Write This Way

Confident you’re going to breeze through your college application essay? On campus, you can take those writing skills to the next level. Whether you’re reflecting on a repertory class, critiquing a performance or researching a pivotal moment in dance history, in these writing-heavy dance programs you’ll sharpen your critical, technical and creative skills all at once.

Emory University

At Emory University in Atlanta, GA, every dance major double-majors in another subject—which means students can combine English literature or creative writing with dance studies. “We’re teaching students how to reflect on dance,” says Lori Teague, an associate professor and director of dance at Emory. “Every class, from ‘Contemporary Issues in Dance’ to ‘Somatic Practices,’ has a writing component.”

Sarah Freeman performs in her honors thesis concert at Emory University. (Photo by Lori Teague, courtesy Emory University)

Emory students with high GPAs can complete an honors thesis crystallizing their writing skills. “Our most recent honors thesis in dance was by Sarah Freeman and combined an academic paper with choreography inspired by author Flannery O’Connor,” Teague says.

University of California–Irvine

At UC Irvine, dance majors are pushed to apply their performance skills to their writing. “Dancers’ observational powers make them very good writers,” says Jennifer Fisher, PhD, an associate professor of dance. But she stresses that great writing requires as much work as technique class.

Students put those skills into practice in classes like “Critical Issues in Dance,” where they learn to differentiate among various types of dance writing. Students also learn why dance writing and criticism are important elements in a performance career. “It’s a way to engage with the public and be recorded in history,” Fisher says. “Choreographers need to be able to solicit and facilitate that kind of writing to survive in the dance world.”

Barnard College

Dancers at Barnard College in NYC have many opportunities to stretch their writing skills. Mindy Aloff, adjunct associate professor of dance—and noted author, editor, journalist, essayist and dance critic—teaches classes like “From the Page to the Dance Stage,” which covers works of literature that have been interpreted through dance but weren’t originally intended for it.

When she teaches dance criticism, Aloff wants her students to gain perspective on the role of a critic by being one themselves: “Dancers should understand what goes into that specialized kind of writing—especially if one is, someday, likely to be reviewed!”

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