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

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

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.

Latest Posts


Alex Wong (Collette Mruk, courtesy Alex Wong)

6 AAPI Dancers Share Their Stories

Last year, anti-Asian hate crimes increased by 150 percent in many of America's largest cities. And last month, a mass shooting in the Atlanta area took the lives of eight people, six of them Asian women. Since then, the attacks on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have continued, sparking a national movement to stop AAPI hate.

In light of this, Dance Spirit wanted to help amplify the voices of AAPI dancers. We asked six to share their thoughts about anti-Asian racism and how it appears in the dance world. Here's what they had to say.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
William Zinser works with a dancer at The Joyce Theater (Kristin Stevens, courtesy William Zinser)

How to Beat 5 Common Cheats Dancers Commit

Y'all, we get it. Dance is really, really hard. So what's the harm in taking the easy way out on a technical correction? Answer: an increased chance of injury, and a whole slew of new technique problems that could take a loooooooong time to fix.

Lucky for you, Dance Spirit has enlisted the expert help of Dale Lam, artistic director of CCJ Conservatory in South Carolina, and William Zinser, certified athletic trainer at the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries in NYC, so you can start leveling up your technique the honest way.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
What happens if you are passed over for the opportunity when it feels like your time? (Getty Images/kf4851)

What to Do When Your Dance Teacher Says You're Not Pointe Ready

Since the day you pulled on your first leotard, you have no doubt been dreaming of the day you would attend your first pointe shoe fitting. Going on pointe is a rite of passage as a ballet dancer, and the result of years of hard work.

But what happens if you are passed over for the opportunity when it feels like your time? It's totally understandable to be disappointed and frustrated if your teacher doesn't move you on pointe, but don't lose faith in yourself. "I've seen a lot of dancers go on pointe over the years," says Josephine Lee, professional pointe shoe fitter and founder of The Pointe Shop. "I don't think I have ever seen a dancer who was held back from pointework feel like they were behind in the long run."

Ideally, your teacher has laid out clear guidelines for what makes a dancer pointe-ready. But if they haven't, there are some milestones that ballet professionals are looking for to give the green light for your first pair of shoes. Factors like your age, technique level, range of motion and strength all come into play. And the good news is that if going on pointe is a goal for you, there are proactive ways that you can get there.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks

contest
Enter the Cover Model Search