Higher Ed: Add Pilates and Yoga Certification to a Dance Degree

Dance majors who supplement their degree with somatics certifications leave college with a built-in job. Thinkstock

Dance majors who supplement their degree with somatics certifications leave college with a built-in job.

For many dance parents, the idea of their sons and daughters majoring in dance is worrisome. They know their dancers are talented, but they also know that a dance career can be less than lucrative. They want reassurance that their children will be able to support themselves—at least until they get their big break.


Over the past five years, college dance programs have begun to offer in-house teacher certifications in yoga and Pilates. “Students have something to hold on to walking out the door—and the parents understand that there are options other than performing," says Michele Miller, dance professor and head of the Pilates certification program at Cornish College of the Arts. Not only do these certification programs offer a career Plan B, they also enhance the dance degree experience itself, creating stronger, smarter technicians who have a deep understanding of the intersection of dance and somatics.

Cornish College of the Arts

Seattle, Washington

Pilates matwork teaching certification

At Cornish, dance BFA required courses—anatomy, kinesiology, teaching methods and movement foundations—double as prerequisites to earning a Pilates matwork teaching certificate. (Matwork focuses on foundational Pilates exercises and doesn't require anything more than a mat—no springs, straps or bars.)

After completing the prerequisites and a Pilates mat elective, dancers enroll in a 10-day, 30-hour summer course, held every other year. The course is limited to 12 dancers per session and costs $400 (not including tuition for the necessary prerequisites). After seeing how popular the program has become, Cornish is considering adding a yoga certification, too.

Some participants, Miller says, know they want to teach Pilates after they graduate, while others approach the course as a summer intensive to improve their dance technique, capitalizing on the personalized, one-on-one training involved. “They get super-strong in those two weeks," says Miller.

Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University

New Brunswick, New Jersey

Vinyasa yoga teacher training

Dancers and nondancers alike come together at Mason Gross each summer for a 200-hour vinyasa certification course operated through a partnership with The Om Factory in New York City. Mason Gross lecturer Taryn Vander Hoop, who also teaches at the NYC yoga studio, instituted the Yoga Alliance–certified program, after witnessing its effects firsthand. “Finding your voice as a teacher translates to finding your power as a dancer," she says.

The program operates separately from the university's dance courses, though the dancers' anatomy and kinesiology courses give them a head start. Over the course of one month, up to 20 prospective yogis convene daily in the Mason Gross studios for five- to eight-hour days of classes, ranging from body alignment to yoga philosophy and Sanskrit. During the training, students visit The Om Factory's NYC studio to try new styles (like aerial yoga), learn to play the harmonium and get a feel for a vibrant yoga community. Tuition is comparable to other 200-hour vinyasa courses at $2,750, or $2,500 for early enrollment.

Both Vander Hoop and fellow program leader Blair Ritchie emphasize that the program's dancer participants experience a ripple effect from earning their yoga certification. “It helps them develop a wider lens for their artistic viewpoint," says Ritchie, “and gives them a community to go back into the fall semester with that feels supportive instead of competitive."

Drexel University

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Pilates training program

At Drexel University, students have access to one of the most comprehensive university Pilates programs in the country. Drexel Pilates, which operates as a full-time public Pilates studio housed within the performing arts department of the school, is home to the 450-hour Drexel Pilates Training Program. Students receive extensive mat and apparatus training, including the reformer (a bed-like frame with a rolling carriage), tower (a vertical unit with attachments) and barrel (one of which is an arc-shaped piece of equipment with ladder rungs). They earn a certificate of completion, after which they are invited (but not required) to take the Pilates Method Alliance exam for certification through a third-party national organization.

The program accepts 10 new apprentices each year, requires 30 prerequisite hours of Pilates training and consists of three terms of study, plus private sessions and practice teaching. The timeline is flexible and built to accommodate a hectic BFA schedule (though anyone can sign up, Drexel student or not), requiring approximately 10 hours per week to complete in a calendar year. Tuition is free for dance majors, with the exception of the cost for the 30 required private sessions. Though there's no overlap between the program's requirements and the dance major curriculum, students minoring in somatics receive credit for work in the studio.

Ashley Rivers is a frequent contributor to Dance Teacher.

Where to Find Yoga and Pilates Certifications

Cornish College of the Arts

Seattle, WA

Pilates matwork teaching certificate

Drexel University

Philadelphia, PA

Pilates training program

Indiana University

Bloomington, IN

STOTT PILATES Intensive Mat-Plus

Mason Gross School of the Arts

New Brunswick, NJ

Vinyasa yoga teacher training

Saddleback College

Mission Viejo, CA

Yoga teacher training

Steps on Broadway

New York, NY

Steps' Steele Pilates mat certification

Check out the Dance Magazine College Guide for a complete listing of college dance programs that offer Pilates or yoga certifications.

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