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Ballet Talk for Dancers

How can I use my BFA?

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This fall I will be entering my senior year of high school and will be auditioning for college dance programs. I am looking to pursue a BFA in dance. I'm choosing the college route because I do not think I will be good enough to go right to a professional company right out of high school.


I have done quite a bit of research on pursuing dance as a living, as this is what I want to do. Upon this research, it seems as if the only option for dancers is either to get lucky enough to acquire a company contract, or retitre immediately to teaching. I know there are other viable options out there, but they never seem to be discussed.


I know the dance world is very unpredictable, and that job offers can be difficult to come across. This is another reason why I am choosing the college route; I'll have a degree to back me up. However, upon graduating, I want too be able to find a stable job that allows me to be self-sufficient, if possible (I know this is really specific,I just feel clueless!!).


Here's my question: are there other options within the dance world (besides teaching and company positions) that provide stable jobs that allow one to be self-sufficient and to make a living (I.e. commercial dancing, musical theater, modern companies... Anything)? In other words, can there still be a future in dance if you don't get hired by a professional company right out of college? Also, thoughts on double-majoring?


I love dance and it is what I want to do with the rest of my life, it's just that it seems like everyone says that their isn't a future in dance unless you get into a company. The truth is, I don't know if I will get hired by a company, but I love dance too much to give up. This is why I'm looking into other job options that still allow me to do what I love AND support myself, JUST in case I don't end up landing a company position.


Thank you so much!!!

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I have a BFA in Ballet Performance from a top university. I was, in fact, lucky enough to get a paid company contract right after graduating and, now that I've stopped dancing, I am teaching full-time (for now, at least).


If you're quite concerned about a fallback plan, I would absolutely double major in something non-dance related, or otherwise find a university where you can get a non-dance degree but still train on the side. Unfortunately, BFA aren't the most useful of degrees. I was able to use mine to get a job teaching ballet at a college, but even some colleges (and definitely universities) require a master's degree to teach.


Options with a BFA are pretty much using it to go to grad school for an MFA or into a grad program that doesn't require a specific undergrad degree, like law school. Almost any other grad program will assume you have taken a relevant undergrad degree program, which means to get in you will need to take those pre-reqs (eg, Physical Therapy, which would require you to take many, many science courses first, as those wouldn't be included in your BFA program). If I had to do it again, I'm not sure I would have gone the BFA route. I likely would have done post-grad training and gone to school later or concurrently to pursue a non-dance degree.


That being said, you can make work what you want to make work. I'm at a point where I love my teaching job and make a decent enough living, however I wouldn't want to raise a family on my salary, and I don't get any benefits such as insurance or retirement, and I can never be sure how my teaching hours will change year to year. Therefore, I'm taking more college courses right now to eventually pursue a lucrative, non-dance career if I decide to go that route.


I also have BFA friends who danced professionally and then returned to earn their MFA's and are now teaching at universities as full-time faculty members. That's a great job. This is in addition to BFA friends who never landed contracts but are currently full-time Pilates teachers, dance teachers, fitness studio owners, etc.


Bottom line is that anything in the arts can be a gamble. Some people do exceptionally well, but it's a poorly funded field in general and staying in the arts long-term should require much thought (as you're so intelligently looking into right now), with the financial insecurity, turnover, and year-to-year contracts in any dance arena.


My best to you!

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I am in the same position as you right now! I have been doing a lot of research lately, and I have found a few options for myself.


I am planning on applying to some schools that have a Dance Education major (University of South Carolina and East Carolina University). This would give me a license to teach dance in the public school system or the credentials to teach at a dance studio. The public school system has many benefits such as insurance and retirement.


I am also applying to some schools where I have the ability to double major. I looked into schools that have a high percentage of dance majors with a double major so that I know it is doable. I think you can contact the dance department to find out this info if it isn't on their website.


I am also applying to schools that have a dance minor as well as dance performance opportunities. I know that Wake Forest University as a dance minor and a dance company that looks like it does some ballet rep too.


If you find any other info please share! Best of luck to you!

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I would advise anyone pursuing a BFA do so only if it can be done without the need for student loans. The dance world and its salaries are too unstable to be saddled with student loan debt. That is a serious burden and often not taken into consideration, I'm afraid.


Some university programs offer arts administration and pedagogy concentrations as alternatives to the performance concentration. The difference in the actual dance portion is minimal, but provides some additional courses in other fields. Double majoring in a viable field is a good option at other schools. Sometimes that may require additional semester(s), but it may be more than worth it in the long-run.


Have you considered the post-grad training route with college following? In truth, the BFA grads will be competing for the same entry level positions, which these days most often means trainees, apprentices, unpaid and minimally paid as the high school or post-grad dancer. Hence, my caution about acquiring student loan debt for a BFA in dance. Especially as career-ending injuries are real events at any time, even in college.

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Thank you for the responses, I really appreciate the advice. I am beginning to look at smaller, regional companies in order to keep my options open for next year. Thanks!!

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Our DS was able to take the route that dancemaven recommends. With both of our children we have used a potential post college entry salary as the basis for how much debt they can take on in college. If DS wanted to keep dancing post college, then his entry salary is likely to be close to $0.00 at least for the first year. Thus, he needed to go where he could have no debt and the option to double major. Fortunately it worked for him. He is thriving.


Our non dancing daughter is allowed to assume more debt because she will be employable with a decent salary to begin paying off the loan. Even then she chose a college where the debt will be lower, comparatively.


This strategy has worked for us. Each family's needs are unique.

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