Jump to content
Ballet Talk for Dancers
BalletNutter

BA in dance versus BFA

Recommended Posts

Victoria Leigh

It probably depends on the school, but where I taught for a long time the BFA was the degree to get. Dance was a part of the College of Fine Arts, and all of our majors were BFA or MFA candidates. It could depend on where the dance department is housed in the University. If there is no College of Fine Arts, then the BA in dance will come through the Education or Physical Education department. I would suggest that a serious dancer who hopes for a professional career as a performer/teacher/choreographer, seek out a University with a College of Fine Arts.

Share this post


Link to post
Dance_Scholar_London

Several UK universities accept students as young as 16 years for BA programmes in Dance*. This enables students to enter the professional world at the earliest stage possible and having a degree in their pockets. Do such programmes exist in the US as well?

 

* BA programmes in the UK are usually 3 years as opposed to 4 year programmes in the US

Share this post


Link to post
Mel Johnson

Under the doctrine of Academic Freedom, US universities may admit BA candidates at any time regardless of age, if they feel that the student can do the work. With ballet, it is rather unlikely that a student will be able to hack a baccalaureate program at much younger than 16. That and the paucity of ballet-oriented university programs keep ballet-BA'd graduates from turning up in most ballet companies.

Share this post


Link to post
Dance_Scholar_London

I think that is the reason why UK universities accept students at the age of 16 for certain BA programmes. Graduating ballet students in the UK are usually around 19-20 years old.

Share this post


Link to post
Pierrette

Since my daughter left high school a year early to enroll in a college dance program, I have a bit of experience to answer this question.

 

Of the few colleges that offer true "early admission" (i.e., many places confuse the expression with "early acceptance" or "early decision" which is different), all of them only allow high school students to appy one year early. These students will still need to earn a high school diploma before their second year in college, so typically, they must get the permission of their high schools to apply their college freshman coursework towards their high school graduation requirements. This is very tricky, as high schools require such subjects as U.S. Government or Health that have state mandated curriculums that are not offered at the college level. And, in actuality, if a student needs much more than a course in Writing and/or Western Civilization/Humanities (which my daughter needed), it is going to be next to impossible for a freshman dance major to fit anything else in.

 

The binding principles behind all of this is accredidation. Degree-granting institutions (as opposed to ones that grant certificates) must be accredited, which means that they must adhere to standards. These standards include academic coursework that is rigorous enough to be deemed "college level" and that has a high school curriculum as a pre-requisite. Likewise, a high school diploma is also based on accredidation, so the curriculum must all come from accredited institutions.

 

So, while Juilliard specifies that, "Early Admission candidates in Dance apply during their junior year in high school and must be at least 16 years old upon matriculation," the age is secondary to the amount of schooling. Sixteen year old seniors are a rarity, so the point is virtually moot.

 

Early admission worked very well for my daughter, as there weren't enough rigorous dance classes for her to take in our area. We saw the "writing on the wall" for this even as she entered high school, so we designed her high school curriculum with an extra heavy load for three years intentionally, knowing that she was headed for a BFA program and not a company straight out of high school. Without this advance planning, early admission would not have been possible.

 

I should also add that it is my perception that American kids lead much "faster" lives compared to British kids. Sex, drinking, drugs, smoking and whathaveyou confront college freshmen right at Orientation. It requires a very high level of maturity to cope in this kind of environment, so prior experience with independence and lots of freedom (like SIs with little supervision) is vitally needed before taking this big step.

 

The ideal situation that I'd like to see for high school aged dancers is an expansion of the "Middle College" concept. In my area, we have a Technical Middle College program that is a "charter" high school, sponsored by our local community college. The 3-year program, for 10th, 11th and 12th graders, allows students to earn both their high school diplomas as well as a 2-year Associates degree in a science or technical field. This concept could be expanded to the arts as well, but unfortunately, the level of dance training at the community college level is not up to snuff for pre-pro students.

Share this post


Link to post
Dance_Scholar_London

Thanks for that long post Pierrette. The process sounds much more complicated than in the UK. Full-time ballet school who do not offer degree programmes usually offer A- and AS-level courses and a National Diploma

Share this post


Link to post
Pierrette

I'm a little confused. You specifically asked about "BA programmes in Dance," which is a Bachelor's degree (or baccalaureate program, as Mel stated) , not a Diploma. Places like the North Carolina School of the Arts offer either a BFA or an Arts Diploma, the difference being that the Diploma doesn't require general studies courses. So, sure, students can start at NCSA at 16 and come out at 19-20 years old with an Arts Diploma in ballet. And with a lot of extra academic courses crammed in there, a 20-year old could also earn a BFA. If all goes well, my daughter will earn her BFA a couple weeks before she turns 21.

Share this post


Link to post
Dance_Scholar_London

Sorry for the confusion. Yes I enquired about Bachelor's degrees in the US. As I mentionned before, there are institutions in the UK (for example Central School of Ballet) that accept students to start their BA programme at the age of 16. However, there are still other ballet schools (not universities) such as the RBS, or the ENBS that do not offer degree courses but students do their A-Levels + Diploma instead.

Share this post


Link to post
stitcher

My DS is in his first year at Central School of Ballet. It is the first year of a 3 year degree course (validated by the University if Kent) but it is also possible to do 1 or 2 AS/A levels in first and 2nd year. DS is doing 2 AS levels this year. He turned 17 soon after he started last September. Most students seemed to start at CSB after GCSEs. As we live in Sctland, DS had in fact obtained 4 Highers (Scottish university entrance level exams) before going to CSB.

 

Re 16 year olds going to Uni, in our case in the big bad city at the other end of the country - much angst was experienced in advance - but we needn't have worried. Ballet students are in school from 8am, 6 days a week, often till 7pm. There is little time or money for drink, drugs etc - and they're too exhausted!

Share this post


Link to post
Ed McPherson

I can offer another perspective

 

Indiana offers a BS - Bachelor of Science in Ballet. I believe Utah does as well. I cant comment on Utah's curricular requirements but at Indiana there are two variances of the degree, students can either choose a straight BS in ballet or you may choose a BSOF, a Bachelor of Science with an Outside Field.

 

The students outside field can be in any major offered on campus. The requirements for each outside field are different. The difficulty of each outside field is completely dependent on what that outside fields department sets as their criteria. I cannot give an exact number but my perception is that ¾ of my peers have outside fields. It is a rarity to graduate as a straight BS; I think that is because we all perceive a degree in ballet as worthless. The pervasive feeling is that we might as well get something of value while we are here.

 

I have a friend that just graduated with a straight BS he did so because he wants to become a director and is planning on doing Arts Admin in graduate school…

 

The only outside field I am familiar with is the one in Business. It is the most popular outside field and is considered mildly difficult. It is through the Kelly School of Business. I think Kelly is rated top 20 business schools in the country. It is 27 credit hours which is about 9 classes spread out as you like. Many of the business folks make the push to graduate in 3 years.

 

In regards to the ballet aspects of the degree, we don’t have any classes that require us to be at desks. Besides ballet class and rehearsals we are required to teach recreational students, choreograph, take piano, take jazz, and additionally any 6 credits within the school of music must be completed. I am taking organ lessons and “live music appreciation”, many people take voice lessons or continue their piano.

 

The general education requirements are pretty simple with an outside field it is 24 credits, I don’t know if it is the same if you are a straight BS. You can work within these 24 credits creatively. My friend is an overachiever, for example, he is a Business BSOF and has completed a French minor within his 24 general education requirements and is graduating in 3 years.

Share this post


Link to post
Dance_Scholar_London

Are there BPA (Bachelor of Performing Arts) available in the US? In the UK, a BPA has a high percentage of practical work (75%).

Share this post


Link to post
Guest wolfeh

After reading a recent post debating BFA vs. BA, I got to wondering what was the point of it all? I am not devaluing college education in anyway (I am in college myself), but it was noted that degrees don't matter a bit in the professional world. I have even had teachers who have amazing track records sneer at a college education and college training. But then I have read an article about Mary Coochran, who runs the dance program at Barnard, that every dancer should have a degree (sorry to be paraphrasing). So despite the training and focus awarded in such programs, what is a BFA worth, really? I don't mean at just the big ones (I consider them big) either, like Juilliard, NCSA, Utah or Indiana.

Share this post


Link to post
Victoria Leigh

Hello wolfeh, welcome to Ballet Talk for Dancers! :)

 

While the value of the degree would first be in the training, if one is not quite at the professional level yet, ultimately it could be very valuable when it comes to transitioning from performing. True that it is not important in obtaining a professional performing contract, however, it could make a big difference in what you are able to do after your performing career. The college years can also open a lot of doors in terms of other interests or interests in other areas of dance or things connected to dance.

 

Naturally if one is doing it primarily for the continued training, then the best possible program would be the way to go. If one is also interested in teaching or choreography, then a program that also offers pedagogy and/or choreography courses would be desirable.

 

I usually recommend programs which offer a BFA, as these programs are apt to be more performance oriented and have more professional faculty. Some College of Fine Arts departments have teachers who are former professionals in the field who might not necessarily have a degree. They consider a solid professional career as the equivalent of a terminal degree. BA programs, sometimes housed in the Education or Physical Education Dept. require faculty to have degrees, and not necessarily a professional career. Many of them are fine teachers, of course, but I think that what is generally offered for dancers in the Fine Arts departments is more suitable. This is a generalization, and only my personal opinion. Things may have changed a great deal since I was teaching in a University, but as far as I know, the top ballet programs offer BFA degrees.

Share this post


Link to post
Guest wolfeh

Thanks for answering my question. I suppose, after reading your response, I would also like to query what is the usefulness of a BFA towards a ballet career, considering that most BFA programs are modern orientated (Utah and Indiana, I think, notwithstanding). :shrug:

Share this post


Link to post
Victoria Leigh

No, actually there are a lot of BFA programs in ballet, good ones. Besides Indiana and Utah there is U. of Oklahoma (very good program), and SMU, TCU, SUNY Purchase, Butler, and probably several others. I'm not sure if U. of South FL is BA or BFA, but it's a good ballet department.

 

As to the usefulness for a ballet career, that would depend on what you plan to do and your success at doing it. The piece of paper won't get you a job performing with a company, but it could get you good teaching work later. It could also lead to a graduate degree in some other area of dance or theatre, such as Arts Management, Design, Stage Management, Journalism, etc.

 

I'm not saying it is necessary to get a degree to dance, but that one can be very useful later. It is also possible to get the degree later, after a performing career.

Share this post


Link to post

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×