Getty Images

How to Prep for Your Freshman Year as a Dance Major

We grilled a dance professor and a rising sophomore for their best tips on how to make the most of freshman year—starting on day 1.

Get Your Head—and Body—In the Game

According to Michelle Nance, director of dance at Texas State University in San Marcos, TX, the challenges incoming dance majors struggle with most can be physical or emotional. "A lot of times, first-years have learned a lot of skills and tricks, but they're missing core connectivity because their bodies are still developing," she explains. Try seeking out yoga, Pilates, or other dance-adjacent cross-training in the summer before you head to campus.

Even if you feel super-confident about yourself as a dancer, prepare to question some preconceptions in those first few technique classes. "Be open to new definitions of what dance is," Nance suggests. "We don't want you to lose any of the wonderful things you already know, but be willing to see yourself as a beginner again."

Put Yourself Out There...

As a freshman dance major, the intimidation factor is real. Why even audition for the department concert or guest-artist piece if it feels like all the spots will go to upperclassmen? "It actually boosted my confidence to audition for everything my first semester, even though I didn't make it in," says Ilse Mascorro, a rising sophomore dance major at Texas State. "Don't be afraid to take a risk! Every time you're brave enough to put yourself out there, it's easier the next time you audition. "Nance agrees: "Think of it as a free master class, and try not to focus on whether or not you get into that piece. You're at college for the experience, not the outcome— and professors understand that. We don't expect you to come in knowing how to do everything."

Ilse Mascorro (courtesy Mascorro)

…But Don't Spread Yourself Too Thin

Consider spending time this summer rehearsing basic self-care like healthy meal prep and enforcing your own bedtime—especially if a parent or guardian has overseen your daily habits up until now. Nance suggests taking a hard look at your class schedule for the fall to ensure you've allowed enough time to eat properly and rest.

"Coming from high school where teachers baby you and you're with your friends all day, I was unprepared for the amount of independence and huge blocks of unstructured time," Mascorro says. "What helped me was to take one goal or task at a time, and to schedule everything—whether practicing in the studio on my own or making time to see friends over dinner."

Because every dance department—not to mention every college-bound dancer!—is unique, you're bound to feel you've made some mistakes no matter how much you've prepared for that first day of school. "I see so much anxiety among the freshmen because auditioning and placement involve a lot of scrutiny," says Nance. "Not advancing to the higher level your first semester will not affect your career forever! Slow down, enjoy the journey, and take advantage of all the resources your university offers."

A version of this story appeared in the Summer 2019 issue of Dance Spirit with the title "How to Prep for Freshman Year."

Latest Posts

Photo by Jayme Thornton

How Paloma Garcia-Lee Manifested Her Dream Role, in Steven Spielberg’s "West Side Story"

On a rainy day in November 2018, Paloma Garcia-Lee got a call from her agent that brought her to her knees outside her New York City apartment: She was going to play Graziella in Steven Spielberg's West Side Story.

The call came after a lengthy audition process with Spielberg in the room, and the role, originated by Wilma Curley on Broadway in 1957 and later portrayed by Gina Trikonis in the 1961 film, was her biggest dream. In fact, it's something Garcia-Lee says she manifested from the day plans for the movie were announced in January 2018. "I wrote in my journal: 'I am playing Graziella in Steven Spielberg's West Side Story.'"

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Photo by @mediabyZ

Am I Less Committed to Dance Because I Have Other Passions? (Spoiler Alert: NO!)

Let's face it—dance is HARD, and in order to achieve your goals, you need to be committed to your training. "Still, there's a fine line between being committed and being consumed." Dancers can, and should, have interests outside of the studio.

Not convinced? We talked with dance psychologist Dr. Lucie Clements and two multifaceted dancers, Kristen Harlow (a musical theater dancer pursuing a career in NYC and Kentucky) and Kallie Takahashi (a dancer in her final year at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts), and got the inside scoop on how having hobbies outside of dance can inform your artistry, expand your range and help prevent burnout.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Photo courtesy of Brittany Conigatti

Go Behind the Scenes of Annie Live! With Brittany Conigatti

Unwrap your candy canes, pour the hot chocolate and round up your fellow theater lovers: NBC is kicking off the Christmas season with its latest live-broadcast TV musical. Annie Live! premieres December 2 and features a star-studded cast, including Harry Connick Jr., Tituss Burgess, Megan Hilty and, as the title character, young phenom Celina Smith.

Luckily, people got a taste of what the special will entail when the cast kicked off the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with a performance last week. But since you’re never fully dressed without a Dance Spirit exclusive, we caught up with Brittany Conigatti, one of the young orphans and adult ensemble members in the show, to learn what it was like putting together a large-scale live production for the small screen.

The cast of Annie Live! poses for a group photo. The cast of Annie Live!Photo courtesy of Conigatti

Keep Reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks

Enter the Cover Model Search