If dance is your passion and you want to make it your career, a dance school degree is essential. Graduation from a dance school shows employers that you are serious about your career. Because dance school is highly competitive and intense, completing it successfully is a huge accomplishment. However, the competition does not end after graduation. Dance careers are very competitive, so the many hours you spend practicing and preparing for performances will give you an advantage in your career.
Someone passionate about performing can obtain three main degrees: an associate’s, bachelor’s, or master’s degree. Most schools offer a master’s degree as the terminal degree, with doctorate degrees in dance very hard to find. A doctorate is available at very few schools, and is primarily academic-based, meaning that the focus is on research and theory rather than on performance and hands-on experience. The amount of time you can expect to spend in dance school will vary from 2-8 years according to the dance school degree you are pursuing. The types of classes you can expect to take will vary not only by the school, but by the program and degree type. Although most dance schools offer some sort of dance school degree, some dance schools offer classes at various levels without any type of degree at all. No matter which degree you choose, you can rest assured that you will gain in-depth knowledge about dance that will allow you to succeed in a variety of careers.
Dance School Associate’s Degree
An associate’s degree is a good choice if you are interested in attending dance school but not sure of how much time you want to commit. An associate’s degree in dance normally takes two years to complete, so the time commitment is minimal compared to advanced degrees such as a bachelor’s or master’s degree, which take a minimum of 4-6 years. There are two main types of associate’s degree: an Associate of Arts in Dance or an Associate of Science in Performing Arts. Both give students a strong foundation in dance that allows them to move on to more advanced degrees if they desire to pursue a career in dance. An associate’s degree is a good choice for someone who is unsure if dance is the right career for her because she doesn’t want to invest a lot of time into the education in case she changes her mind.
Dance degree programs at the associate’s degree level focus on creating dance routines and learning about the history, overview, structure, and theory of dance. Students learn about a variety of dance forms, including ballet, tap, jazz, and modern dance. They are allowed to audition for musicals and dance recitals that take place on the college campus.
Dance programs generally require 60-65 units to graduate with an associate’s degree. Courses may vary according to school, but generally include music, theater, communications, speech, and of course, dance. Most schools focus on classical ballet, jazz, tap, and modern dance at the beginning and intermediate levels. Other dance classes may include world dance, street dance, ballroom dance, injury prevention, choreography, and improvisation. Students are also given a basic foundation in technical theater, such as lighting, sound, production, and stage makeup. English and psychology courses may also be required.
Because many professional dance careers require at least a bachelor’s degree, and dance is a highly competitive industry, it can be extremely difficult to find a job with only an associate’s degree. However, an associate’s degree gives students the experience and practice they need to audition for musicals and theater companies if they want to do so immediately after graduation. If they decide later on that they want to pursue a bachelor’s degree in dance, half of the work is already completed. They have already completed the requirements to transfer to the university of their choice, and have obtained the skills needed to prepare an audition tape for the admission department of that university or professional dance school.
Dance School Bachelor’s Degree
For students who are certain a future in dance is the right decision for them, a bachelor’s degree in dance can be found at many schools across the United States. There are two main types of bachelor’s degrees: Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) and Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.). Although both are four-year degrees in the area of dance, the main difference is that the B.F.A. is more performance-based, whereas the B.A. focuses more on liberal arts and academic classes.
The B.A. is the preferred degree for people looking for a career in dance therapy, education, or administration. If you enjoy dance, but not performing, then a B.A. will allow you to work in the dance industry in other areas, such as management, event coordination, and marketing, or as a teacher helping others to achieve their goals. The B.A. teaches students to explore the many facets of dance, such as the historic, kinesthetic, aesthetic, scientific, musical, and technological aspects. Although students learn mainly about ballet and modern dance, jazz and non-western dance are also explored.
For those committed to performing or choreographing as a career, the B.F.A. is the degree of choice. The B.F.A. is a professional degree that focuses on performance, composition, and technique. This is the degree for someone who wants to become a professional dancer. B.F.A. programs are highly selective and competitive, so only the most talented and committed students are admitted.
B.A. degrees in dance require 120 units, whereas B.F.A. degrees require more – usually 132 units or so, depending on the school’s graduation requirements. The B.F.A. program is more demanding because students are often required to take classes in a concentration, such as musical theater or acting. B.F.A. students are required to enroll in at least one daily dance class to practice for demanding performances. They must also enroll in music and theater classes, as well as complete general education requirements.
Although B.A. students are required to enroll in some performance-based classes, the bulk of their course load is focused on kinesiology, movement, composition, theory, and analysis. Those interested in teaching may also take classes to gain the skills needed to teach specific populations, such as children, adults, those with disabilities, or those of different ethnicities. To ensure that students receive a well-rounded education, electives are required. Students can choose from a variety of classes, including costume design, makeup application, sound, lighting, acting, jazz, and tap dance.
Both degrees are intense, so it’s best to be sure of your commitment to dance as a career. If dance is merely a hobby for you, then a bachelor’s degree may not be the right path because of the time and expenses required. You may want to start off by taking a few classes to see if it is the right career path for you.
Dance School Master’s Degree
For those focusing on performance, a master’s degree is the final degree one can obtain. There are three types of master’s degrees in dance: Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A), Master of Arts (M.A.) and Master of Science (M.S.). A master’s degree proves to prospective employers that a student has reached the highest level of competency in terms of dance performance. Master’s students often can focus on a concentration, such as performance, choreography, research, or teaching.
An M.A. or M.S. degree can be completed in two years if the student studies full time, but it often takes up to three years. This is in addition to a bachelor’s degree, so a master’s degree can take 6-7 years total. Required classes include improvisation, music, composition, history of dance, production, and movement. Because dance at the master’s level emphasizes knowledge of research methods and theoretical analysis, students must take classes in theory and research. Electives at the master’s degree level may include anatomy, dance cultures, choreography, modern dance, accompaniment, teaching, movement, and administration. Although a thesis is most commonly required to obtain a master’s degree, some colleges give students the option to graduate without having to do one. However, in place of the thesis, a special project that must be approved by a committee is required.
An M.F.A. degree in dance is intended to be a very intensive degree program. Some dance schools require at least 100 units of graduate-level courses, or a minimum of three years of full-time study. The purpose of an M.F.A. is to make students well-rounded individuals who can not only perform dance, but also produce, teach, speak, and write about dance. M.F.A. degrees are often able to be customized to meet the needs of each individual student. Possible areas of concentration include performance, dance science, collaboration, history, education, choreography, and contemporary issues. In addition to the students’ selected concentration, many schools may require students to focus on a specific type of dance, such as ballet or modern dance. Internships and hands-on learning are also highly emphasized. In fact, at least one lab class is required each semester, along with ongoing performances and practice sessions.
Admission to a master’s degree program is highly selective. An audition tape or live audition is required, as well as an interview, so faculty can observe the student and determine his aptitude for success in such a rigorous program. Prospective students may also be required to attend classes and performances during the application process to give them a feel for the school.
If performing in a major dance production or working for a theater company is your goal, then a master’s degree program will provide you with the preparation you need to succeed. However, the program is intense and requires a full-time commitment for a minimum of three years. This is something to consider seriously before enrolling in a master’s degree program, and should not be taken lightly.
Dance School Doctorate Degrees
Although performance-based dance studies end with a master’s degree, those looking for a thorough academic background in dance can pursue a doctorate, or Ph.D., in dance. A doctorate is the highest degree one can obtain in scholarly-based dance studies. Doctoral degrees in dance focus on writing about dance instead of performing dance. It is very difficult to find a dance school in the United States that offers doctoral degrees. In fact, there are fewer than a half-dozen, and as with other degree programs, there are strict requirements.
Small classes are the norm to increase the amount of interaction between teachers and students. The length of time required may depend on the school, program, and whether the student studies part time or full time; however, the average is about 18 quarters, which is about 4½ years after receiving a bachelor’s degree.
Doctoral degrees can usually be obtained in cultural studies, dance processes, dance research, and professional applications. Dance studies teach students about the history, politics, and culture of dance. Classes teach students about the different methods and theories used for research. Topics of study include race, choreography, and dance from other cultures such as Asian, African-American, Latin, and indigenous. With technology always changing, students may also learn about dance as it relates to digital and media cultures.
Students usually take 10 classes during their first two years of study. These classes may include dance medium, meaning in dance, dance as a learning tool, research, and philosophy. Students also may take classes to help prepare them for their dissertation and written and oral exams. Electives may include dance and technology, creativity, use of video in dance, dance science, and dance research methods and theories. Some programs require students to complete several projects before graduation. These projects may involve research and curriculum development.
During the third year, students take written exams and prepare for an essay. The rest of the time is spent completing an oral exam and writing a dissertation. To graduate, some schools also have a foreign language requirement for dance students, meaning students must be fluent in a language other than English. Some schools may require evidence of knowledge of music notation or ancient languages. Some schools also require an internship.
Obtaining a Ph.D. in dance is a huge accomplishment, since a Ph.D. is the highest degree that can be earned. However, it is time-intensive and requires a commitment. It requires a total of eight years or more, so if dance is your passion and career goal, then you should look for a program that meets your goals.