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Colleges and Schools for Dance Training

Individuals interested in pursuing a professional dance career or receiving formal training from experienced instructors can attend a dance school or college to learn fundamental dance and performance skills and gain experience in the field. A dance school or college may offer a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with a specialization in a particular type of dance, but prospective dancers may also obtain training and experience without pursuing a formal degree. Schools teach students about dance theory, dance history, movement sciences and choreography.

What to Expect at a Dance School

Dance schools are highly-specialized and offer rigorous educational and workshop programs that give students a chance to learn basic skills from experienced instructors and then apply their knowledge through performances and shows. Many schools host shows at their venue and train students to perform for these special events each season.

A dance college may require students to complete educational requirements as part of a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and then select dance as a concentration of their major. This allows students to obtain a well-rounded education and gain advanced skills and knowledge in their field.

These schools offer professional facilities such as large studios, stages equipped for dance productions and training centers so that students can work on their skills and technique throughout the program. Guest artists and performers may also be available for in-classroom instruction and studio time, or simply to serve as mentors and guides for students as they advance in their educational careers.

Dance Training Programs

The most common types of courses and classes that comprise a dance training program include:

  • Choreography
  • Improvisation
  • Music Theory
  • Dance History
  • Dance Notation
  • Stagecraft

Techniques are also an important element of the training, and students may choose to specialize in a particular technique as they advance in their educational careers. The most common technique courses available include:

  • Modern Dance
  • Jazz
  • Tap
  • Cultural Dance
  • Ballet
  • Hip-Hop

Individuals who wish to advance in their careers may pursue formal positions such as arts administration, writing, research, and dance education. Many graduates of dance school pursue careers as dance instructors, trainers or educators.

Pursuing a Career After Dance School

After completing a dance training program, graduates will need to continually improve their skills and gain as much experience as possible in their field. Working with a professional dance company is one way to cultivate skills and talents in this highly competitive industry, and gain extensive knowledge and experience in performing on stage, dancing in a troupe or group setting, and being a part of a formal dance program. Many schools host festivals and special events throughout the year so that students can get their initial training and experience for on-stage performance.

Attending Dance College

A dance college may be part of a theatre department of a college or university, or a standalone college that offers a number of specialized training and education programs. Dance college requirements vary significantly by location and affiliation with a university or public college, but most programs offer a combination of specialized courses that include both theoretical and practical work as part of a liberal arts program.

Students who attend a dance college are typically a part of several productions, plays and concerts throughout the year, giving them the opportunity to perform in front of a live audience and work as a team with other dancers in the program. Typical training courses include:

  • History of American Concert Dance
  • Modern Dance Technique
  • Ballet Technique and Theory
  • Exploration of Cultural Styles
  • Dance Repertory
  • Anatomy and Kinesiology
  • Movement Analysis and Choreography

Additional courses may be required in performance and movement studies to complete the requirements of a dance major or minor.

Career Options and Employment Opportunities After Dance School

The field of dance and choreography is very competitive and only the most talented and experienced dancers can find regular work. Dancers may perform in a variety of settings including musical theater productions, opera, television and movies, and typically work directly with choreographers to create a professional routine. While attending a dance school or college can help prospective dancers learn about the industry and refine their skills, most will need to spend a considerable amount of time focusing on training and rehearsals and then approaching dance companies or prospective employers for paid work.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Handbook reports that the employment of dancers and choreographers is expected to grow slower than the average for other occupations, and candidates will need to face a highly competitive job market. Still, many mid-size dance companies, theaters, and public and private organizations will be hiring talented and experienced dancers for a variety of projects and productions.

The median annual earnings of dancers were $9.55 in May 2006, and the majority of dance professionals worked at a theater company and dinner theaters. Dancers who receive professional credentials and work with major ballet and modern dance companies are typically a part of the American Guild of Musical Artists, Inc. where they may receive a salary covered by union contracts.

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