A Few of The Top Year-Round Boarding Schools for Dance

Walnut Hill School for the Arts students (photo by Liza Voll, courtesy Walnut Hill School for the Arts)

For some high school students, the thrill of dancing away from home doesn't end when the summer is over. In fact, those who attend residential performing arts high schools live in dorms, work with esteemed guest artists and faculty, and spend half of every school day in a dance studio—from September to May. Offering a true conservatory experience, these schools can transform your technique and provide unique performing and choreographic opportunities.

Of course, there are some drawbacks: In most cases, boarding school means you're living away from home—and your home dance studio—and you might not be as likely to attend the latest "It" convention or take as many classes outside the classical ballet and modern canon. And the cost of tuition plus room and board can be prohibitive. But if you've got your sights set on a college or conservatory program, or are aiming for a company trainee position post-high school, considering a year-round high school for dance might be worth it. Here are five residential performing arts high schools you should know about.

St. Paul’s School 

St. Paul's School students performing "Corner" by Caili Quan (photo by Melissa Blackall, courtesy St. Paul's School)

St. Paul's School is one of the most prestigious academic boarding schools in the country—and it happens to have a pretty stellar dance program, too. While the school's emphasis on scholastic rigor differs from other performing arts schools, students must audition for acceptance to the dance program, and many go on to pursue dance in higher education.

Located: Concord, NH

Student Body: Of 530 total students, there are 15 to 18 full-time St. Paul's School Ballet Company (SPSBC) members, an audition-only year-round program that can be used as athletic participation credit at the varsity level. 100 percent of students—and all faculty members—live on campus.

Financial Aid: Need-based financial aid is available; seven regional merit-based scholarships are also available.

Faculty: Two full-time faculty members; visiting artists in 2018 included former Merce Cunningham Dance Company member Jamie Scott, Twyla Tharp Dance's Alex Brady, and BalletX's Caili Quan.

New Familiar Face: Former ABT Studio Company director (and former Dance Spirit editor in chief) Kate Lydon joined the faculty of St. Paul's School this year, with a goal to provide SPS students with "top-notch ballet training and a thriving visiting-artist program," she says. "I want the dance program to be a place filled with intentional work, inclusivity, creativity, joy, and respect."

Alumni Activities: "Recent SPSBC students have attended top-tier universities with dance programs, including Barnard College, Columbia University, and Princeton," says faculty member Courtney Peix-Barros.

A version of this story appeared in the December 2018 issue of Dance Spirit with the title "Living And Studying Where You Dance."

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