by: Jackson Summer
One of the most physically intensive majors out of any of college degree program is dance performance – likely, it is easy to understand why. Dance majors are often up as early as 5am on a daily basis, attending rehearsals, ballet class, auditions, and choreographing for the big stage for a number of campus auditions. I have myself dated a dancer before, and I can tell you that she was regularly out of the house by 6am and didn’t even get back until 9pm, with her whole day dedicated to dancing. Yikes!
There are a number of excellent colleges available to dance performance majors in the US, however, a few of them stand out among others. One strong preference for a number of aspiring professional dancers is location: if you choose to attend a dance program in NYC, you not only receive the opportunity to network with a number of the most important troupes, choreographers, and professors, but also the chance to participate in a number of activities outside of your school. Other strong considerations include whether your program of choice has a strong ballet element, a strong contemporary dance element, a strong jazz element, a strong tap element, or even all four.
Having looked at a number of critical factors, including location, strength of the department faculty (most important), what recent alumni have accomplished, and opportunities available to students in and out of the institution, we present to you our top ten schools for dance performance in the US.
10. Boston Conservatory
Location: Boston, MA
Under the direction of the esteemed dancer and pedagogue Cathy Young, who has taught classes at over 30 colleges throughout the entire US, the Boston Conservatory is among the finest schools for dance performance in the US. Equally at home in ballet, jazz, tap, modern, and ethnic dance styles, students at the Boston Conservatory are offered unparalleled opportunity to study a variety of dance methods and traditions. Additionally, the college is located in a cultural epicenter of America: from the Boston Ballet to the Luminarium Dance Company to Urbanity Dance and so many more, a number of prominent choreographers and dancers are available for career networking opportunities throughout the city outside of the conservatory.
9. Oklahoma City University School of American Dance and Arts Management
Location: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
An excellent college that is known for having a triple strength in three prominent dance forms, ballet, tap, and jazz, Oklahoma City University’s dance program is much more than just about training dancers to be excellent purveyors of classical and traditional styles. The school places a large focus on giving its students a chance at making a successful career in the arts. One of the greatest strengths of this program is providing dance training to be successful in a musical theatre context: indeed, dozens of their alumni are currently performing regularly on Broadway to the tune of a successful, well-paid commercial careers.
8. University of North Carolina School of the Arts
Location: Winston-Salem, NC
Boasting impressive alumni who have gone onto impressive careers in dance performance, including former principal of the American Ballet Theatre Patrick Bissell, a current principal in Gillian Murphy, as well as the entrepreneurial choreographer Trey McIntyre, the North Carolina School of the Arts is one of the very best colleges for dance in America that consistently produces top alumni. The NC School of the Arts is primarily known for its classical and modern ballet programs. Located in Winston-Salem, this school is attached to the University of North Carolina, allowing students the freedom to pursue a double major with the university in conjunction with their dance degree.
7. Dominican University of California
Location: San Rafael, CA
Some dance traditionalists may see this as an odd choice for this list, however, make no mistake about it, this school is one of the top colleges for dance performance in the US. The college has a partnership with the Alonzo King LINES Ballet, one of the premiere contemporary ballet companies in the entire US. With access to all of the resources available in San Francisco, this school has become a hotspot for aspiring dancers throughout the globe, which combines the academic prestige of one of California’s oldest universities with the hands-on approach of working with a professional company. Like Fordham University’s partnership with Alvin Ailey’s School, a college that is able to provide its students professional training with a well-recognized company gives them an edge over the competition when applying for positions outside of college.
6. Southern Methodist University
Location: Dallas, TX
For unparalleled quality in instruction, look no further than Southern Methodist University’s Meadows School of the Arts. A top quality, selective college for dance performance, Southern Methodist University is a premiere college for aspiring performers throughout the globe. In addition to a strong academic program, SMU’s dance program is widely known for being excellent in ballet and jazz disciplines. Perhaps those seeking instruction in contemporary dance may not fit into this excellent school, however, for unparalleled training in traditional technique and performance, look no further than one of Texas’ finest schools for dance.
5. Butler University
Location: Indianapolis, IN
A nationally renowned ballet program located in the heart of the midwest, Butler University offers to its students the benefit of a liberal arts education as well as an intensive dance performance education. Their strength lies within classical traditions, as they regularly host productions of many classical ballets, including The Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty in recent years. They do also choreograph modern ballets as well, allowing students ample experience working with the choreography of past masters and modern greats. If you don’t believe that Butler University has graduated students to the top ranks of dance performance, think again: here is a list of the organizations and companies their graduates have become affiliated with over the years.
4. University of Arizona
Location: Tucson, AZ
An excellent contemporary dance program that turns out many fine young artists and teachers of modern traditions, University of Arizona is also known for having a strong basis in classical ballet and jazz performance. Having the edge of classical training as a contemporary dancer is only a plus, and the students of this school have benefitted from this powerful combination: their dancers have advanced to major companies throughout the entire world. In addition, their facilities are unrivaled: all dance majors are given the opportunity to perform in a 30,000 square foot theatre, known as the Stevie Eller Dance Theatre. Although this program may not be for someone who wants an education in a big city, Tucson is certainly bustling with enough culture to keep a young student entertained for a four year degree. A remarkable school that has been consistently ranked by many publications as a top ten dance school, University of Arizona should be on the top of any young dance artist’s list of applications.
3. New York University Tisch School of the Arts
Location: New York, NY
Long considered to be one of the foremost colleges for dance performance, along with the Juilliard School, NYU Tisch offers a nearly unrivaled experience as a performer on the stage of contemporary dance in New York City. Graduates of NYU Tisch have advanced to virtually every single position a modern dance artist could hope to achieve, including spots in top dance companies, professorships at top universities, and soloist honors for a variety of important productions in New York City and abroad. The location is also undeniably unbeatable, as the university is located in the premiere city for dancers.
2. Fordham University
Location: New York, NY
Located in the dance epicenter of the US, Fordham University, like the number 3 and number 1 school on this list, allows its students the benefit of networking and thriving within one of the most culturally diverse cities in the entire world. But Fordham has much more to offer than just location: it also offers a partnership with one of the premiere dance institutions in the entire nation, the Ailey School. Founded by Alvin Ailey, one of the most popular modern dance artists of all time, the Ailey School has become a legendary institution which hosts a 30-member contemporary ballet as well as students in the Fordham/Ailey program. A program designed for contemporary dance specialties, students are expected to dance 4-6 hours a day as well as stay on top of their academic studies. It is intensive, yet rewarding, to those who succeed in the program.
1. Juilliard School
Location: New York, NY
Without much question, Juilliard is, and has been for decades, the very top school for dance performance in the entire world, as well as for acting and for musical studies. The program is known throughout the industry as being the gold standard for contemporary dancing. However, the college is also strongly tied to the traditions of ballet and other forms as well – there is even a faculty member who is renowned for ballroom dancing. Whether you choose Juilliard for the prestige, the location, the opportunities, the networking, or all four of those reasons and more, you possibly cannot choose a better college for dance. That said, the acceptance rate into Juilliard is around 8%, making it the most selective school on this list.