5 Pros Who Chose Non-Dance Majors in College—and How It Helped Their Careers

New York Theatre Ballet's Alexis Branagan studied English at Princeton. (photo by Richard Termine, courtesy New York Theatre Ballet)

College-bound dancers sometimes feel as though a dance degree is the only path to professional success. But while majoring in dance can be a great option, it's certainly not the only one. College should be a time of self-discovery, which often means exploring a variety of academic interests. We spoke with five artists who chose college majors completely outside the dance world—without sacrificing their postgrad careers.

Alexandra Salerno, Contemporary Dancer; BS in psychology from Robert Morris University

Salerno (top) in "Marquee, on a Holland America cruise ship (photo by EWS Entertainment Group, courtesy Salerno)

Alexandra Salerno began her psychology degree at Point Park University. "While I thought about auditioning for the dance program, I was already an apprentice with Bodiography Contemporary Ballet," she says. Company director Maria Caruso kept her on during her time at Point Park, which gave Salerno the opportunity to explore her two interests simultaneously.

After her first year, Salerno transferred to Robert Morris University for its sports psychology program. "They didn't have a dance department, but I minored in musical theater, which kept me performing," she says. The university also has a partner-ship with Pittsburgh Musical Theatre, and Salerno landed a job teaching dance at its conservatory.

After graduation, Salerno danced for Holland America Cruise Line before attending graduate school for counseling. Now, she dances part-time with Bodiography's alumni company, BCB3, and with choreographer Gia Cacalano's Gia T. Presents. When she's not dancing, she works as a therapist through University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. "There's a lot of crossover between my two worlds," she says. "I now think about my mind as a part of my instrument, which means taking care of mental health is an important part of being a smart dancer."


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