To Share With Students

It's National Higher Education Day, and we are here to celebrate! From dance programs so famous that even your dog knows about them, to the hidden gems in the middle of the country that prepare students to go on to larger-than-life careers, we are grateful for schools that support the arts.

To celebrate the day, we created a list of dance programs you should know about, with their Instagram handles, so you can stay up-to-date on their day-to-day classes/performances. You're welcome!

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To Share With Students
Photo by Stephanie English, courtesy of Copeland

Paying for college, no matter what degree you graduate with, is a challenge for many students and their families. But majoring in dance has its own set of complications, because many are reluctant to go into serious debt without the security of knowing they'll be able to pay that debt off quickly post-college. That doesn't mean a dance degree is out of the question, of course—as the three dancers featured here demonstrate.

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Dance Teachers Trending
Courtesy of Morgan

To say Lisa Morgan wears more than one hat would be a gross understatement. For starters, she teaches a pedagogy course for dance majors at Colorado State University and heads the dance component of an arts-integration program (BRAINY) for local elementary students. She also runs a professional-development seminar for K–12 teachers who want to incorporate movement into their classrooms. And she teaches movement to music therapy students at CSU. Oh, and she was part of a weeklong summer institute last year to expose high-needs high schoolers to college via integrative dance activities.

It's tempting to say that Morgan, who has been an adjunct professor throughout her 20-year tenure at CSU, is just someone who goes above and beyond her job description. But she avows that it's more about feeling compelled to make her mark in dance education. If that sounds idealistic, it is. "When you're in arts education, you always see the bigger picture—a bigger list of things you want to do and get to," she says. Her bigger picture of late? Working on broadening CSU's dance-degree offerings (currently a BA) to include a BFA, eventually with a concentration in dance education—and teacher licensure. "It's what I'm most passionate about," she says. "It's what I can make the biggest difference in."

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Dance Teachers Trending
grimes (far right), with students at the University of Southern California's Glorya Kaufman School of Dance. Photo by Rose Eichenbaum

Ask anyone at the University of Southern California's Glorya Kaufman School of Dance how they feel about assistant professor of practice, d. Sabela grimes, and they automatically begin to sing his praises. Not only is he one of the department's most beloved and dynamic educators, he is among the most respected and innovative facilitators of dance today. He teaches the foundational elements of black Afro-diasporic vernacular street-dance practices—aka hip hop. But what makes his instruction unique is that his class is not based on any one hip-hop style. It's not popping or locking, waacking or breaking. And yet, it's all of these and much, much, much more, as Rose Eichenbaum wrote about in DT's August cover feature.

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Dance News
Photo by Kyle Froman

Desmond Richardson and Dwight Rhoden—former Ailey stars who founded their own company, Complexions Contemporary Ballet—just don't seem to stop. This fall and coming spring, they're teaching two classes at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas: Advanced Ballet and Men's Ballet Technique.

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Dance News

In the December issue, DT staff reflects on their favorite covers of the year. Associate editor Kristin Schwab chose March.

"Growing up as a bunhead, I’ll admit that I used to turn up my nose at the idea of dance team as a respected form. Jodi Maxfield’s story really validates that there is some great dance line training out there. And she is giving college dancers a serious alternative to majoring in dance. Plus, Utah was a beautiful place to shoot a cover!"

Click to read the March 2013 cover story on how the artistic director of the Brigham Young University dance team opens doors for career-minded dancers.

Dance News

In the December issue, DT staff reflects on their favorite covers of the year. Assistant editor Rachel Rizzuto's pick was September.

"I really loved our cover story on Judy Rice. I enjoyed her frankness about how inept she felt, starting out as a ballet teacher. And her willingness to start from scratch in the field, coupled with her work ethic, has brought her full circle—now she’s a beloved faculty member and in-demand on the competition scene. Meeting her at our DT Summit was icing on the cake! She was just as bubbly, witty and knowledgeable in person as she was on the page."

Click to read the September 2013 cover story on how Judy Rice bridges the realms of competition and college dance; modern dance and ballet.

Dance Teacher Tips

Degree programs give commercial dancers a leg up.

Point Park invites agents and directors to concerts to help students book jobs.

The commercial dance world can be overwhelming for doe-eyed dancers who move to Los Angeles after high school. They have to get an agent, audition constantly and network, while also finding ways to support themselves financially. High school students may argue that college takes valuable years away from a commercial dancer’s career, but school can provide a stepping-stone for those who may not yet have the life skills for professional work. Many schools offer versatile commercial-minded curriculum and repertoire, networking opportunities and a safe environment for students to mature as artists.

Jim Keith, president of The Movement Talent Agency, says he often sees a difference in college dancers’ professionalism and training. “There’s nothing better than an educated dancer. They seem to be more organized and more likely to follow through. They’re also well-rounded, prepared and punctual.”

Making Connections

Beyond conventions, many young dancers haven’t had a chance to work intimately with dance professionals. Pace University commercial dance BFA director Rhonda Miller says building a network is essential to landing a job in the tight-knit industry. Though the New York City–based program is only in its second year, the faculty includes working artists like Al Blackstone and Joey Dowling, and the school invites top choreographers to teach workshops and stagers to set rep. Recent guests include Mandy Moore, Brian Friedman and Gregg Russell.

At Point Park University in Pittsburgh, dance department chair Susan Stowe invites agents and artistic directors to the school’s senior solo performance. Attendees receive students’ resumés and contact information and spend two days teaching repertory, interviewing students and giving technique classes. This gives dancers a better chance to be seen than at massive cattle-call auditions, and the agents see how a potential hire works in the studio and onstage. Regardless of job outcome, students get an opportunity to workshop material and receive feedback from people in the business. “The best thing I can do for my students is get them in front of people who can cast them or recommend them to other casting directors,” says Stowe. “Several students each year get job opportunities out of it.”

Training for the Biz

In college, students have time to solidify their training and become more versatile dancers. At Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, there is equal emphasis on ballet, jazz and modern. Chair Patrick Damon Rago says this offers students the rigorous study they need to transform them into complex movers. “What if someone asks you to improvise in an audition?” says Rago, whose students have danced with Cirque du Soleil and on Broadway tours and “Glee.” He says college dancers are better equipped to tackle the surprises thrown at them.

Rhonda Miller (center) with Pace dancers

Learning about the industry is as important as honing technique. Point Park has a class in which students learn how to join an artists’ union, read contracts and make dance reels. And Pace students take singing and acting—skills that give them an edge in commercial dance’s broad field. They are also required to take Dance Seminar, a class geared toward learning how to navigate a career in dance. “People usually don’t understand how to deal with casting directors or getting an agent,” says Miller. “The more dancers know, the more employable they are.”

Plus, there is always life outside of dance to consider. How can dancers support themselves financially while they look for the next gig? Pursuing a minor or building other skills gives graduates an edge—they can turn to less physically demanding, steady jobs like administration and marketing, and build skills that will help them succeed once their performance careers end. DT

Photo courtesy of Point Park

Photo courtesy of Pace

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