How to Date a College Dance Program

4 ways to make sure you’re making the right match

Don’t these Hartt School dancers seem content? Looks like they did their college research!

Choosing a boyfriend or girlfriend and choosing a college aren’t that different: Both require making a (hopefully) long-lasting decision based on a prediction about your future together. And if you haven’t put in the time getting to know your significant other—er, college—that prediction could be way off. Stephen Pier, who directs The Hartt School’s dance division at the University of Hartford, has watched it happen. “A dancer auditioned for us but decided to go to another school. It had a big name, but she hadn’t researched it all that well,” he says. “A year later, she was back at our audition, having wasted a precious year in a place that didn’t fit.”

Rather than jumping into a four-year relationship, DT suggests students do things the old-fashioned way: Take dance programs on a few “dates” to see what a future together might look like. We’ve got four ways students can see if a dance program is the one of their dreams. Check out our sidebar, too, for some practical date-planning tips.

1. Visit the campus. The best way to see whether a school is for you is just that—go see it! “The fit with a dance program is such a personal thing,” says Pier. “You’re not going to experience that through glossy advertisements and reputations.” Visiting a campus lets a student see the unedited version of what the program is like and speak with current students to get their opinions.

Students should plan their visits to take advantage of as much campus life as possible. Amy Kim at the University of California at Irvine advises calling a week in advance, so the dance office can arrange a tour with a peer adviser and a meeting with an arts counselor. Ask to sit in on technique classes to see the quality of instruction. Pier suggests planning a visit to coincide with a performance. “See what all the classes lead up to,” he says. Find out what you’ll be seeing: Is it student choreography, work set by guest artists or faculty pieces?

2. Talk to alumni. Graduates from the past five years are a great source of information. (Most schools will take a student’s contact details and have an alum initiate the exchange.) “Recent alumni have more perspective than current students,” says Neil Greenberg of Eugene Lang College, The New School for Liberal Arts. “They can look back and see what they think of their experience, now that they’re out in the world.” Recent grads are also more helpul than older alumni, who might not be aware of significant changes. “Because of our recent curriculum revision,” he says, “a student who attended more than five years ago would have had a very different experience than one going today.”

3. Go to college fairs. “Fairs can be massive, and there are often a lot of people clamoring for attention,” says Pier, “but they’re really worth it. I’ve had a lot of people wind up coming to our school who wouldn’t have known about it, had they not gone to a college fair.” Do your research beforehand, and be ready to ask specific questions. “If someone is just window-shopping, it doesn’t give me a sense of their seriousness and commitment to their own career and dreams,” says Pier.

4. Take an intensive. Summer or winter intensives can be a great way to check out a college program, but with a few caveats. Students should research who will be teaching and what techniques the intensive will cover, and determine whether it matches the school’s typical curriculum. (Do this by checking the college’s website—it should list course requirements.) “Summer is often a time for colleges to give their own students a chance to experience new instructors and disciplines,” says Greenberg, “so you’ll want to check whether a school’s hosted program reflects its year-round curriculum.” Kim advises students to look into programs like UC Irvine’s Summer Academy. The program gives students a real sense of what it’s like to be a UCI dance major, because for one week they live like one: sleeping on campus, taking college-level classes from faculty and MFA students and potentially earning college credit for attending. DT

Julie Schechter is a dancer and New York City–based freelance writer.

Your Dating Arsenal

Need some ideas on how to plan your next dance program date? The list below isn’t comprehensive by any means, but it’s a great place to start.

Go on a blind date Consult the University of Hartford’s performance calendar, and then e-mail harttadm@hartford.edu to arrange an information session, get tickets to a show and even schedule private lessons with faculty members.

At The New School in New York City, students can attend one-day events in February and March where they mingle with dance program representatives, get a guided tour of campus, attend a placement audition and take class with faculty. See newschool.edu/admissions.

What’s your eHarmony compatibility? The Hartt School’s Stephen Pier recommends asking alumni five questions:

• What are the school’s performance opportunities?

• How did this school prepare you to approach a lifelong career in dance?  

• What kind of support did the school offer after you graduated?

• How engaged did you feel the faculty were with each student in the program?  

• How strongly would you recommend this program to someone like me?

Speed-date like a pro Check out dance fairs like Dancewave’s 2015 Dancing Through College and Beyond: October 18 at the 92nd Street Y in NYC, 9 am.

Connect with faculty from more than 35 college dance departments, sit in on panel discussions, take class and see a performance. Enroll this summer by e-mailing dancingthroughcollege@dancewave.org.

Have a summer fling at the University of California at Irvine’s 2015 Summer Academy in Dance:

June 29–July 17, Monday–Friday,

9 am–5 pm

Ages: 12–22

Cost: $3,600 for overnight students; $1,100 for commuters (scholarships available)

Dance styles: ballet, jazz and modern technique, with master classes in hip hop, contemporary styles, choreography, injury prevention, dance for camera, improvisation and audition preparation. See outreach.arts.uci.edu/dance.

Photo by John Long, courtesy of The Hartt School

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