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SewRibbons

Western Michigan University

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SewRibbons

Can anyone provide feedback on this dance program? It is a triple track program with equal emphasis on ballet, jazz, and modern. DD is considering it and everyone she's met who attends or has attended it, has raved about the program. We'd love to learn more from anyone who has first hand knowledge.

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love to see you dance

DD attends and has had a great experience thus far. It is a triple track program, DD has many friends whose sole focus is ballet only, but depending on your focus, ballet is not a requirement every semester, which DD think is crazy. The school is 25,000 students but the campus is small and easy to get around , very walkable and has bus service as well. The dance program itself is small, around 145 students counting BA,BFA and minors. Last year there were 9 BFA students graduating. It is a very supportive program, DD has felt she has gotten great instruction and alot of support. There are many opportnities to perform. There is a student company which is by audition only that takes 10-12 students per year. That performs a ton, there is a main Winter Gala usually held in Feb that features a Great Work which is ballet focused, Professor choeographed works, outside guest works and student works. usually students are usually limited to participating in 3 dances. WMU particpates in ACDF each year as well. The regional is being held at WMU this March The program is competative with students auditioning for performance opportunities. There is also a student run Orchesis which provides additional choreography and performance opportunities. DD feels that she gets ongoing individiual feedback and professors and department head are readily available to students

 

WMU has an extremely well supported and financed arts program and students from the dance department get to work collaboratively with other student artists DD worked with a composer last year then choreographed a dance and videotaped it for her Choreo 2 class.

The facilities are quite nice and relatively new, there are multiple dance studios and there are several theatres the dance department uses.There are many( at least 10-15 scholarships available to dance students which can be applied for at the audition and each year.

 

DD lived in the Fine Arts dorm her freshman year, it has a dance studio in the basement, she has lived off campus since then. Food options are ok with the on campus meal plan and DD still has a small meal plan that she uses when she has rehearsals and needs a quick meal.

 

DD has been happy with her choice. Let me know if you have specific questions that I can answer

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SewRibbons

This is very helpful, thank you! My DD's background has focused on ballet. She is looking to stengthen her jazz and modern abilities, but wants to continue to have a lot of ballet. She very much liked her visit to WMU and what she heard about the program, but is seeking reassurance that there is enough ballet. It is great to hear that the Winter Gala is ballet focused! We did not know that and its great news. It also sounds from your post that there are many other ballet-focused students there; again, great news! When we visited, we heard from a student in the program that didn't own pointe shoes and that made DD question whether there was enough ballet. It sounds like its really just a flexible program that offers opportunities in all disciplines.

 

A couple of questions - Do ballet students get opportunites for taking pointe? There don't seem to be dedicated pointe classes but rather they'd take technique class en pointe. Is this correct?

 

Some of DD's goals are:

 

Expand her abilities in modern and jazz in order to beome more marketable,

Not jeopardize her ballet training

Plentiful performance opportunities

Supportive, nurturing environment

Ability to double major

BFA

 

It seems like this program really hits the mark, with the ballet component being the only uncertain item. Any more details on the ballet component are appreciated!

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love to see you dance

Per DD Only have pointe classes for ballet levels 2 and 3 but can take earlier with permission from the ballet professor which per DD she would likely approve. That restriction is only in place during fall semester. Dancers are allowed to take entire ballet class on pointe if they want and per DD there are dancers that do. DD has a modern focus but takes ballet and pointe and was encouraged to do so by the professors. Levels are determined based on audition and the first week or so of class, DD was intitally placed at level 2 and moved to level 3 second semester. She is strong at ballet it's just not her first love. . The thing she likes the most is that students are allowed to focus on what they want but still get to build their other skills. There are many dance students who double major and the school has a program that allows you to map out your classes so you can plan for the whole 4 years. DD did take a summer semester last year and now only has one core class left to take going into her second semester of junior year. There is a dance studio right off campus that some students take additional classes at, DD did not but it is a way to supplement if one would want more pointe Junior year requires BFA students to chreograph a solo with paper explaining their choices, subject matter etc.

BFA requires senior students to plan, produce, finance , costume and choreograph an entire show together using other students as dancers as their final project. Antoher preformance opportunity as well

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lakemom

Coming here to post the announcement we received today that non-resident tuition has been drastically reduced. It has gone from $26,851 to $14,366. That may open some doors for prospective students.

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Amie

Love to see you dance, thank you for such a detailed description of the dance program at Western Michigan.  DD is considering this school for next year.  She enjoyed the audition and the student informal performance.  Is your DD still at WMU? 

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Amie

Some information from DD's audition for anyone curious about this program

Program:

  • Three-pronged program with equal emphasis in jazz, ballet, and modern. (DD said jazz in audition was a contemporary jazz)

  • Students take classes in levels 1, 2, or 3 in each of the different styles of dance.  (Students get their level placement with acceptance-never level 3 to begin with, but may be moved there later.  DD believes her strength lies in modern/contemporary but was placed in level 2 ballet and level 1 jazz and modern.  I interpreted this to mean the department is stronger in modern and jazz than in ballet?)

  • Students usually take 2 styles of dance a semester. Courses are 3 days a week (either M, W, F or T, H, F).  But, one student mentioned that she loves ballet and takes an extra ballet class to have it everyday.

  • There are other classes that include technique, like partnering, improve, choreo, etc. 

  • All students are admitted as a BA and can apply for a change to a BFA in their sophomore year  Note:  I found out later during a second Q and A with students that a change from BA to BFA is NOT guaranteed.  Students are evaluated in their freshman classes specifically their technique and choreo classes and they must complete a detailed application.  Many are denied the first time around.  Professors give recommendations on what they need to do to improve their technique and application.  They can apply up to 3 times.  I gathered some are approved, some are not, and some give up on the process.

  • Many (over 50%) of the students that were there were double majors but this is harder with a BFA than BA.

  • The department has a big push for bringing in new upcoming outside choreographers and other guest artists who help stage classic choreography.  Past classic pieces included ones by Paul Taylor, Balanchine, Alonzo King, and Ohad Naharin. 

  • No study abroad opportunities within the department because (according to the department head) there aren’t really colleges outside of the US that have a program for dancers.  (Strange that other colleges have study abroad opportunities?)  But, during spring break, the student company (about 10-15 dancers) travel to Mexico on an exchange with a college there. 

  • Big aim of the program (according to the department head) is to show students how dancers are needed in all professions (PT, doctors, lawyers, teachers, writers, etc.)  This confused me some, she did talk about some alumni who have gone on to professional careers but then said she wants them to go into other careers.  Some mixed messages about what the program is all about.

Audition: 

  • When we arrived at the registration, there was a bake sale to raise money for the student company.  The prospective students were taken back to the dressing room and studio to warm up by current student.  The current students were warm, friendly, and encouraging. 

  • Auditionees went through a ballet class, jazz class, and modern/improve class.  They had a break for lunch between jazz and modern and could go with parent is they wanted. Teachers gave a few corrections to students and were experienced and knowledgeable.  DD enjoyed the audition, like the teachers, and the styles that were taught. 

  • At the end there was a showcase by the student company.  Pieces were in various contemporary styles and were very well done.  Definitely impressed by many of the dancers and all were solid.   After another brief Q and A with the students, 3 would be students (2 girls one boy) were called up and told to apply for a scholarship.  This involved sending in a recommendation from a teacher, some biographical info, and writing an essay.   This was the last audition and I believe the other auditions were specifically geared toward scholarships and all of the dancers brought the recommendations with them and wrote the essay after the audition.

The Campus:

  • After a parent Q and A the department provided a short tour.  The campus is separate from the city of Kalamazoo.  It is a large campus.  The arts buildings were grouped together and seemed newer.  There were many open green spaces.
  • There is a dorm (Draper/Siedschlag) where many of the arts students live a few minutes from the dance building.  Most of the dorms had a small living room and a separate bedroom and students usually converted this so that they each had a separate bedroom with no living room.   There was also a quad version of this with 3 rooms, living room and 2 bedrooms.  Rooms weren’t overly big, but reasonable for dorms.  There was a semi crude practice room in the basement of the dorm with a marley covered platform and mirror and a large common room on the first floor where dancers are also known to practice.  
  • Students said the campus food was reasonable, some even said it was good. 
  • One of our tour guides was an honor student and she really loved the honors dorms (about a 10-15 minute walk to dance building) and being part of the honors department.  They have frequent gatherings and students need to do a certain amount of community service every year.  Community service seemed a big thing universally throughout the university, it was mentioned a few times.  The student company does a bunch of performances and outreach toward community service. 
  •  Campus was hilly and students recommended having a car or making friends with someone who has one.  Bikes not really useful with the hills and weather.  There is a campus bus too.
  • Overall, students we met were very friendly, welcoming, and I got the feeling they really liked being a student at Western Michigan.

Town:  Right near campus there is downtown Kalamazoo and also there is a suburban outdoor mall type area close by.  (DH and I ate at Anna’s House for lunch.  Excellent brunch restaurant.)  Parts of Kalamazoo were flooded when we were there, but it is basically a small city with a variety of restaurants and shops.  If you are coming in from out of town, I recommend looking at the bed and breakfasts here.  There were a few close by and they are a good alternative/better deal than the motel or chain hotel.  We stayed at one of the Kara’s Cottages.  Kalamazoo is also just a couple of hours from Chicago, so that could be useful for auditions or seeing professional performances.

Scholarships:  This university is so well priced in or out of state, it is almost like everyone gets a scholarship (Resident about $12,000 and non-resident about $15,000).  DD applied late to this university (it was a last minute addition to her list) and I think she missed most of the academic scholarship deadlines.  However, DD was awarded a $2,000 non-renewable merit scholarship.  Not sure why it was non-renewable.  Perhaps the previous "scholarship auditions" gave scholarships for all 4 years?  Or they reevaluate every year?

Ultimately DD decided against this university.  She decided she preferred a campus in the middle of a city, plus there was no guarantee that she would be accepted into the BFA program.  However, she was really tempted because of the variety of outside artists and classic pieces that they stage as well as the three pronged emphasis.

My opinion:  This program is worth taking a second look at.  The dancers we saw were accomplished in their style and were able to do some wonderful rep.  I would investigate the university further if DD were interested.  Maybe visit again and observe dance classes or a performance done by the entire department not just their best dancers.  And ask about a typical schedule and maybe if needed see how feasible it really is to double up on dance classes to have them everyday.  It appears from the outside that the program is flexible with its intensity level and students get out of it what they put into it.

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lakemom

When we visited, the strength (and most emphasis) seemed to be placed in jazz.  Our dd was a bit disappointed in the ballet class that she observed....not one dancer was in a leotard and tights, many didn’t even have ballet slippers on, just socks.  Seemed pretty lax for a college ballet class.  Pretty campus and buildings, but ‘equal emphasis’ didn’t seem all that accurate.

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Amie

Lakemom, thank you for chiming in with your observations.  It confirms my suspicion that WMU is stronger in the modern/jazz area.  I did reread my post and I think I might have given a more positive feeling than was my impression.  The whole BFA/BA thing was confusing and I thought the department chair was perhaps misleading about how easy it was to change to a BFA.  Also, her excuse for no study abroad was either a lie or she hadn't done enough research on the possibilities.  And her stress of the students funneling their love for dance into other careers made me feel like she doesn't have confidence in her students' abilities.  The 3 pronged equal emphasis was what the college said, but from my DD's placement and the the demonstration this is program is most likely more geared to developing a more contemporary type dancer.  However, to be fair, there is still a ballet element. The department was playing videos past performances in the waiting area and they did include classical ballet excerpts that although were not as good as most professional companies, were still solidly done (some are available on youtube).  If your DK is looking for a road toward a classical ballet company I would skip this university, but it could still be a possibility (safety school) for the dancer who wants a different path.  DD did originally find this program after seeing some of their alumni in 2 professional dance companies (not ballet).  However, as a mom, before making that decision, I would definitely want to look at multiple levels of each dance genre as well as live performances done by current students. 

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