools,” Walker says. Do you want a school that focuses on a certain technique? One that gives students opportunities to choreograph? Ask yourself if you’re leaning toward a conservatory program (with a BFA track), or if you might want to double-major and focus on schools with BA programs.
Your junior year:
• Remember that list of activities and awards you started your freshman year? Now’s the time to transform it into your college-application resumé. Be sure to include your academic and dance achievements, along with any clubs, volunteer work or part-time jobs you do outside of school or dance.
• Attend college open houses and fairs—you may discover programs you hadn’t previously considered.
• Take the SAT and/or ACT. If you wait until senior year to take these tests, Green warns, you’ll have fewer early-application options. This also gives you time to retake the test if you’d like.
• Study! “Many schools will make admissions decisions based on junior grades,” Green says.
• Research scholarship opportunities. Find out each scholarship’s specific requirements.
• Ask teachers for recommendations—and give them a deadline of at least two weeks before they’re due. Walker advises asking teachers in person and then following up with an email that includes your resumé. Having that information handy will make it easier for your teachers to write personalized recommendations.
The summer between your junior and senior years:
• Choose a solo you’ll use for college auditions and start polishing it. It can be something you’ve already performed, or you can choreograph one yourself.
• Write the first draft of your application essay(s).
• Finalize the list of schools you want to apply to and take note of each program’s application deadlines and audition requirements. Don’t forget about the documents you’ll need, such as transcripts, letters of recommendation and income records (for financial aid packages).
• Try to take a few master classes in unfamiliar techniques, like modern or African dance. These new experiences will give you a leg up before auditions, which can often include styles you might not be comfortable with.
Your senior year:
• Schedule auditions. If the school allows, Burchfield recommends taking a class with current students while you’re on campus. Some programs will even count the class as your audition.
• Present yourself professionally online. This might include limiting public access to your social media accounts or adjusting how others can tag you. “You should always be the one in control of your internet presence,” Green says—not your friends.
• Complete and submit all applications, and make sure your transcripts and recommendations are in order. If you’re applying to conservatories, keep in mind that there might be a supplement to the Common Application (or even a supplement to a school’s individual app) where you’ll be asked about your dance training. Don’t procrastinate! Walker says students often underestimate how much time these additional applications can take.
• Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which is available January 1.
Congratulations—you did it! Beware of falling victim to senioritis, though: Colleges will still look at grades from your final semester. And remember to finalize your plans quickly. Most final decisions are due by May 1, the national college acceptance deadline.
There’s a new dance BFA in town: L.A. is now home to the University of Southern California’s Glorya Kaufman School of Dance. Thanks to the school’s prime location, unique partnerships and generous funding, it’s poised to be a top choice for BFA hopefuls across the country.
The Kaufman School’s all-star faculty (which includes none other than choreographic legend William Forsythe) and artists in residence (Victor Quijada and Desmond Richardson, to name just two) are supplemented by a partnership with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. Students will have the chance to work with company dancers and learn repertoire. “Hubbard Street is just one of a few partnerships we’re building,” says vice dean and program director Jodie Gates.
Incoming freshman Paulo Hernandez-Farella in front of the future site of the Glorya Kaufman International Dance Center (photo by Daniel Anderson, courtesy University of Southern California)
Gates is aware that the school needs to turn out 21st-century artists, not just beautifully trained dancers. “The virtual world isn’t going away,” she says, “so we’ve partnered with USC’s film and music schools—not just for the stage but also for animation, film, even gaming. Our vision is to create new art forms through dance.”
Gates believes that the conservatory-inside-the-large-research-university arrangement is ideal. Students in the program will dance five to six hours a day, but will also be required to take liberal arts credits. There’s room in the conservatory schedule to pursue a minor, allowing students to take advantage of USC’s many other programs. In fact, the Kaufman School requires collaboration across disciplines. “All seniors must complete an interdisciplinary project with two people in a field other than dance,” Gates says. “USC had every other art school but lacked a dance school. Now, we’re looking to create community.”
For more information, visit kaufman.usc.edu.
By now, you guys have probably heard about the new Glorya Kaufman School of Dance at the University of Southern California. We've been talking about it since last year, and it's literally got everything going for it: William Forsythe onboard as faculty? Check. A partnership with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago? Check. Teachers at the top of their industry? State-of-the-art resources? Access to the L.A. dance scene? Yes, yes, YAAAAS!
This awesome video features some of the freshman from the school's inaugural class— dancers who are super excited to follow their dreams in college. This gives us serious warm-fuzzies. Oh, and recognize the brunette with perfect lines? Yep, our girl (and 2014 CMS finalist) Alyssa Allen has joined 33 other amazing dancers at USC this fall.
Good luck dancers!
As you start planning your summer program auditions, make sure to consider your dream college. It might offer an intensive for teens, which is one of the best ways to familiarize yourself with the school. DS rounded up three dance departments with top-notch summer programs so you can start strategizing now.
University of California, Los Angeles
What to expect: This program frames dance in a context bigger than the studio. You’ll spend time investigating dance as a tool for social change, and you’ll study everything from Polynesian dance to postmodern techniques.
Dates: late June (see website for exact dates)
Application: Dancers give short answers to a series of questions, and submit their applications online. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis beginning in February, and decisions are made approximately four weeks after submission. There is no audition.
More information: summer.ucla.edu/institutes
Columbia College Chicago
What to expect: Modern dancers will love this program, which emphasizes improvisation and composition. You’ll get ballet and hip hop, too. Be prepared to work intensively on your collaboration skills during choreography class.
Dates: mid–late July (see website for exact dates)
Application: Dancers submit personal information via an online form. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis through the end of June. Once students are notified of acceptance, they can register for classes online. There is no audition.
More information: colum.edu/academics/hssi/
(Photo by Jacob Brent, courtesy University of North Carolina School of the Arts)
University of North Carolina School of the Arts
What to expect: This intensive offers a wide variety of classes, including partnering and music for dancers. Many teachers are UNCSA alums who have gone on to have successful careers.
Dates: June 21–July 25
Audition: Auditions are held nationwide, January 17–February 14. Dancers will generally be notified of acceptance two weeks after their audition. Acceptance emails will include registration information.
More information: uncsa.edu/summersession/
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.)
You know what I love?
Do you know how you can become a smart[er] dancer?
Go to college!
I love dancers who make the decision to continue their education after high school. I know it's not for everyone—some dancers want to get their professional careers kicked off right away, and hey, any ambition is good ambition, right?
But it's the ones who choose to pursue a bachelor's (or master's!) degree—while still dancing!—that really impress me.
Dance Spirit's September Issue! Cover photo by Erin Baiano.
And with that, I proudly present to you...Dance Spirit's September issue! It's our annual Higher Ed Issue, and you should've received it in your mailbox by now. (If not, go snag it at your local Barnes & Noble. I'll wait.)
On the cover, meet three current college students who are making the grade in NYC: Corey John Snide, Courtney Celeste Spears and Zoey Anderson. All three grew up on the competition circuit, and now they're getting a glimpse of all life has to offer in the classroom, in the dorms, on the college stage and beyond. Corey's studying at The Juilliard School (impressive, I know), Courtney's enrolled in the Ailey/Fordham BFA Program, and Zoey is a dance major at Marymount Manhattan College (all the way from her hometown in Utah!).
We are so proud of them and are thrilled to have their smarty-pants faces beaming on the cover. Click here to read their cover story, "University of NYC."
Also in this issue:
- Must-know details about six standout NYC college programs
- "Am I Ready for College?" I don't know. But in this story, we break down five common challenges university-bound dancers face, and we'll help ease any fears you may have about heading to the dorms.
- Emily Bernet, a sophomore at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX, shares all the gritty details about her first year as a dance major at SMU. (She got bit by a poisonous spider, but don't worry about that. It's not a common college thing. Promise.)
- Dance Spirit's annual Higher Ed Guide, with all the info you need on 145 top-notch college dance programs.
Study hard, dance hard, play hard and have the best school year ever!