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.

Walnut Hill School for the Arts

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

Located just outside of Boston, Walnut Hill School for the Arts emphasizes classical technique, with dancers taking one ballet class, plus pointe or men's technique, each day. While two-thirds of the graduates head to college for dance, select students participate in the Butler Fellowship program at Ballet Austin, a two-year traineeship that allows students to rehearse, perform, and tour with the company and Ballet Austin II. "We're able to offer opportunities—because we're a school for the arts, with five arts majors—that students might not otherwise get at their home studios," says director of dance Michael Owen. For example, Walnut Hill offers a choreography elective that pairs junior-year dancers with young composers in the music department, allowing them to collaborate.

Located: Natick, MA

Student Body: 50 to 55 dance students; 285 total students. 80 percent of students live on campus.

Financial Aid: Need-based aid is available; the school does not offer merit-based scholarships.

Faculty: 13 full-time dance instructors; the dance department welcomes 12 to 14 guest teachers each year.

Alumni Activities: Roughly two-thirds of students head to college for dance. In addition to the Butler Fellowship with Ballet Austin, Walnut Hill also partners with the dance division at The Boston Conservatory at Berklee, offering high school graduates the opportunity to earn a BFA in dance performance in three years instead of four.

Famous Grads: San Francisco Ballet's Joseph Walsh, L.A. Contemporary Dance Company co-founder Kate Hutter, and Zoe Scofield of zoe | juniper

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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