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BA in dance versus BFA


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You are probably sensing a theme here ... but I didn't want to ask too many questions on one posting about colleges.


Any thoughts/advice on obtaining a BA versus a BFA in dance in college? What are the differences and is one preferred over the other?


If a dancer actually gets hired by a company after college, does the type of degree make any difference? (This is probably a dumb question.)

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If you want a professional dancing career, go for the BFA. If you want a dance-related but not necessarily "onstage" career, that's the time for a BA. The only difference it will make if one is hired is probably in terms of training--the BFA is likely to offer better or at least more intensive training, whereas the BA will be more concerned with theory--history, criticism, science, &c (which IMO should be required for everyone, but until I run the ballet world... :wacko: ) than applied dance training.

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I agree, Hans. If the student is primarily a dancer hoping for a professional career then the BFA program will offer more intensive training and performing. Actually, I think I would say go for the BFA in any case. It's a better degree.

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I checked out the BFA versus the BA in a number of schools, and the proof is in the puddin'. One school's BA might have far more requirements for technique than another school's BFA. It is true that in some cases, a school's BA is more academic than performance oriented, but that's not the case everywhere, and certainly not where I am. I recommend that you start by going online and looking at the various schools' requirements for the BA and BFA. I guarantee you'll be amazed by the divergent requirements. The primary difference, for example, at our school, between the BFA and the BA is that with the BA you can focus on one form (ballet or modern) instead of both. Other than that, we're basically in all the same classes.

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I could be wrong, but I think that the BFA has to be offered through a department in the College of Fine Arts, while a BA can be offered through Education or Physical Education, as well as a College of Fine Arts. If I am wrong about this, please correct me. My point is that, IMO, if the department is not in the College of Fine Arts then it has less to offer in professional level training, since the professors must have degrees, and most are not professional dancers. If I were choosing a college for a student who has performing as a main goal, then I would want to be where there are former professional dancers on the faculty.

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This might be the case in a university that is offering only a BA. But all of the colleges I looked into offered both through the Dept. of Dance or Dept. of Theater and Dance. As to my personal experience, the BA at Wisconsin is offered through the Dance Dept. -- same teachers, different emphasis. That BFA, as I've discussed in the past, is totally modern-oriented and is not nearly as difficult as the BA at Tulane. (The BA there was almost completely academic). This was not the case years ago at Wisconsin when teachers like Lupe Serrano and Jury Gotshalks were on staff. It demanded a high level of ballet and modern technique. The changes over the years were what prompted me to pursue Tulane's BA over Wisconsin's BFA. I wanted a school that offered solid ballet training and demanded a high level of technique. We probably have an equal distribution of BAs and BFAs in our dept. They all dance in the company, take from the same teachers, and have the same level of technique expected. We all must do the same dance academics, along with choreography, sound, lighting, etc. Really, the basic difference is in the choice of focusing on one form instead of both.

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Today, you can't generalize about the difference between BA and BFA. It is often only a matter of importance within the awarding institution. A BFA used to be a five-year program of a conservatory nature, and a BA was more about -ologies and took four years. Now, it really just depends on the university. I remember a few years ago when a fine member of the clergy was being considered to be named a bishop in his denomination. Some of the electors were concerned that he didn't have an STD (Doctor of Sacred Theology). He didn't. What he had was a Th.D. (Doctor of Theology) from Oxford University.

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  • 1 year later...

As my sophomore in high school is watching older friends start to consider companies and colleges, the question arose as to the difference between a BA and a BFA in the college dance programs.

Could some "in the know" enlighten us?

Our guess in that a BFA is more performance related, but does one title enable further degrees, opportunities and education better than the other? Is it just a matter of semantics/titles based on the college?

If she wanted to first have performance ability, then eventually teach (MFA?) at the college level, is there a preference of entry program titles?

It's going to get real interesting around here in the next two years as reality/luck/skill/planets align!! Looking forward to hearing from someone who understands the system.


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You will be surprised if you look at the course catalogs for the various dance programs how much difference there is in a BFA from one school and a BFA at another school. I went through this exercise recently and was shocked. Some still require a fair amount of non-dance classes, others require almost nothing more than Freshmen English and then it is all courses from the Dance Dept. Generally, BFAs require less course work outside the major than a BA would require.


At most schools, the BA in Dance will give your dancer a more well-rounded, broader education, as most colleges of Arts and Sciences will require your student to take some classes from both the arts and the sciences, with a concentration in the arts. I have a BA in Journalism and my core requirements from the college of arts and sciences included both math and science courses, foreign language, as well as humanities, poli sci, etc. Only about 1/2 of the course work is actually in the major of choice.


But, in terms of being more applicable or impressive in the ballet world, I would think that the BFA would indicate a stronger concentration in dance and performance skills. In the non-dance sector (such as corporate America), a BA would be more applicable and impressive. As to which would be more beneficial if an MFA was pursued, I'm not sure it would matter for admissions purposes.

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Just some more food for thought ....


In terms of a BFA being more impressive in the dance world -- if a dancer auditions and the AD likes the dancer -- will it matter whether or not it is a BFA or a BA?


On the other hand, if the dancer is looking for a job outside the dance world, I would think the BA would look better on a resume than a BFA.

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In the world of professional ballet in the USA, a degree of any kind has NOTHING to do with getting a job in a professional ballet company as a dancer. A dancer is selected, solely, on how they perform in an audition. Academics are not a consideration. However, if your child is interested in some other area of dance such as teaching in a public school or university - a degree will serve him/her very well. Whether a BA or BFA is better probably depends upon the job. In my brief experience in a public school system they simply required a college degree - it did not matter what it was in!

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Writing as someone who earned a BFA, way back when, in photography from Ohio University in Athens, Ohio - I just want to put in a few good words for BFA degrees. :grinning: As it's been suggested - one must look carefully at the college/university and see the differences. I had many requirements and took many non major related academics - but my major was in Fine Arts specifically Photography so I had to take the long list of required fine arts requirements as well - from art history to drawing. Last quarter in school I thought about switching to English! :D


In my various positions my degree was looked upon as a liberal arts degree. :lol:


If your daughter is considering trying to become a teacher of dance - I'd suggest checking out the bios of the various dance teachers in a variety of college dance programs. Many teachers have no degree but have tremendous professional experience and star power, but there are also a number who have returned to college and gone on to receive their MFAs, in order to further their careers. (Of course you've probably already looked at the bios but if not - check them out...and check out college/university programs in different parts of the country too - both public and private. :rolleyes: )

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I was a fine arts student (concentration in photography). We had a choice whether or not to spend an extra year to get the BFA as opposed to the BA. This was at a state university.


I only got the BA (4 years) and still got into a very competitive MFA program in NYC at a good art school a year later. They didn't care what your degree was... I'm assuming the same would be true for dance. The undergrad degree per se isn't necessary for MFA. We even had students who's undergrad degree was in Biology. Some hadn't been students for years (one of my classmates had been a surgeon in a former life--now a successful artist represented by major galleries)


I think the depth of your experience and talent is more important. And from what I've heard on the "inside", admissions are often a crapshoot kind of affair anyway. They go by gut instinct when selcting people. Also depends on what's important for a given program. Ours was INCREDIBLY diverse in terms of the backgrounds of people and I think they strove for that in the admissions process to make the student body more interesting and challenging for each other. That helps make good artists.


In my case, the BFA did not require less outside class work in unrelated subjects. The BFA was an additional year of concentration in that field--it was a BA + 1 year.


In my profession, everyone knows what an MFA is...but it seems to cause confusion with non-artists. They don't know such a thing exists. I usually spell it out ..."Master of Fine Arts" on a resume. BFA may have that same effect...

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I also earned a BFA in art, concentration on sculpture. It may be different in dance, and probably varies from university to university, but we were advised to go the BFA route if we were truly serious about a career in art. I'm not sure if it made any difference to anyone outside of the Department of Art, but the unspoken message was if you wanted your instructors and fellow students to take you seriously, you went for the BFA. It didn't make any difference in the number or type of required courses I took outside of art, but the additional studio art classes I took filled the "elective" slots in my schedule.

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