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


Because there's never been a better time to binge-watch "Bunheads" (via Freeform)

5 of the Danciest TV Shows Streaming Right Now (and Where to Stream Them)

We're about two months into #SocialDisDancing, and let's be real—while we all wish we were spending every spare minute stretching, cross-training, or taking online classes, sometimes we just need to Netflix and chill.

We figure, if you're going to be watching TV anyways, why not make it dancy TV? After all, watching pros dance on-screen is basically dance class homework...or at least we'll say it is. Here are five of the danciest TV shows for you to watch—and where to find them.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Larry Saperstein on "High School Musical: The Musical: The Series" (Disney+/Fred Hayes)

Celebrate National Tap Dance Day with "HSM" Star Larry Saperstein

Happy National Tap Dance Day, friends! We're marking the occasion by catching up with one of our favorite talented young tappers: Larry Saperstein. The "High School Musical: The Musical: The Series" star began taking tap classes at 12 years old, studying at the American Tap Dance Foundation, where he quickly discovered his love for the art. These days, he's putting his skills to good use as Big Red on "HSMTMTS." (Who could forget that iconic moment at the end of season one where he broke out into a tap routine that shook us all!)

We chatted with Larry about why he loves tap so much, and why the art form needs more and better representation in the dance world (and the world world).

Keep Reading SHOW LESS

2020 Dance Grads: We Want to Put You on Our Cover!

Hello, all you members of the great Dance Class of 2020. With the world on lockdown, this hasn't been the graduation season you expected. You likely weren't able to go to prom; your commencement ceremonies have probably been delayed or canceled; and you might not have been able to take your planned-for final bow onstage.

Since you're missing out on so much, we'd like to give you a virtual ovation, to recognize all you've accomplished. And what's the highest honor we can bestow? The cover of Dance Spirit!

Here's the plan:

  • If you're a high school or college senior dancer, use this form to submit your information and dance portrait.
  • Each day during the month of May, we'll create a digital Dance Spirit cover starring one of you, chosen at random—31 covers in total.
  • At the end of the month, we'll create a "commencement video" featuring even more of your submitted dance photos.
  • 100 of you, selected by lottery, will also receive free one-year subscriptions to the print magazine.

Merde, 2020 graduates, as you dance your way into the future!

High School and College Senior Dancers: Submit Your Photo Here

Editors' Picks

contest
Enter the Cover Model Search