Seraphine

Why do universities have ballet programs?

40 posts in this topic

I think it is useful to hear from the dancers and parents who have actually had experience with a college dance program as to whether it is simply a jaded 'snatching' of money from parental pockets.

 

If you read carefully the sharing of experiences of those dancers who have earned a BFA and/or attended a college dance program as part of their dance training, I believe you may find more benefits than some of you who haven't reached that stage yet are willing to acknowledge. And, please do keep in mind, that when a student decides to attend a degree-seeking dance program, that degree is satisfying something more for them than just a possible chance at a dance contract. It is what interests some students/dancers and not what interests others.

 

These days, it is not unusual at all for new college graduates to have difficulty finding jobs within their chosen field or major. So, the scarcity of jobs for dance major is not as unusual as one might think. Even at the Ivy Leagues, the students have ventured out past their actual degree/major. Same with graduate programs that once upon a time were guaranteed roads to high salaries.

 

Once again, the purpose of a university degree is the opportunity to expand and study in-depth subjects that can open one's mind, eyes, and abilities to adapt. Studying dance at a university level fits into those same philosophical goals.

 

The age-old college versus company debates really do belong on some other thread.

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Another useful thing to do is to go on the web sites of Universities with Dance majors and minors to see the course requirements. Having done this when our dd was applying to university, we found that the majors require a variety of courses, not just ballet class, rehearsal and performance. A student has the opportunity to study different dance types, the origins of dance, choreography, acting, and all sorts of other electives. Depending on the university, there may even be a core curriculum that seeks to develop well-rounded, well-informed students in writing, literature, math, science, humanities and a foreign language as well as course requirements for a major.

 

All the programs that we looked at definitely stretched students to more broad understandings of dance, performance and theater. As dancemaven said, the studies were in-depth and provide students the opportunity to develop new ways of thinking about, viewing and performing dance and art. IMO, the world in which our dks live is very different from the traditional world that I am accustomed to. Our dks are making careers for themselves in a world of instant media, social apps and computing. These are communication mechanisms that are second nature to them, who knows... maybe a broad based understanding of dance through study and wise tutelage combined with these tools may create opportunities that we cannot even fathom. No knowledge is ever wasted!

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I think that it comes down to what you want from a university degree and making sure that the degree matches your desires.

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So, as dancemaven suggested to get back to OP's question. . Why do universities have dance programs?



Therein in lies the key to unlocking what a potential dancer might get from a program. If you can answer this question about a program--why it exists, then you can know if it will work for you. And the answer is not likely to be the same for all programs.



Goals of a program might be quite vast and overlapping--to teach dance history, to train for performance, to ready for a company, to ready for commercial dance, to prepare for musical theater, to learn dance pedagogy, to enhance a double major, to develop potential choreographers, to engage in cross disciplinary training opps--PT/Dance or AT/Dance, to create an arts-friendly graduate, to prepare arts administrators, to prepare arts related business/marketing people, to champion out-of-the-box approaches to dance.



I would say programs should be able to answer this question very clearly--Why is your program in existence?


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Why do universities have dance programs? The same reason why universities have ______________ programs. There are many, many college majors that, when you really think about it, don't necessarily require a college degree to do the job. Like what has been mentioned, the purpose of a university education is to broaden horizons on a variety of topics. It's why English majors take classes in algebra and history majors take classes in biology. And, while the value of a college degree to be a dancer may be debatable (a topic for a different thread), a lot of the dancers in the company where DD takes classes teach to make extra money. The school requires a degree with pedagogy classes to teach. Also, it seems that most of the dance programs have performing companies. Maybe those performing companies fill a void in areas that cannot financially support an independent company.

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I think one void a college ballet program might fill is the hypothetical talented young dancer who is not ready or mature enough to live independently - often in a metropolitan area - piecing together, on his/her own, reasonable housing, appropriate nutrition and solid dance training. I also think that the social development that a college dance environment provides by its nature might well serve such a developing dancer.

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Very good point pinkytoes. I'm not sure that's why colleges offer dance programs and majors but it sure helps a less mature aspiring dancer to get their bearings with the additional benefit of creating a dancer who is exposed to a well-rounded and informed view of dance and the broader world.

 

Ballet companies demand so much time and energy that dancers can begin to feel isolated from the world. I know our dd felt that happen and made a conscious effort to stay up on current events while she was dancing. Now that she's in college, she is exposed to a very broad world and differing opinions. Although she's not pursuing a dance major, she takes dance related electives. Last night she sent me a paper she had submitted in her Music and Culture course. It was about NYCB's performance of "After the Rain," filmed on the rooftop of 4 World Trade Center at Dawn. The performance is titled "New Beginnings." It's been widely viewed on YouTube. What amazed me about the paper was her ability to speak intelligently not just about the ballet steps and artistry but about how the music informed the dance and the audience as well as the camera angles, the ambient wind and other choices made by the videographer, the choreographer and dancers. She compared this with a symphony discussed in a class reading and concluded that art is always a team effort. It was a mature, expanded view of ballet as an art-something that was always in her but she never had time to really think while going about the exhaustive life of a professional dancer.

 

I've been really interested in this thread. I'm sure the reasons why universities offer dance majors differ as much as the reasons why a student would choose to major in dance but I'm glad that they do. I believe that the curriculum and course studies provide the opportunity for a student to be a more thoughtful, well-rounded dancer informed by perspectives of a broader world than often found in a ballet studio. If the student successfully goes on to dance, choreograph, direct or manage ballet professionally, then that perspective will help artistry and understanding of how to help with success of the art form. If the student has a double major or a different minor, then that student will be well armed with knowledge to do many things but I am convinced that the student will always be an artist and that their life's work will always reflect their unique artistry.

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I would ask why not? College was not always thought of to be the end all, be all to the path for a career. It is the financial strain of parents that turned that tide. So then the question becomes, if we revert college back to it's Webster definition, then why would there not be a ballet major in college?

 

Webster's definitions:

a school in the U.S. that you go to after high school; ​a school that offers courses leading to a degree (such as a bachelor's degree or an associate's degree), a part of an American university that offers courses in a specified subject

a school in Britain that offers advanced training in a specified subject

Similiarly, Webster's definition of University is: an institution of higher learning providing facilities for teaching and research and authorized to grant academic degrees; specifically : one made up of an undergraduate division which confers bachelor's degrees and a graduate division which comprises a graduate school and professional schools each of which may confer master's degrees and doctorates

And in addition, here is an article, although simplistic of what the purpose of college was/is and when it changed? Post article

There are also many degrees where one's Bachelor's is all but a gateway to a Master's to focus more on your end goal. Coming to mind are things like: sociology, history in it's most simple form, biology in it's most simple form, library science, where the end goal of the actual career may come after additional degrees or work prior to reaching the pinnacle. Why not consider dance the same way? Now, I don't agree with loans for a dance degree, but, that doesn't mean I don't agree with the desire to have a degree program.

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I've been following this thread with much interest as DD is now in the final year of full time classical ballet training as well as in a program that will lead to the award of a bachelor degree in classical ballet. The course (in Europe) that she commenced almost two years ago has the option for selected students (who have the required entry qualifications) to enrol into the degree stream. My understanding is that the technique classes contribute to the subject loading but that the degree students also have a number of additional academic classes to attend. Subjects such as music appreciation, dance history and psychology are included, the students also have to write a thesis on an approved subject of their choice. My DD enjoys the class discussions and the opportunities to write. Although her focus is to gain that elusive paid contract with a ballet company, we have taken the view that finishing with a further education qualification (degree) will show potential employers that she has committed to a course of study to the point of completion. If however she is fortunate enough to be offered a position in the coming year that is too good to refuse and it means she is unable to finish her degree requirements she will take the position at the expense of the degree. Only a minority of students graduate with a degree, many have not completed the entry requirements and most are not at the school long enough to complete the degree requirements, moving on because they have received a job contract or left the school for various reasons. The school is part of the Arts University and the tuition fees are heavily subsidised by the government so the main expense to students (parents) are the accommodation and living expenses.

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All of those things -- plus there simply are some incredibly beautiful classically trained ballet dancers coming out of some college programs. That's why dancers get hired: they are good --- regardless of what path got them there.

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