Western Michigan University Department of Dance students in Frank Chaves' Charanga (photo by John Lacko, courtesy Western Michigan University Department of Dance)
For many non-dancers,planning a post–high-school gap year can feel like a necessary step toward getting college-ready. For potential dance majors, though, taking a year off between high school and college might sound counterintuitive. After all, you're essentially delaying your entry into dancing professionally. But a gap year can provide helpful experience, training, or personal growth—it all depends on how you use the time.
Why Take a Gap Year?
Megan Slayter, associate professor and chair of the dance department at Western Michigan University, says a gap year works best for potential dance majors when they do something specific and dance-focused during that time. "Let's say you're offered a contract with a cruise ship," she says. "A dance degree isn't required to work in the dance field. If you have the opportunity to chase your dream, take it. Then come to school."
Leigh Evans, a graduate of the World Arts and Culture program at the University of California, Los Angeles, knew she wanted to dance professionally but felt she needed time to redirect her training before college. "UCLA was where I wanted to study, but I was a bunhead in high school and knew that the wider focus of UCLA might be a rough transition," she says. Evans spent a year living, working, and training in L.A. before starting the program, pushing herself to branch out and take classes in different styles. "I might have been fine starting college right away," she says. "But after a year, I was certain that I was ready to take on new challenges." And, she adds, she had a clearer understanding of her own interests.
Back to School
That said, taking a gap year won't be the right choice for everyone. When Slayter teaches first-years at WMU, she loves seeing how open and excited students are about the possibilities of dance. "Usually, they've had limited exposure to the art form they already love," she says. It's certainly possible to be exposed to a wide variety of styles and potential jobs during a gap year, but Slayter thinks that information is easier to digest when you're at a college or university. "You're surrounded by faculty posing questions and guiding you," she says.
Evans feels she made the most of her gap year by pushing herself out of her comfort zone, but it was her college community and UCLA's program structure that ultimately helped her understand dance within the larger world. "I was already open to lots of dance ideas," she says, "but I hadn't thought about how movement relates to film or mental health or all these other disciplines and pathways you can pursue. There's so much more to dance than just performance."
Bridging the Gap
Associate professor Megan Slayter knows that it can be tough for dancers who took a gap year to transition into college. "Fortunately," she says, "nontraditional students, people who don't go straight from high school to college, are very common."
It's normal to feel nervous if you're a bit older than the rest of the freshman class, or if you have more professional experience. But faculty will likely recognize that and place you with dancers at your skill level. "Even at a big university, dance departments are like a family," Slayter says. "It shouldn't take you long to acclimate."
A version of this story appeared in the May/June 2018 issue of Dance Spirit with the title "Mind the Gap."
School of American Ballet students (Rosalie O'Connor, courtesy SAB)
Do you have a "Strictly Ballet"–sized hole in your heart? Good news: The upcoming docuseries "On Pointe" just might fill it.
The School of American Ballet is teaming up with Imagine Documentaries and DCTV for the project. Though it's not yet clear where "On Pointe" will air, we do know that it'll follow talented SAB students preparing for professional ballet careers—much as Teen Vogue's popular "Strictly Ballet" web series did back in the day. But "On Pointe" marks the first time documentary filmmakers have been allowed access to the school, and it sounds like it'll paint an even more complete picture of the dancers' lives inside and outside the studio.
Choreographer Bob Fosse's signature style—with its jazz hands, inverted knees, and slouched shoulders—is still a huge influence in the dance world (and, thanks to the gloriously dancyFX series "Fosse/Verdon," the TV world). But while you know to expect plenty of Fosse-isms during a stage performance of Chicago or Sweet Charity, Fosse's legacy has also seeped into pop music culture, inspiring the likes of Beyoncé and Lady Gaga. Here are just six of the many music videos that reference Fosse's iconic works.
Gabrielle Hamilton in John Heginbotham's dream ballet from Oklahoma! Photo by Little Fang Photo, courtesy DKC/O&M
Last night, longtime theater legends (including Chita Rivera herself!) as well as rising stars gathered to celebrate one of Broadway's danciest events: the third annual Chita Rivera Awards.
The evening paid tribute to this season's dancer standouts, extraordinary ensembles, and jaw-dropping choreography—on- and off-Broadway and on film.
As usual, several Dance Spirit faves made it into the mix. (With such a fabulous talent pool of nominees to choose from, we're glad that ties were allowed.) Here are the highlights from the winner's list: