Dancer to Dancer

Five Truths About Starting a College Dance Company

Fordham University's Expressions Dance Alliance (Nathan Tibet, courtesy Expressions Dance)

Whether you major or minor in dance, join a dance team or simply take a few extracurricular classes, there are myriad ways to continue your artistic journey in college. Sometimes, though, exactly what you're seeking isn't on campus—yet. That's where being in college comes in handy: You can start your own organization! Not only do student-run groups give you the chance to express your dancing self in unique ways, but you're also likely to gain leadership skills, hone your choreography chops and even make a few friends along the way.


There are a few things to keep in mind if you want to start a successful enterprise. We spoke with presidents of two organizations to learn the five most crucial elements of creating—and continuing—a student-run dance group.

1. Even though it's your group, you should still play by the rules. “Make good working relationships with the administration," says Katherine Kelly, a senior English and communications double major at Fordham University who is president of the roughly 20-member dance company Expressions Dance Alliance. “Still, you don't want to compromise your goals." At a large university, it's likely that the administration isn't too familiar with dance, so, Kelly continues, “be patient and explain the reasons why you need the space you do, or whatever it is you're asking for."

At Western Michigan University, Orchesis Dance Society is a student-run dance group within the dance department (though it accepts members from outside of the program) with 120 to 130 active participants. As president, senior dance major Allison Long meets monthly with the faculty advisor and the department chair. “Our board acts as a liaison between the students and administration," she says. “It's a great chance for us to have our voices heard."

2. Create clear policies to keep members on the same page. “The founder of our club basically wrote a constitution, and we ask that all our new members read it," says Kelly. “It states our mandatory rehearsal policies, and rules about auditions, absences and how many semesters you can stay on the executive board." Take it from Kelly, ground rules work: Expressions has been running smoothly for 15 years.

3. Fundraising is key. While some universities allocate funds to student organizations, groups at other institutions may need to raise money themselves. Orchesis does not receive financial help from WMU. In addition to car washes and bake sales, the group has gotten creative, volunteering to clean up after some campus-wide events to earn extra dough. Still, most of the group's money comes from $5–$12 dance concert ticket sales—enough to annually award two $1,000 student scholarships.

4. Budgeting can be your best friend. Be sure to account for and expect the unexpected when it comes to finances. “Most of Expressions' expenses go toward costuming," notes Kelly, “but there are a ton of little things you might not even think about, like paying a security guard during performances." Savvy budgeting can lead to pleasant surprises: After a few years of successful saving, Expressions was able to purchase marley flooring to use during performances.

5. You'll learn a lot about time management. Regardless of your goals for your group, “your school work still has to come first," Long says. “Leading an organization is fun, but it's also a huge responsibility." In Kelly's words: “It's a constant job. After regular rehearsals and group meetings, I'm also meeting with other student group leaders to coordinate collaborations. But it comes down to this: If you have to stay up an extra hour to finish homework, it's worth it. If you love dance, you'll make it happen."

Show Comments ()
How To
Thinkstock

Picture this: You're in rehearsal, and you finally get a move the way the choreographer wants it—except that it makes your back twinge each time. Should you say you're in pain, or should you suck it up and keep going? You don't want to injure yourself, but you also don't want to jeopardize your role.

The dance world often teaches students to be quiet and obedient around authority figures. That said, there are definitely instances when you need to speak your mind. Try these tips to navigate sticky situations.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

Rigorous program, check. Well-rounded technical training, check. Purposeful liberal arts curriculum, check. Study your craft abroad, check! If you are looking for all the above, the Joan Phelps Palladino School of Dance at Dean College truly has it all.

Keep reading... Show less
Victoria Caban brought the heat with her flamenco routine. (via YouTube)

I never thought we'd make it here, you guys, but after 11 grueling weeks of competition and five rounds of Duels, "World of Dance" will enter The Cuts phase of the show next week. The talent is unreal this season, which makes the goodbyes that much harder. Last night, during the last round of The Duels, we witnessed a mass exodus, as only six acts advanced to the final round. My heart still hurts a little, and I've got no more tears left to cry, but I'll pull it together to recap the evening for you.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

Showstopper is the nation's leading dance competition. It provides the perfect platform for dancers, teachers, and choreographers to showcase their talents and hard work. Showstopper's environment is inviting, motivating, and above all, inspiring. If you haven't experienced it, now is the time!

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer to Dancer
He's been appearing on/choreographing for the show since 2006. (Adam Rose/FOX)

"Mister Travis Wall," as Cat Deeley would say, has had one heck of an epic "So You Think You Can Dance" journey. Since first appearing on the show as a contestant during Season 2 (back when he had frosted tips!), he's become one of the series' most respected choreographers and mentors. In fact, his work for "SYTYCD" has earned him Emmy nominations every year since 2011. EVERY. YEAR.

To celebrate his latest Emmy noms—for "SYT" Season 14's "Change is Everything" and "Strange Fruit"—The Wrap magazine talked to T.Wall about what the show has meant to his life. And as always, Travis was full of dancy wisdom.

Keep reading... Show less
Cover Story
Class at the University of Southern California Glorya Kaufman School of Dance (photo by Ema Peter, courtesy USC)

If you closed your eyes and pictured dance paradise, what would it look like? Maybe you'd start your morning in rehearsal with a renowned contemporary choreographer, and then work on a dance driven by computer programming, and then run to a music video audition, and end the day discussing the impact of African dance styles on American pop culture.

Guess what? That dance paradise isn't just a dream. It's the University of Southern California Glorya Kaufman School of Dance, a young program that's already attracting some of the most talented dancers around—for good reason.

Click here to meet Alyssa Allen, Simrin Player, and Jake Tribus, three of USC's standout students.

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer to Dancer
Jo Rowan (front) teaching ballet class at Oklahoma City University (photo by Shane Bevel, courtesy OCU)

Let's say this right up front: Everyone agrees that a talented dancer can move to NYC or L.A., start auditioning, and get booked without a dance degree. And graduating from a program doesn't guarantee that you'll have a successful dance career. So, what weight does a degree carry in the industry? "The reality today is that if you don't get a degree, you will be at a disadvantage," says Dr. Sally R. Sommer, director of the Florida State University dance department's semester-long immersion program in NYC. Proactive and engaged college students become more adaptable, thoughtful, and resilient dancers. Combine these qualities with a deeper understanding of dance history, practical experience with the professional expectations of choreographers, and access to a growing community of peers, guest artists, faculty, and alumni, and it's easy to see why a degree could mean more doors are open to you.

Keep reading... Show less
Just for Fun

In case you missed it, our favorite actress/dance fangirl Jennifer Garner hit the studio this weekend to brush up on her technique (stars, they really are just like us). And the end result might be even better than Garner's #TutuTuesday posts. At the request of American Ballet Theatre principal Isabella Boylston, Garner took to her Instagram story to participate in Lil Buck's #GoinInCirclesChallenge.

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer to Dancer
Jo Rowan (front) teaching ballet class at Oklahoma City University (photo by Shane Bevel, courtesy OCU)

Let's say this right up front: Everyone agrees that a talented dancer can move to NYC or L.A., start auditioning, and get booked without a dance degree. And graduating from a program doesn't guarantee that you'll have a successful dance career. So, what weight does a degree carry in the industry? "The reality today is that if you don't get a degree, you will be at a disadvantage," says Dr. Sally R. Sommer, director of the Florida State University dance department's semester-long immersion program in NYC. Proactive and engaged college students become more adaptable, thoughtful, and resilient dancers. Combine these qualities with a deeper understanding of dance history, practical experience with the professional expectations of choreographers, and access to a growing community of peers, guest artists, faculty, and alumni, and it's easy to see why a degree could mean more doors are open to you.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance News
The Top 10, sporting some EYEBROWS, in the opening number (Michael Becker/FOX)

And then there were eight. Just as we were starting to get attached to the Top 10, those pesky "So You Think You Can Dance" rules came into play and forced us (er, the judges) to slash two of the finalists from the competition. How rude! (But, Nigel announced ever-so-proudly, the entire Top 10 will be going on tour together once the season wraps.) Before the eliminations, each couple performed twice—and never in any dancer's own style. "So anything could happen," explained Cat Deeley, clad in a splashy, sequined floral minidress and a massive hair bow. And oh boy, a LOT of things did.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

Rigorous program, check. Well-rounded technical training, check. Purposeful liberal arts curriculum, check. Study your craft abroad, check! If you are looking for all the above, the Joan Phelps Palladino School of Dance at Dean College truly has it all.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance News
Soooo gorgeous. (via Instagram)

Edgar Degas' famous sculpture Little Dancer Aged Fourteen has been getting a lot of love recently—and by "love," we mean everything from a tutu upgrade to a full-on musical telling her story. But artist Doyle V. Trankina's reimagining of the sculpture, with none other than Misty Copeland taking the place of the young Paris Opéra Ballet School student who inspired the original? It might be our favorite Little Dancer tribute yet.

Keep reading... Show less
Giveaways

Tired of uncomfortable tights that dig into your waist and create unflattering bulges? Body Wrappers' knitted wide-waisted tights will keep you comfortable and give you the confidence you need to perform your very best during dance class. Enter below for your chance to win a pair!

Keep reading... Show less
How To
Thinkstock

Because they're the one part of college applications you don't do yourself, teacher recommendations can feel like big, scary question marks. As Sarah Langford, college counselor at The Chicago Academy for the Arts, says, "When admissions chooses between equally talented candidates, a memorable letter can put you in the 'yes' pile." But take heart: You have more control over what ends up in these letters than you might realize. Here, Langford and Sarah Lovely, director of college counseling at Walnut Hill School for the Arts, spill the secrets to ensuring you'll get letters that'll help launch you into the dance department of your dreams.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance News
The P-rouette shoe is made from 3D-printed fabrics—and our minds are seriously blown. (via Dezeen)

Pointe shoes printed on a 3D printer may sound like something only possible in the future. But imagine our surprise when we found out these high-tech shoes actually exist! Yes, you read that correctly...you can PRINT pointe shoes—and the end result offers less pain and way more durability than traditional methods.

Keep reading... Show less
Just for Fun
Giphy

Although we watch "So You Think You Can Dance" for the killer choreography and fantabulous dancing, sometimes the show is downright hilarious, too. Here are seven laugh-out-loud "SYT" moments that still have us giggling.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance News
The Top 10, sporting some EYEBROWS, in the opening number (Michael Becker/FOX)

And then there were eight. Just as we were starting to get attached to the Top 10, those pesky "So You Think You Can Dance" rules came into play and forced us (er, the judges) to slash two of the finalists from the competition. How rude! (But, Nigel announced ever-so-proudly, the entire Top 10 will be going on tour together once the season wraps.) Before the eliminations, each couple performed twice—and never in any dancer's own style. "So anything could happen," explained Cat Deeley, clad in a splashy, sequined floral minidress and a massive hair bow. And oh boy, a LOT of things did.

Keep reading... Show less

Sponsored

Giveaways