What It Means to Major in Dance at a Liberal Arts College

Students at Pomona College learn how ethnic groups use dances, like the Hawaiian hula, to construct identities. (via Thinkstock)

If you're thinking about majoring in dance at a liberal arts school, you're probably already excited about the technique and repertory classes on offer. But what about the academic classes that you'll need to complete your major?


In college, you'll be dancing a ton. But you'll also devote time to academic work designed to help you think about the relationships between dance and other subjects—even things as unexpected as politics and cognitive development. “Liberal arts is about providing both academic and technical experience to help dancers grow," says Amanda Thom Woodson, chair of the dance department at Goucher College in Baltimore, MD. “A well-rounded artist needs these opportunities to figure out who they want to become."

To help get you thinking, Dance Spirit asked professors from top liberal arts schools to explain some of the ways dance and academics intersect.

International Relations

Have you ever wondered why hula basically symbolizes Hawaiian culture? At Pomona College in Claremont, CA, students can take an international relations class that discusses the link between dance and nationalism. “We look at how nations and ethnic groups use dance to construct identities," says Anthony Shay, professor of dance and cultural studies.

Cognitive Development

Are you curious about why it's so hard to change your natural movement patterns? Pomona also offers a cognitive development class that examines “ways our innate coordination is linked to our cognitive development," says Meg Jolley, a lecturer in theater and dance. “It's helpful for body awareness and may even be useful in injury rehab."

Community Outreach

Do you see yourself as an artistic director or dance educator? At Goucher College, students can take a special class that allows them to design a dance program for a nonprofit or educational organization. “It's meant to parallel the services often provided by dance companies," Woodson says, so you can practice something that might be asked of you during your career.

Dancer to Dancer

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