OCU students learn skills like lighting design in both the dance management and dance pedagogy concentrations. (photo by Ryan Barrett, courtesy OCU)
So you want to be a dance major? Wonderful! But in college, your choices don't end there. Pedagogy, kinesiology, arts management: What can those different tracks help you with? Choosing a college concentration that opens up multiple career options is a smart move, setting you up for not only an exciting performance career, but also a lifetime of opportunities in the arts. Perhaps you're hoping to start your own dance company, but you have no idea how to run a business—a dance management degree will put you on the right path. Or maybe you want to keep performing while also teaching at local studios—dance pedagogy can help you build an exciting resumé. Read on for a breakdown of what to expect within various dance-program concentrations.
Larsen Thompson showing off her dance (left) and modeling (right) skills (left photo by Jayme Thornton; right by Felipe Espinal, courtesy Thompson)
Before dance phenom Larsen Thompson booked her first modeling job, she'd never even considered modeling. "I was working on a commercial as a lead dancer, and a woman approached me to ask me to model for a print campaign," Thompson remembers. "At first I didn't think much of it, but then I realized I could incorporate my love of movement into my modeling." After she made that connection, Thompson's modeling career took off.
These days, a lot of young dancers are feeling the urge to branch out into dance-adjacent fields like singing, acting, modeling, and designing. In fact, especially in the commercial world, agents and casting directors increasingly expect that dancers will have the chops to book jobs as actors and models. But how can you explore non-dance passions while maintaining your technique? We spoke with Thompson and three other multitalented dancers to hear their advice on navigating the changing demands of the entertainment industry.
The School at Jacob's Pillow's contemporary program auditions (photo by Karli Cadel, courtesy Jacob's Pillow)
Summer intensive auditions can be nerve-racking. A panel of directors is watching your every move, and you're not even sure if you can be seen among the hundreds of other dancers in the room. We asked five summer intensive directors for their input on how dancers can make a positive impression—and even be remembered next year.
Sarah Stanley (Paula Court, courtesy Sarah Stanley)
Navigating college can be tough, especially when you're balancing an intense dance schedule with academic classes and jobs—and trying to make new friends! About to begin your college adventure? We talked to these recent graduates about what they wish they'd known before starting college.
You head to your first dance team practice, ready to nail your fouettés and switch-leaps—only to be asked to demonstrate your headsprings and rubberbands. Yikes! You're embarrassed that you're behind the acrobatic abilities of the older girls, and scared to ask for help.
Just as pirouettes and leaps require diligent practice, acro tricks need weeks, or even months, before you get the hang of them. We spoke with three college dance team coaches to find out what dancers can do to master these critical skills.
It's tricky to figure out how to relate to a strict dance teacher. Not every teacher and student will jibe in the classroom, and students hoping to make it as professional dancers need to develop thick skins to be able to deal with demanding directors and choreographers later on. But instructors who target or ignore you inappropriately can be detrimental to your training—and your emotional well-being. "I'm so tense when I'm with a teacher who's intimidating," says Allison Forderkonz, a dancer in Liverpool, NY. "I spend the whole class worrying that I'll disappoint them and get yelled at." How can you cope with these awkward—and sometimes worse than awkward—situations? We asked experts, and dancers who've been there, for advice.
When you're boxed into a certain category it can feel negative. But focus on the positives: Each category comes with its own list of strengths. Here are the things you're nailing if you're consistently cast as these types.
Kent State University students performing "Footloose" (photo by Bob Christy, courtesy Kent State)
“As a teenager, I auditioned for Spring Awakening, only to realize it was a lot of blonde girls," says Skyler Volpe, a performer with brown, curly hair. This experience taught Volpe to research characters that would best fit not only her voice but also her look—such as her current role as Mimi in the Rent National Tour.
Not fitting certain character types, especially those based on looks or physicality, might feel limiting. But understanding your type makes you a smarter auditionee and helps you pinpoint which natural skills you should continue to home in on.
Jessica Fay's Ladies of the USO at Oklahoma City University (Katy Rush, courtesy Oklahoma City University)
With a growing emphasis on specialized training, many colleges are offering concentrated degrees within the overall dance major, focused on preparing dancers for very specific aspects of the industry—from ballet to ballroom to commercial. DS rounded up some of the hottest programs with hyper-focused degree tracks.
Kim DelGrosso coaching her daughter Abrea DelGrosso (Naomi Masina)
Is the person leading technique class also—gulp—your mother? Here's the good news: Having a parent as a dance teacher comes with many advantages. “From a young age, I had a built-in manager who knew the ins and outs of the business," says tapper Donovan Helma, who grew up dancing with his mom in Denver before performing in Tap Dogs on and off for 10 years. However, finding a balance between “home mom" and “dance mom" is difficult, and you might feel singled out by classmates for being the teacher's child(/pet). Here's how to deal with the difficult issues that can arise when your parent's also your instructor.
The University of Missouri's Golden Girls (Mark Falvey, courtesy Amanda Gaines)
When it comes to dance team, you know you've got the “dance" part of the equation down cold. But the pom work? Not so much. Maybe you're afraid it'll be too much like cheerleading, or that you won't understand the terminology. To help, we spoke with three college dance-team coaches to find out what you can expect in practices, and how dancers can easily transition to working with poms. You'll be surprised at the strength, sharpness and body awareness that can be learned from this flashy style!
Students in ballet class at Chaffey College (Jeff Harris, courtesy Michele Jenkins)
College dance programs are popular for aspiring performers and choreographers, but the expense and time commitment of a four-year institution can seem daunting. If you're feeling overwhelmed, consider attending a community college dance program. Community colleges offer two-year programs in which a student can receive an associate in arts degree (AA)—a preliminary step toward earning a bachelor of arts (BA) degree. Dance Spirit explored three reasons why community college might be the right move for you.