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DD and I chanced to visit Oberlin last week. Since the visit was unplanned, we hadn't done any research. We were delighted to discover a very welcoming Theater and Dance Department. This program is not designed to turn out professional dancers; even majors get only three ballet classes a week. The program is really about learning about dance, in all its many facets. Here is a quote from the department description:


The Theater and Dance Program offers students an interrelated series of courses and performance activities designed to provide a sound liberal arts grounding in the theory and practice of the arts of theater and dance. . .  Though many of the students go on to be successful dancers and choreographers, the emphasis in the department is on encouraging students to create, perform, and think about movement in a manner that is consonant with their experience in the other fine and liberal arts.

Dance at Oberlin is also characterized by its commitment to experimentation and to the creation of original work.


We had no idea this type of program existed. It was very exciting to DD -- especially when we discovered that one of the gurus of dance physiology is an adjunct there. Do other such programs exist? Where?

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I'm sure there must be other programs like that, but I don't know about them. Here on Ballet Talk we are really focused on the programs that will help dancers become dancers, teachers, choreographers, and maybe even Directors! :wink: That's not going to happen for anyone taking 3 classes a week. I would love to see a list of their students who are now in professional ballet companies.

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Anybody I've ever seen come out of there were Modern Dance people - beware the "consonance in the other Fine and Liberal Arts" phrase. That's intellectual closet pish-tush for "not ballet".

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Well, it is not their goal to produce professional dancers.


I'm sorry if this is inappropriate. We talk frequently about the well-roundedness of dancers, and the benefits of dance education beyond careers, so I didn't think this was out of line.

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Treefrog, I think that the discrepancy here is that the focus of Ballet Talk is for everyone who loves ballet, but the focus of Ballet Talk for Dancers is for those who really want to do it on a professional level. Not that they will all do that, but they are working at it with that goal in mind. We are just not about the recreational dancers here, except perhaps on the Adult Students board.

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Guest Chedva

Hi, Treefrog - I've really enjoyed reading your posts over the years - always something intelligent to say!


I've been looking at colleges for my dd, too (she's only a sophomore, and more of a recreational dancer than pre-pro). You might want to take a look at Muhlenberg, which also has a very well-respected Theater and Dance department, and is supposed to be a very nurturing school. It sounds a lot like your description of Oberlin.


Good luck with your search!

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Anybody I've ever seen come out of there were Modern Dance people - beware the "consonance in the other Fine and Liberal Arts" phrase.  That's intellectual closet pish-tush for "not ballet".


Serious modern dance programmes have at least 1 daily ballet class in addition to modern technique

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Yes, and many good ballet programs incorporate at least one modern dance class into their curriculum. My point is that most American colleges and universities are still lost somewhere in the Politically Correct morass of ballet v. modern. And that era is SO over.

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I agree with Mr. Mel somewhat. I think it depends on which college you go to.


I went to Rutgers University/ Mason Gross School of the Arts in New Jersey. It was a program with a focus on modern, but we had ballet classes regularly. I left there with strong technique and the tools for being a good professional modern dancer. I also left with a sufficiently stimulated mind.

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I can answer some questions about Muhlenberg. My daughter was accepted there. We visited it in advance, her interviewer was very impressed with her dance background, and the dance director gave her the school tour. Daughterspoke in-depth with her, and we went back again and spent an entire day there for accepted students. They pursued my daughter aggressively and offered her talent and academic scholarships as well as academic grants. Daughter loved everything about the school but ultimately deferred.


I have the highest praise for Muhlenberg overall. They are very "whole person" oriented. They have had students majoring in pre-med who also major in dance. They are very good about working around a student's busy schedule.


We were told by the dance head, a ballet teacher, that she wanted to build Muhlenberg into a fine ballet oriented program. It was clear by the facilities and the guest choreographers coming in during the fall of what would've been my daughter's freshman year, that she meant what she said.


At that time, the level of ballet instruction was not advanced enough for my daughter but she was not looking for a school with ballet specifically. She wanted a neuroscience major. She wanted to get her serious ballet classes outside of the college. Muhlenberg's location seemed to offer her the best of both worlds.


FYI, this was two springs ago.

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She has split her time between performing and touring with MOMIX and continued ballet training.

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Wonderful! College can always happen later and all the reserch you did before wil serve her when she decides it is time.

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Guest Rahir

Well, I think this is an important topic, as not all ballet students go on to pursue professional ballet careers. Many college dance programs can prepare our future choreographers, lighting designers, presenters, and administrators! I for one, loved ballet, but I didn't have the facility to be "serious." And even if I did, I don't know if company life would have been for me. So, where do the kids go when they move on from intensive ballet classes? I would hope that we support them, whether on this board or elsewhere, in making that difficult transition. And if it's to modern dance classes, hooray for them!


Treefrog, Oberlin's program is indeed very strong. There are some other schools that have comparable programs. Most, though, because of course and overall credit requirements, don't offer ballet everyday. It's just not possible for a student to take 5 ballet classes and 5 modern classes a week, in addition to the other 3 or 4 courses they need to take (which would tally probably and additional 30-40 hours of in-class time). If a student's a dance major, she's probably taking choreography, composition, improv, kineseology (sp?), ethnic/world dance, dance history, production, music, and drama, so that's a lot of dance-related courses. And don't forget productions! Those long hours of rehearsal can also be grueling. Lastly, most liberal arts colleges require that half (or about half) of one's credits be from OUTSIDE the major. So.... you can take only so many dance classes for credit.


I don't know much about schools in the mid-west, but here are a few integrative liberal arts colleges come to mind: Bates, Mount Holyoke, Smith, Skidmore, Sarah Lawrence, Bard, Vassar, Colby, and Connecticut College (my alma mater).

Edited by Rahir
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I agree with Rahir. I think this is the only place on the Web where serious discussions about all the different training and career options can occur. I hope it continues!

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