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Dominican University/Lines Ballet: BFA Program

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dancemaven

Lady Elle, that is the full official name of the dance program, not a description of the degree. It does not mean the actual degree is anything other than a BFA in dance. But it does put folks on notice that it is not a classical ballet-focus curriculum. :).

 

It is a collaborative program with the Alonzo King LINES programs and Dominican University---similar but not identical to the collaboration between Fordham University and The Alvin Ailey School. You can research the actual type of business connections, if that is of interest to you.

 

But the real point is, these are true BFA degrees. But choosing the school and focus that fits each dancer requires some research and understanding of each programs' goals.

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Lady Elle

Got it! I was for sure confused about that. I also thought to myself "wow, LINES sure has become something quite unique to be able to have an actual degree in this methodology/philosphy!" Silly me! Ha!

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clynwinslow

Are there any current LINES/Dominican dancers or parents that can chime in on their experience over the last year, or years if you are graduating? 

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julisha

Can anyone comment on the academic component of this program?  We have heard mixed things.

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lizzyhults1

Would love more information regarding this program if anyone on here has any. What I can gather is that very few attend. Does that mean they do not accept many? I can not find anything that gives estimated numbers comparing how many audition versus how many attend. Our DD has been accepted but there is not a lot of information on here. She has auditioned for the summer program and been accepted but not attended. 

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dancemaven

Our daughter graduated in the third class to matriculate.  It is a small program by design. Initially, they were looking to keep the classes between 15-20  dancers.  I don’t know whether they have chosen to expand beyond that. 

If your DD is considering the BFA program, I would recommend she attend the SI to see how she likes the program, the philosophy, and the approach.  I would also suggest reading the reviews for the SI as a lot of the philosophy shows through there and has been described in the reviews. 

I’m happy to answer whatever I can, but it has been several years now since DD attended and graduated. 

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Lady Elle

Dancemaven - is your daughter still dancing?  What did she go on to after graduating, if you don't mind me asking.

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dancingSJ

My DD also accepted to this program and she wants to go  - partly because when we visited this past March - we met a Freshmen dance student from Maryland and she was very nice and told us a lot about the program - but mainly she said to my DD:  "This is the best thing I ever done" - referring to coming to the Dominican/BFA program.  So my DD is sold.

But I have concern about this program - mainly that Lines offered a separate Full Time 2-year training program. So I feel like they have a full-time 2-year program and they have this sort of "part-time" 4-year BFA program - so if we are that serious about dancing - may be we should do the 2-year program instead of the 4-year program.  I think Ailey also has some sort of full-time professional training program maybe (don't quote me).  I am just leery when the dance school has a full-time program in parallel with the BFA program - too many dancers graduating - and too few jobs.  I scoured through the Lines website for alumni information and don't see any major company placement - and many alumni blogs have the dancers saying they are doing "freelance" work - which probably means they have some sort of a full-time non-dance job and then dancing on the side.

So although this dancer from Maryland told my daughter how much she loves the program and the school - I have other concerns - one thing is that the dancers have to be bused to SF for the Lines classes.  I think they start with just 2 days a week in Freshmen year  and  by Senior Year, they are at Lines 5 days a week - and so our guide told us that some dancers don't stay at Campus or near Campus by senior year - they actually just live in SF and travel up to campus for their 1 or 2 academic classes, if any, and the performances.  That is fine but I just feel that this arrangement would leave the students to not really have a university life experience.  Again - I don't know how important that is to each individual student dancer.

Then I also think it is strange the guide said the students are living in SF because rent in SF is super-expensive!!!!  The area around Lines is not that good and so one would NOT want to live around there.  So I really don't know how the "living in SF" part works out for these students.  May be they are living with families actually.

I may be over-thinking this - in any case Dominican up in Marin is in a really beautiful area and the campus is beautiful and everyone is so nice - so in a way I want to like this school but I also  have so many reservations.  

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dancemaven

DD experienced all three LINES programs: She went to the SI when she was 17.  She transferred from a release-time well-respected ballet program on the east coast to LINES when she was 18 and did the first year of the LINES Training Program.  She then accepted a spot offered to her in the BFA program, from which she graduated.  To answer the question whether she is dancing now, the short answer is ‘no’.  The long answer involves a career-ending injury and a long-convoluted road (that can be found in various threads).  The good news is that all her training and preparations as a life-long dancer prepared her well and she has embarked on a very satisfying career in public service that feeds her soul as much, if not more, than dance did.

As for the various LINES programs, I believe I have posted (effusively) about all three and what DD felt she got out of them, including the BFA program.  DD’s class started as 15 dancers freshman year.  By senior year, there were 8 dancers, only 4 of whom had started as freshmen.  The attrition was primarily because the program was only in its third year when her class entered and the majority of the dancers in her freshman class really had no idea what the LINES program was.  It is NOT a classical ballet program.  If the dream is to dance in a classical company, this is NOT the program for you.  I think that as the program has been in place longer, there is less attrition as the admissions committee is better at finding matches and figuring out which dancers’ are looking for what they offer.  Dancers that apply to LINES BFA typically are also looking at NYU-Tisch, Fordham-Ailey, and SUNY-Purchase.  Obviously, those schools are more established and have more scholarship money to offer.  At least, as I last knew, Dominican LINES did not have much dance scholarship money and what it did have went to males.  Dominican University, however, has substantial academic scholarships and most dancers receive significant tuition breaks, as a result.

Most of the dancers in DD’s graduating class are still dancing in companies.  The nature of contemporary ballet is that the companies are smaller and less well-known.  Much of contemporary ballet is done via project-based companies.  The nature of LINES BFA dancers are that they are looking for something different than typical classical company dancers.  The philosophy instilled and drawn out of them through the course of the programs, be it the Training Program or the BFA program, is a different mindset.  Many of them are involved in choreographing.  Many of them are involved in creating their own companies, often project-based.  

I highly recommend that dancers applying to the BFA program really discuss with Marina and the other instructors what the philosophy of the program is.  It is not a vocationally based philosophy—-nothing about Alonzo King is that—including the Training Program.  Rather it is an inspirational program for thinking dancers.  The intent of Alonzo King’s philosophy is to inspire, motivate, nurture, and release the creativity of the next generation of dance.  It is hard to really explain when one is conditioned to think of contracts and jobs.  But this BFA program is about much more than a focus on obtaining a contract.  Marina, Marya, Gregory, Nora, and the others are very motivational and more than willing to engage in dialogue.  DD formed a very, very close bond with her teachers and still has that to this day.  The classes DD had with Alonzo were always inspiring. 

This program, the BFA, is not for everyone.  Nor is the Training Program.  I will say, that with that BFA degree in hand, when DD suffered her career-ending injury, she was able to very easily pivot and change her academic and career course and not lose valuable time.  That would not have been possible with just a Training Program attendance. 

The BFA does include basic required liberal arts core curriculum.  I can’t remember off-hand exactly what as DD was able to use some of her AP classes to satisfy some requirements and others to move into higher levels.  Most of the dancers do have a minor, although due to their dance schedule, compatible ones are limited.  Lab sciences are difficult, but with some extra work/time are possible.  Although the rigor of the academics was not as high as DD would have enjoyed, she was able to find a number of professors that she felt very challenged by and focused on their class offerings.  For academics, the dancers are mostly taking evening division courses.  Many of those professors are adjuncts from nearby UC—Berkeley.  Dancers are able to participate in the Honors Program.  Many start, but many bail as they don’t want to put in the extra time.  DD and two classmates did complete their Honors Program Thesis.

DD lived in the dorm with roommates for approximately 6 weeks.  She, and four freshman dance buddies, including one of her dorm mates, moved to SF and shared a house.  (DD had lived in SF for the year prior while she was attending the LINES Training Program, so she was familiar with the City).  They had a long commute to get to school in the morning, but it worked and they enjoyed it immensely.  The reasons she left the dorm were primarily two-fold:  she was vegan and found the cafeteria food not sufficiently balanced for her and the other vegans.  They tried to work with the cafeteria staff for appropriate options, but just couldn’t really get the cafeteria to understand that vegetables drenched in butter was not working for them and that they needed more protein options.  They spent a lot of time going to Whole Foods to supplement.  In addition, the hours of service didn’t really work for their schedules.  Secondly, although DD was in the ‘quiet’ dorm, the dancers’ schedules did not mesh well with regular college freshmen’s schedules.  The dancers were up early for breakfast and on the bus by 8 a.m. (as I recall).  They did not typically get back to their rooms until after 9:00 p.m. due to their evening academic classes.  They were ready to call it a day and go to sleep.  The dorm was rocking until 2-3 a.m.  They tried working via the RA for some more reasonable quiet time, but it just never worked.

DD found that she had little time or use for ‘a campus experience”.  She found that it was, in large part, a commuter campus as many of the students (other than the dancers) came from Northern CA and would go home most weekends.  She had gone to residential ballet schools since she was a high school sophomore and had lived with roommates in apartments since she was 18.  She found the ‘normal’ freshmen at Dominican to be immature and unable to really hold conversations.  So, when she moved back to SF, she did not feel she lost anything.  

San Raphael, itself, is a very sleepy, rather boring community.  It is lovely to look at, but about five to ten minutes will max out what there is to do there. DD loved the diversity and vibrancy of the city and liked that with the public transportation there, she could take advantage of all the dance and art that was available.  The dancers that continued to live in Marin for the full four years, seldom, if ever, ventured into the city and rarely attended any of the dance available there.  DD felt her experience and education was much richer for being in SF.

Dancers did not live near the LINES studios (which are at 7th & Market).  They lived all over the city.  The public transportation made it very easy to get around and figure out where to live based upon commute options.  At the time DD lived there, yes, 7th & Market was a sketch area at night.  But, the techies and dot.coms have taken over the city, including that area, so there are now some pretty swanky and incredibly high-priced high rises in the area.  Much of the city is losing its neighborhood identities.

DD lived in SF—and held jobs there—the full four years, with the exception of that first 6 weeks.  She never regretted that decision.  Only a small handful of dancers in the BFA program chose to live in SF.  Most who chose not to live in the dorm would take apartments in San Raphael or nearby along that highway.  Many did work during school, waitressing at restaurants, etc.   To be honest, I’m not sure freshmen are now allowed to live off-campus.  I’m pretty sure that they would not be allowed to break their dorm contract as DD and her four buds did.  They talked the dean into giving them permission, but we heard thereafter that that would not be allowed again.  As an aside, the University LOVES the dance students and will often do things for them because they ask and push that they might not do otherwise for students.  The program was still very new at the time DD was there and the University was anxious to make it work with the dancers, whom they love.

As for jobs, the style of dance and philosophy of dance that these dancers are trained in fits more easily into the European market.  Many of DD’s friends secured contracts in Europe.  DD was planning to audition there when she was injured.  She had made many contacts in Europe during an SI she attended on scholarship in Germany the previous summer and was really getting good feedback.  

If I can answer any other questions, I’ll give it a try.  Like I said, it has been a number of years since DD was there and graduated.  She still has close relationships with several of the professors, but her last dance friend graduated about two years ago.

 

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lizzyhults1

Wonderful information about life in SF and life attending the school! Thank you. When my dd has a break after sunday i will have her sit and read this! 

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lizzyhults1

Excited to see the campus tuesday

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CreativeMom

I have a dancer in the LINES BFA program. If anyone has questions, I will try and help.

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amymm

Glad to find someone here who has a dancer at LINES. My daughter has been accepted and she will be started there in the fall. It seems like a pretty 'deep' program. Do you find this to be true? My daughter is all about the art of dance, and is looking forward to really diving in deeply. She is more interested in concert dance, as opposed to commercial dance. And I'm just looking for the positive aspects of the program and anything important for us to know. She's so excited about this next part of her dance journey! Thank you! 

 

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CreativeMom

The LINES BFA program is definitely a "deep" program! I've read DanceMaven's long post on this same page, and I would say almost all of it still holds true. It is not a vocationally based program. It is for the technically advanced dancer, but also the thinking dancer. Probably the biggest change since DanceMaven's daughter's time is that none of the dancers really live in the city anymore. I believe there is only one in the entire program right now that lives in the city. The cost of housing in San Francisco has forced the students to stay in San Rafael (and still those housing costs are a shocker too!). The dancers often go into the city together to see shows and of course combine that with eating out. They get very good at learning their way around the mass transit system.

The list of positive aspects of the program is extensive. Freshmen start out with two days of going into the city for classes in the LINES studios. The other three days of the week they take classes at a studio within walking distance of campus. Either way, they have LINES staff teaching them. When they go into the city they are on a school bus that is for their use only. Naturally  they complain about the bus, but as a parent I know the alternative of them finding their own way into the city would be much more costly and time consuming. Bus time is used for sleeping, stretching, and studying, so it is not necessarily wasted time. By the time they are seniors they are going into the city every single day.

I've been very impressed with the staff that teaches them. They truly are getting the best that LINES has to offer on a daily basis. Each class gets time with Alonzo for about one week each semester, I believe. The rest of the time they are being taught by a small group of dedicated and very talented teachers. Most were in the LINES company at some point. 

I've also been impressed with the performance opportunities given to all the dancers. I know that is not always the case in other university programs. As freshmen, sophomores and juniors they are guaranteed to perform at least three times, although sometimes more. By senior year they seem to be completely stepping into their own --- they still have their standard shows that they had in the earlier years, but they also perform a Senior Solo and complete a Senior Project. Planning for Senior Solos starts in the spring of their junior year. They each ask someone to choreograph the solo for them. The choices run from previous students to professional dancers. Some of the choreographers are local and some are not (those that are not local work together usually through Skype). Either way they work with these people on an individual basis for months (including over the summer) to develop a solo which highlights the message they want to deliver and their own personal strengths. Senior Projects are about choreographing a piece for some of their younger classmates, but it is so much more than that too. They conduct auditions, determine the message they want their piece to provide, select music, schedule and run rehearsals outside of class time, pick out costumes, determine lighting... Senior year is really a culmination of all they have learned in their previous years.

A huge plus of the LINES program is it's location in the Bay Area. This part of the U.S. has a lot of contemporary dance performances and your daughter will have a chance to develop invaluable contacts. Those contacts will, I think, be a great benefit when graduation comes around.

I also really like the Gyrotonic certification which is available to the dancers. To be honest I don't know much about it, but I feel like it's kind of like going to a trade school at the same time they are getting their college degree. It gives them a real marketable skill which they can use to supplement their dance income after graduation.

The negative aspects of the program really all have to do with the school itself. Dominican is a sleepy little school where most of the kids go home on the weekends. (The dancers usually stay because most of them are from out of state) The dining hall food is still awful. They say there are healthy options but there really are not. It's hard for the dancers to pick up packages from the mail office because they often close before the dancers are back from the city. It's impossible to double major. There is very little within walking distance of the campus. I know this part all sounds awful, but if you are a dancer and you are doing what you love for the majority of the day and you are learning to think about dance in ways that you never knew existed, then you will be completely okay with it.

Feel free to ask me anything else that you want. I feel like I've hit the highlights here. Has your daughter gone to the LINES summer program? It really does offer a small glimpse into the LINES program and how different it can be...

 

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dancemaven

The GYROTONICs offered is an introduction and basic ground work.  It does not result in an actual certification——unless one chooses to do the certification program and go through logging the trainee hours.  That takes some time, dedication, and oh! $$. :)  DD is one of the few that did continue to follow up with it and did get her certification.  It takes a while to get that, though.  It also must be renewed with continuing ed (more $$).  She used her certification to earn money for several years until she went back to grad school—but it takes some doing to do that.

Nevertheless, DD still includes GYROTONICS in her conditioning.  It helps her hip immensely.  She really took to it and the opportunity to train with the Master Trainers of the caliber there in SF is unparalleled.  

 

CreativeMom, I can certainly see how the dancers would now be largely priced out of living in the City. :(   It has happened to so many, including DD.  How unfortunate!  DD loved her life in the City.

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