6 Great Schools for Aspiring Dancers

Looking to maximize your potential as a dancer? With top-level instruction and incredible mentors, these are some of the best places to study Dance in college.

So you want to study Dance? Chances are that people have given you some awkward stares…after all, Dance isn’t exactly the most common major or career path, and people often look down upon dancers because they think that “most never make it.” However, there are plenty of amazing college Dance programs out there that prepare students for the competitive performance industry. Not only that, but they provide top-level instruction and incredible mentors so students can develop into the best dancers they can be. Looking to maximize your dance potential? Check out some of the best places to study Dance in America (listed in no particular order).

1. Oklahoma City University

The Ann Lacy School of American Dance and Entertainment at Oklahoma City University offers one of the top Dance programs in America. During a student’s first two years, they take a foundational Dance curriculum that includes courses in technique, arts management and production, dance history, choreography, and more. Then students are placed into one of three tracks: Dance Performance, Dance Teacher, or Dance Management. During their final two years of study, their track determines the focus of the rest of their education. The instructors in the Dance program also assist students in preparing for auditions, developing a portfolio, and finding employment opportunities throughout the country.

2. Southern Methodist University

Southern Methodist University’s Meadows Division of Dance trains its students in jazz, modern, and ballet. For the first two years, students are required to train equally in all three areas, but they can later choose one area to focus on. In addition to dance training, students get a broader liberal arts education and can take courses in dance history, music theory, kinesiology, and more. What makes SMU’s Dance program special is the focus given to student choreography. Under the guidance of experienced faculty members and visiting scholars, students have the opportunity to fine-tune their own choreography skills. They can also take courses in choreography.

3. The Juilliard School

There isn’t a single person out there who hasn’t heard of Juilliard, considered by many to be the top performing arts school in the country. Juilliard’s Dance program is highly selective: only 12 men and 12 women are accepted each year! However, if you are accepted, you are guaranteed a top-notch dance education found nowhere else. The Juilliard Dance program focuses exclusively on ballet and modern dance, with the modern dance curriculum teaching a wide array of techniques, including Graham and Limón (named after famed former faculty members). One of the other things that sets Juilliard apart from other Dance programs is that students are given many opportunities to perform. The dancers put on about 30 public performances a year, and at the end of the year, the senior students put on a “senior production.” In 2002, Juilliard also began an annual tradition called “New Dances,” where each class of students gets to perform a piece choreographed especially for them by a prominent choreographer.

4. New York University Tisch School of the Arts

Again, what aspiring artist or performer hasn’t heard of Tisch? This school at New York University is known for its incredible education in the arts, and its Dance program is no exception. The Tisch Dance program is unique in its structure. The duration of the program is three years (and two summers), and each year is focused on something different. In Year 1, students perfect their technique and learn how to take care of their bodies while they dance. First-year course work includes dance composition, kinesthetics of anatomy, and music theory. In Year 2, students move on to more abstract areas of study: dance history, improvisation, music literature, and acting. Finally, in Year 3, students translate everything they have learned into choreography and performance. During senior year, students get the opportunity to work with Tisch’s own Second Avenue Dance Company. Not only does this provide professional experience, but it also allows students to make connections in the industry that prove to be valuable to their futures.

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5. The University of the Arts

The University of the Arts is home to the largest undergraduate Dance program in the United States. Students have the opportunity to take classes in jazz, ballet, modern, hip-hop, improvisation, and more. The Dance program is special in that not only do students focus on the technicality of dance, but they also have the opportunity for open discussion about dance as an art form. Students have the chance to explore all of the arts the big and vibrant city of Philadelphia has to offer, including the Pennsylvania Ballet, the Philadelphia Dance Company (PHILANDCO!), and Zero Moving Dance Company.

6. The Ailey School at Fordham University

The Alvin Ailey School and Fordham University have a relationship that offers students the best of both worlds: a world-class dance education at Ailey and a phenomenal liberal arts education at Fordham. The Ailey School accepts 35 students each year (who must also be accepted separately at Fordham), and these students train daily in modern and ballet. They also have the opportunity to take courses in improvisation, modern partnering, dance composition, hip-hop, jazz, and West African dance. Students put on two fall shows and one spring benefit. Seniors also have the opportunity to work with the Ailey Fordham Student Dancers and, if the BFA director approves, to dance for other companies in the area. Another great perk of attending the Ailey School? Physical therapy is available on site, as well as an entire dance video and research library!

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Remember that each program has different application/audition requirements, so if you’re interested in applying to one (or more!), be sure to check out the program’s website. Best of luck in your dancing endeavors!

There are a ton of other great schools with Dance programs to explore! Continue your search with this list of the Best Colleges for the Aspiring Dancer.


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About Tamar Lilienthal

Tamar Lilienthal is a high school senior from Coral Springs, Florida. Her passion has been writing for as long as she can remember, and she hopes to pursue it as a career. She has written for publications like National Geographic Kids, and she is so excited that she has the opportunity to write for CollegeXpress! Tamar is also a dancer, and she is trained in tap, ballet, jazz, and contemporary. She loves sunny weather and her cockapoo, Bubbles. She plans on taking a gap year and then attending the University of Pennsylvania in fall 2019. 


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