a guide to applying to undergraduate dance programs
The story of how I ended up as a dance major at BSU is a long and complicated one. I have wanted to be a dance teacher since the time I could play school with my stuffed animals and stage my own production of The Nutcracker with the incredibly talented cast of my Barbie dolls. My path to embarking on this journey has not always been as clear, however, especially during my time in high school.
College was always in the cards for me. I attended a college preparatory high school, and from day one of freshman year I told my guidance counselor that I was going to be a dance major. I spent the next few years explaining to people in my life that yes, majoring in dance is in fact a "thing", sifting through dance magazines looking for colleges to apply to, and Googling dance programs into the wee hours of the morning.
There is a lot to know that I really didn't know when considering which programs to apply to. While I am no expert on the subject, here is the best advice I can offer a high school student looking to take dance to the academic level, things that I feel would have been good to hear when I was going through this process...
Know Your End Goal
Do you want to dance professionally, choreograph, teach, or some combination of these or other possibilities? Look into the different programs out there and find out what the focus of each program is. You can do this by looking for specific majors (i.e. a degree in dance vs. a degree in dance education) and looking at the curriculum to see what courses you would specifically be taking. Some schools have dance as a concentration rather than its own degree, but the courses may still prepare you for your future.
Additionally, look into the type of degree you are applying to. Typically, a BFA (Bachelor of Fine Arts) program is geared towards professional dancing and students will spend the majority of their time taking technique or choreography classes. BFA programs are also known to be more competitive programs to get in to. BA (Bachelor of Arts) programs usually have a more diverse curriculum. The level of competition to get into a BA program will depend on the school. If you are looking for a two year program, schools like Dean College and some community colleges can offer you this.
Get To Know the Program
Familiarizing yourself with a specific program can help you decide if it will be a good fit for you or if it is likely to be an option. Many dance programs often open houses or drop in classes that you can attend to see if you will be able to keep up there. If the program you are interested does not offer this, try reaching out to their department and see if you can shadow a student or take a class with them!
If may also benefit you to look up a program's acceptance rate. Keep in mind, a school's acceptance rate will be different from your specific program (if the program requires an audition). Many schools will accept you into the institution, but not into the program if you do not pass the audition.
Make Sure You Have Options
With many of these programs being as competitive as they are, it is important to tier your schools like any prospective college student would. Which programs do you genuinely feel you have a shot at, which are safe bets, and which are a reach? Apply to a variety of these programs to ensure that increase your chances of studying dance as planned. Note: pedagogy or dance education programs are sometimes just as selective as a dance performance program, depending on the school.
Plan As Far in Advance As You Can
The harsh reality of applying to be a dance major is that it takes much more planning than your typical college application would. In addition to the researching process, auditions, audition videos, portfolios, interviews, etc. can be very time consuming. It is in your best interest to start looking into these programs as soon as you decide that is what you want to do after high school. Invest in a planner or use an online calendar to plan auditions and application deadlines. Like any other audition, start practicing and preparing for that early, too.
Diversify Your Experiences
The first experience I ever had with modern dance occurred during an audition. While it is important to try new things during an audition regardless, it will help you to seek out new opportunities in dance before this process. Dancing at the collegiate level is going to diversify your experience, but starting ahead of time can help you feel more prepared for the audition and make you a more desirable candidate. Even something as simple as taking a Vaganova style ballet class when you have always studied Cecchetti will make you feel more comfortable to walk into whatever lies ahead of you.
Ask Yourself What You Want Out of a College Experience
If what you what to do in college is just dance, dance, dance all day, everyday, then you will want to attend a conservatory style school. If you are looking for a more traditional or diverse college experience (whether you want to double major or add a minor or get involved on campus), a conservatory style program is better for you.
Make Your Dream Work
This process may be a trying time for you, especially if you watch your friends get acceptance letter after acceptance letter and all you want to focus on is the senior prom. However, if this path was meant for you, I truly believe you will get there. You may need to adjust your plans or seek alternative options, but you have the capability to make your dream work.
I hadn't heard of Bridgewater State until my guidance counselor mentioned to me that they have a dance program. I have had many failed auditions that I went into with no preparation and no potential to pass. I have submitted applications the day they were due and struggled through this process without any guidance from the dance world. Yet here I am, four years later, about to graduate with my BA in dance and will be student teaching this month. No, I didn't end up at the dream school I'd hoped to go to since I was 14 years old, but I have learned so much and have met the most amazing mentors and friends at BSU.
Do what it takes to make your dream work, even if it doesn't seem like your desired path. You might just end up in a better place than you ever thought you would. I know that's what happened to me.
If you are interested in dancing in college, BSU's NDEO Student Organization will be hosting our annual Bridge to BSU event in which prospective dance majors and minors can come experience a day in the life of a college dancer! The event is on February 10, 2019 at Bridgewater State University in Bridgewater, Massachusetts. Click this button for event details!
If you have a big audition coming up for any of these programs, read my article "Audition Advice" to help you prepare!
Hello there, my name is Becca and I am a 22 year old dance teacher from Massachusetts.
News & Events
9/18 Follow my new Instagram just for my dance things!
12/23 I was one of NDEO's Guest Bloggers this year! Read "Teaching is a Vocation. Not a Fallback" on their Behind the Curtain Blog!
9/27 I will be presenting my research at the National Dance Education Organization National Conference next week! See my research project by clicking the button below!
4/15 While working on PMA's production of The Addams Family, I got to combine my two favorite styles of dance (ballet and musical theatre) for "The Moon and Me"! Watch my talented students dance by clicking the button below!
2/20 I am choreographing PMA Theatre Guild's Production of The Addams Family! Come see these amazing high school students perform at Presentation of Mary Academy in Methuen, MA April 13 & 14! Tickets available at the door.
2/20 I am stage managing BSU's Dance Kaleidoscope this year! Show dates are March 29-31 at Bridgewater State University in Bridgewater, MA. Come see this student choreography showcase!
11/5 I will once again be dancing in a BSUDC concert! Tickets to WinterDance are now available!
8/24 NDEO's National Honor Society for Dance Arts has published one of my articles in their newsletter! Read an updated version of "Audition Advice" here:
5/16 Interested in learning about movement concepts? Visit Becca's new Educational Dance website!
5/8 BSU Dance Company's Dance Kaleidoscope 2017 is now on Youtube! You can watch my performances by visiting the VIDEOS page!
4/23 I recently performed for the residents of Allerton House in Hingham, MA! You can watch part of my performance here!
Amesbury Children's Theatre presents...James and the Giant Peach Jr, featuring choreography by me! Click for tickets!
2/8 My piece "Barefoot" is now available to watch online! Click to watch!
2/5 Happy to say I have been cast in BSU Dance Company's Spring concert Dance Kaleidoscope! I will be dancing in 3 faculty choreographed pieces, including excerpts from The Sleeping Beauty in which I will be dancing the role of Lilac Fairy! Show dates are March 31-April 1 at Bridgewater State University.
Click the button for more info!
1/15 Ballet with Becca is now on Facebook! Click to visit the page, and be sure to like it while you're there!
1/14 I am happy to say I will be attending artEmotion's summer intensive in June! I will be dancing in the one week artEmotion Adult Program. If anyone would like to join or audition for any other artEmotion program, visit their website!
12/13 My photo gallery has been recreated! Click to see the new page, including photos from WinterDance 2016!