Abroad doesn’t mean alone: 44 percent of Trinity Laban’s student body comes from outside the UK.
When Goucher College dance major Blake Caple decided to spend a semester abroad, he chose to follow in the footsteps of several peers and selected the University of Roehampton in southwest London. “They absolutely loved it,” says Caple, now a junior, “so I figured it would be an amazing experience for me as well.” Every year, thousands of college students experience other cultures firsthand by studying abroad. But spending time in a foreign country is more than just a good time. A year abroad (or even just a single semester) builds maturity, boosts self-sufficiency and strengthens adaptability and communication skills. And when it comes to dance, there are few cities better suited than London to offer budding Anglophiles the perfect combination of technique, academics and world-class dance.
1. Keep up with technique
Given the competitive nature of the performing arts, it can be difficult for dance majors to take a year or semester off from training to study abroad. Fortunately, schools like Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance (with 13 sprung-floor dance studios), University of East London (with its emphasis on urban dance) and Roehampton (with a large program of about 350 dedicated dance students) have plenty of programs to keep even the most serious dancers on their toes. For Caple, this included a new approach to Cunningham and release techniques. “It was very structured,” he says, “and nice to start at the beginning and build from there.”
2. An eclectic dance scene
From the internationally renowned Royal Ballet to the West End (London’s Broadway), there’s no shortage of great dance. The city boasts a robust contemporary dance scene; commercial dance offered nearly round-the-clock at Pineapple Dance Studios (think: Los Angeles’ Millennium Dance Complex, but without the traffic); monthly tap jams at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in fashionable Soho and an annual hip-hop festival at Sadler’s Wells. The Royal Opera House even offers discounted rush tickets through its student program.
3. Intense academics
While the emphasis on independent learning in the UK may require a significant adjustment for American students, the rigorous academics offer a great challenge for those hoping to excel both in the studio and beyond. At Roehampton, students can examine dance from a philosophical perspective in “Philosophy and Aesthetics: Thinking Through Dance Art.” At Trinity Laban, they’ll gain critical and analytical skills to inform a consistent artistic practice in “Investigating Arts Practice.”
4. No language barrier
When researching study abroad programs, Caple knew he wanted an authentic international experience without a language barrier. Studying abroad in an English-speaking country gives students the ability to hit the ground running and focus on technique and academics.
Caple in front of London’s Tower Bridge
5. Libraries and archives
Roehampton’s Centre for Dance Research gives students access to leaders in the fields of dance anthropology, dance education and philosophy. Both Trinity Laban and Roehampton have terrific archives for students interested in dance history and notation.
6. International vibe
Study abroad students can expect to find a truly international community in London. This appealed to Caple, who “loved both the English culture and city culture.” London schools are extremely diverse: At Trinity Laban, for example, 44 percent of the student body comes from outside the United Kingdom.
7. Performance opportunities
Trinity Laban’s year-end concert gives students the opportunity to perform historically significant repertory restaged by faculty and visiting artists. Similarly, students at UEL can get involved in COLL!DE, one of Britain’s most innovative student dance festivals. Roehampton’s graduate program gives undergrads the chance to work with emerging choreographers right on campus.
8. Easy transport
London students get a 30 percent discount on public transportation with a special transit pass—the Student Oyster photocard. (Just remember to look to the right before crossing the street!)
9. University dance societies
Spending a semester abroad doesn’t mean missing out on extracurricular dance opportunities. Dance societies—the British version of collegiate dance clubs—offer everything from ballet and tap to salsa, Bollywood, capoeira and hip hop. These student-run classes can be a great way for Americans to make friends, try out a new dance form or even earn a little spending money by teaching.
10. Proximity to Europe
With daily trains to Paris, London’s proximity to Europe makes it easy to explore. Caple left home four months before his program at Roehampton began and managed to visit 14 different countries before his arrival in London. Because British school terms usually begin a month or two after they do in the U.S., it’s easy to squeeze in some extra travel time. DT
Kat Richter earned her MA in dance anthropology from the University of Roehampton.
Where to Study Dance in London
• Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance
• University of East London
• University of Roehampton
Lost in Translation
Module A course or class
Course, or programme A major or degree track
Postgraduate students Grad students
First-year students Freshmen
Uni Short for “university,” what British people call college
JYAs Stands for Junior Year Abroad; how UK students refer to Americans
While the British Consulate General has a network of offices throughout the U.S., only the New York City branch can process visa applications (via mail only). Students must send their passports with their applications.
Students studying abroad for six months or less can enter the UK on the Short-term Study visa. However, this type of visa prevents them from obtaining any work (even an unpaid internship). It costs $130 to apply.
Students studying abroad for more than six months must apply for a Tier 4 student visa, which requires scheduling an appointment with the local U.S. Department of Homeland Security to have a photo and fingerprints taken. With this visa, students can work for up to 20 hours/week while studying. Applications, which cost $500, take about two weeks to process. Priority processing costs an added $190.
Photo by James Keates, courtesy of Trinity Laban; photo courtesy of Caple