Five Truths About Starting a College Dance Company
Whether you major or minor in dance, join a dance team or simply take a few extracurricular classes, there are myriad ways to continue your artistic journey in college. Sometimes, though, exactly what you're seeking isn't on campus—yet. That's where being in college comes in handy: You can start your own organization! Not only do student-run groups give you the chance to express your dancing self in unique ways, but you're also likely to gain leadership skills, hone your choreography chops and even make a few friends along the way.
There are a few things to keep in mind if you want to start a successful enterprise. We spoke with presidents of two organizations to learn the five most crucial elements of creating—and continuing—a student-run dance group.
1. Even though it's your group, you should still play by the rules. “Make good working relationships with the administration," says Katherine Kelly, a senior English and communications double major at Fordham University who is president of the roughly 20-member dance company Expressions Dance Alliance. “Still, you don't want to compromise your goals." At a large university, it's likely that the administration isn't too familiar with dance, so, Kelly continues, “be patient and explain the reasons why you need the space you do, or whatever it is you're asking for."
At Western Michigan University, Orchesis Dance Society is a student-run dance group within the dance department (though it accepts members from outside of the program) with 120 to 130 active participants. As president, senior dance major Allison Long meets monthly with the faculty advisor and the department chair. “Our board acts as a liaison between the students and administration," she says. “It's a great chance for us to have our voices heard."
2. Create clear policies to keep members on the same page. “The founder of our club basically wrote a constitution, and we ask that all our new members read it," says Kelly. “It states our mandatory rehearsal policies, and rules about auditions, absences and how many semesters you can stay on the executive board." Take it from Kelly, ground rules work: Expressions has been running smoothly for 15 years.
3. Fundraising is key. While some universities allocate funds to student organizations, groups at other institutions may need to raise money themselves. Orchesis does not receive financial help from WMU. In addition to car washes and bake sales, the group has gotten creative, volunteering to clean up after some campus-wide events to earn extra dough. Still, most of the group's money comes from $5–$12 dance concert ticket sales—enough to annually award two $1,000 student scholarships.
4. Budgeting can be your best friend. Be sure to account for and expect the unexpected when it comes to finances. “Most of Expressions' expenses go toward costuming," notes Kelly, “but there are a ton of little things you might not even think about, like paying a security guard during performances." Savvy budgeting can lead to pleasant surprises: After a few years of successful saving, Expressions was able to purchase marley flooring to use during performances.
5. You'll learn a lot about time management. Regardless of your goals for your group, “your school work still has to come first," Long says. “Leading an organization is fun, but it's also a huge responsibility." In Kelly's words: “It's a constant job. After regular rehearsals and group meetings, I'm also meeting with other student group leaders to coordinate collaborations. But it comes down to this: If you have to stay up an extra hour to finish homework, it's worth it. If you love dance, you'll make it happen."
Misty Copeland. Her name is synonymous with exquisite artistry and outspoken advocacy. And her visibility has made a huge impact on the ballet world. Ballet's relationship with race has always been strained at best, hostile at worst. But Copeland's persistent message and star quality have finally forced the ballet industry to start talking about racial diversity, inclusivity, and representation. "The rarity of seeing ourselves represented is sad," Copeland says. "The more we see every hue and body shape represented on the stage, the more possibilities young dancers feel they have for themselves."
"Whole, low-fat, or skim?" The question of which milk to drink has gotten a little more complicated lately, with a wide variety of nondairy milks popping up in grocery stores. To find out which ones are worth your milk money, we had registered dietitian Monika Saigal answer some FAQs.
Yesterday, the dance community was heartbroken to learn that Jaime Guttenberg and Cara Loughran, both 14-year-old dancers, were among the 17 people killed on Valentine's Day in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL.
American Ballet Theatre principal Sarah Lane charms audiences with her bright energy and crisp technique. The San Francisco, CA, native first started dancing at age 4 at a local community center, and at age 7 started training in Memphis, TN, at the Classical Ballet Memphis. Her family later moved to Rochester, NY, where she continued studying at the Draper Center for Dance Education. In 2002, she was a YoungArts Foundation winner in dance, allowing her to become a U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts. She joined American Ballet Theatre as an apprentice in 2003, was made a soloist in 2007, and was promoted to principal last fall. Recently, she originated the role of Princess Praline in Alexei Ratmansky's Whipped Cream. Catch her later this spring during ABT's Metropolitan Opera season. —Courtney Bowers
You and I both know that dancing is the best thing since chocolate chip cookies! But its always nice when dance gets the recognition it deserves from non–dance-world peeps. That's why we did our own happy dance when we saw Shape magazine's article on how dancing can actually make you a better athlete.
When Ruby Castro became a Top 10 finalist on "So You Think You Can Dance" Season 13, she was a fresh, feisty new face to most at-home viewers. But in the dance world—particularly on the ballroom circuit—Ruby was already a household name. Miami-based Ruby grew up as a belle of the ballroom: Her parents, Manny and Lory Castro, are veritable superstars of the scene. They're the owners of Dance Town, an ultra-competitive studio in Doral, FL, and raised Ruby to follow in their furiously fast footsteps. Before she graced the "SYT" stage, Ruby had already been named a U.S. Junior Champion in Latin Ballroom, and competed on "America's Got Talent"—twice!
So, we know she's talented, we know she's versatile, we know she's stunning, and we know she can dance. But here's what you may not know about Ruby.
You know that thing when you're onstage at a competition and you catch your teacher unconsciously marking through every step of the choreography in the wings, just willing you and the rest of the group to dance perfectly?
Yeah—that happens in ice dancing, too. Case in point: the scene at the Olympic rink yesterday, as Canadian ice-dancing legends Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir skated their way to their third Olympic gold.
Obviously, their performance was all kinds of epic. But the off-ice "performance" given by their coach, Marie-France Dubreuil, was EVERYTHING.
Photo by Travis Kelley, courtesy Kathryn Morgan
In our "Dear Katie" series, former NYCB soloist Kathryn Morgan answers your pressing dance questions. Have something you want to ask Katie? Email firstname.lastname@example.org for a chance to be featured!
I want to dance in a ballet company, but I'm insecure about my body. I'm not skinny, and I don't think I ever will be, because that's just not the way I'm built. Please be honest with me: If I don't have the traditional ballet body, do I have a future in professional ballet?