As a dance teacher you often form close bonds with your students, especially those who study with you year after year. When your students reach high school graduation, choosing the next step in their dance career can be challenging. Arming your students with information about the wide variety of choices available is the best thing you can do to assist them in making their decision.
Regardless of the direction your students take, research is key. Assuming they wish to pursue dance as a professional career, they may choose between studying for a Bachelor of Fine Arts at a university, studying for a degree or diploma at a college, or pursuing training with a conservatory or professional school. Encourage your students to select the educational path best suited to their personality, and their future career and life goals. Checking school and institution websites allows students to see if the names of faculty are familiar or if there are alumni with whom they are connected. Examples of a school’s style of dance and performance level are sometimes also posted on YouTube.
When choosing between university, college or professional training, it’s important to have a sense of the basic differences between them. Universities often offer less time in studio, but a more in-depth study of dance, with courses in theory and history and often pedagogy, as well as other arts and academic subjects. In Canada, Simon Fraser University, the University of Calgary, York, Ryerson and Concordia Universities and the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQÀM) all offer dance degrees. College programs (or cégep if you’re in Québec) often blend the practical and theoretical. Some colleges, such as George Brown and Sheridan, offer “triple threat” programs in which students study not only dancing but also acting and singing. Conservatory or professional programs usually offer more hours in studio, but less access to broader academic study. Examples include LADMMI: L’école de danse contemporaine, The School of Dance in Ottawa, School of Toronto Dance Theatre, Modus Operandi in Vancouver, the School of Contemporary Dancers in Winnipeg, and many more.
Finally, when encouraging your students to take their love of dance to the next level, be sure they’re aware that being a professional dancer is not easy. The future they face is one where self-employment is likely, a parallel career is a common reality and they will require skills such as marketing, budgeting and writing.
When your students move out of the comfort of the dance studio they’ve grown up in, it can be a shock to the system. Beyond your support, here are a few great resources to help dancers as they transition from student to pre-professional.
Arts Alive has a helpful article on post-secondary choices in dance, including information on careers that are dance-related, such as stage management, lighting design, arts administration and dance therapy: www.artsalive.ca
The Dancer Transition Resource Centre, headquartered in Toronto with several regional offices, is designed to help dancers transition into, within and out of the professional realm. The annual On the Move conference is aimed specifically at young dancers transitioning into the professional world. It takes place in Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montréal and Halifax. Check the DTRC website for 2011 dates: www.dtrc.ca
Dance Magazine’s annual college guide is a great resource for basic information and websites for a variety of programs primarily in the United States: www.dancemagazine.com/thecollegeguide/intro