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Is college dance in your future?

Is college dance in your future? Part I explores the questions what to seek and where to go for college dance.

First, find what's right for you. Ask yourself why you want to enter a college dance program. Do you want to teach K-12 programs? Increase your ablity to perform? Get better employment? Create a safety net for the end of your dance career? Learn other methodologies or dance-related subjects?

Paul J. Organisak, executive director of the American College Dance Festival Association, suggests you also ask yourself these questions: What are my personal priorities? What do I want from the program, degree, or school? Is my priority to secure a solid liberal arts background with an emphasis on dance? Or do I want to secure the finest dance training available at the college level? What are my individual strengths? My needs outside the school? Is the size of the student body a factor? Size of the school? Its geographical location? Does the size of the student body matter?

These are your personal considerations, to which Organisak suggests you add these school considerations: Does the school have a liberal arts emphasis or conservatory training? What is the ratio of the academic requirements to studio hours? How many guest artists does the program bring to the school? What are the other options for input from the outside? Are there many performing opportunities? A touring student group? What are the double major options? Are there dance-related degrees in arts managements, Labanotation, dance history, dance education, dance therapy, or film and video? Does the school have a graduate program? Do graduate assistants teach? What is the placement of their MFA students? Be sure to attend as many ACDFA festivals as you possibly can to see the range of work that is being created throughout the country and the type of training that is being offered at a wide range of schools.

Make a list of what you want from your personal and school considerations before you begin your search. You may not have all the answers, but you will gather insights as you go along. Remember, it's your life, your career, and your decision. Don't let peer or parental pressure influence you, no matter who's paying the bills.

Begin your research in your sophomore year in high school. Start collecting catalogs and reference publications such as Dance Magazine's College Guide list of 547 dance programs, Arco's Performing Arts Major's College Guide, and Peterson's Professional Degree Programs in the Visual and Performing Arts, available in bookstores. The National Association for College Admission Counseling holds national performing and visual arts fairs for students interested in undergraduate and graduate programs. Write NACAC, 1631 Prince Street, Alexandria, Virginia 22314-2818, for a fair date at a place near you. Admission is free and open to the public. Meet with your school counselor and start asking questions.

Dance career before college? That desire might lead to disagreements at home. Make a pact with your parents: If your career is not profitable or rewarding within a specific time limit, agree to go to school. If the argument against your dance career is that your tuition is available now but will surely cost more later, ask that those funds be put into a bank account to draw interest against a future increase. Keep your word. Chances are that if you haven't had an offer from a ballet company by the time you're seventeen or eighteen years old, auditioning for a job is a risk.

However, if you should have an offer to join a company, make sure that it is time well spent. Ask about the company's reviews, their daily classes, if rehearsal time is paid, if you're going to sign a union contract, and how many yearly performances are scheduled. Experience is a plus in some schools, such as Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pennsylvania, where your professional years in a dance career can be added to a degree in choreography, arts administration, or dance movement larts therapy.

Early Admissions, not to be confused with Early Decisions, is an option if you are graduated early by having taken additional courses during the school year, or by having left high school at the end of your junior year and enrolling in college as an early admission candidate. Check to be sure your high school will grant your diploma pending successful completion of your freshman year. This option is not to be confused with a correspondence diploma. Work closely with your school counselor on this to see which courses, such as English or history, are required. Have your parents visit with your counselor, and get it all in writing.

Photos in dance poses are required for early admission and other programs. These need not be taken professionally, but you must be in dance attire--tights, leotard, and bare feet for modern dance, or jazz or pointe shoes. Don't wear cover-ups, huge T-shirts, skirts, sweat pants, or other concealments. Hair should be neat. Wear no jewelry and little makeup.

Auditions are usually required in all schools. These place you in the correct courses and are held in February or March or as late as May. Some experts advise not to audition at your first-choice school, but to audition at your second or third choice first, and then use that experience as a rehearsal for your first choice. Be sure to plan your audition well in advance:

1. Check the school catalog for audition information, and call for additional requirements that may not be listed.

2. Have your teacher choreograph a piece for you according to the time limit set by the school. You may choreograph your own work, but your teacher will probably know your strong points best.

3. When you arrive for your audition dressed in proper attire, have your audio-cassette cued up to your piece and ready to play. If you use sheet music, be sure to send it to the accompanist ahead of time and make sure it is not too difficult. Check the tempo with the pianist before you begin to dance.

4. Videotaped auditions are sometimes accepted, but they are never as compelling as a live performance. Regional auditions are also given by some larger schools which could save you a trip.

5. Ask who and how many judges you will have. It's always wise to know your audience.

6. When you have your choreography and music in place, practice, practice, practice. In your home studio, practice making an entrance, telling the judges your name, who created your dance, and the name of the composer. Dance for your teacher and classmates again and again. Include your parents and relatives for a really honest criticism. Dance your piece every day in your head as well as with your body after every class. Pretend you're doing that audition until you are not the least bit nervous about it and can still make it fresh and exciting each time you do it.

7. Change that word audition to performance, or full-out rehearsal if the thought of an audition upsets you. Don't take the audition until you're ready. Remember, the faculty want you; its not an audition for a paying job; and you know the material.

8. If you are unable to take the audition because of an injury, notify the school and reschedule. Some schools require a health evaluation form to be submitted prior to your audition.

9. Give the judges time to fill out the evaluation sheets at the end of your audition. Don't run away the minute your piece is over, but take a bow and wait, standing in a calm and quiet pose, legs together, until you are dismissed. Say thank you and answer any questions from the judges in a loud, clear voice.

Collect school catalogs but be aware that sweeping statistics are used to sell you something. Make sure it's what you want to buy.

Visit a few schools, if possible, and remember to thank each person who helps you along the way. Make sure that the studios are large, light, clean, and airy, and that the floor has some resilience. Is there a good music library? Electronic equipment? A school theater? Ask about the student-faculty ratio. The national average is 16 to 1; dance classes usually have fewer students. Speak to as many students as possible.

A school close to home could save you room and board, but may not be suitable to your goal. For instance, if you want to be a performer, a school near or in a large city where you can frequently see professional performances, take additional classes, and enroll in summer workshops, might be the better choice.

Ask the school counselor if a teaching degree would be accepted everywhere; how many performances the school gives, and if the school has placed any graduates. Would it be possible to hold an outside job at the same time to earn extra cash? How many professionals has the school graduated?

Teachers who are famous are not always the best in the classroom. Ask about guest teachers and residencies. Keep to the same methodology as your first school if you can. Ask about what repertory you will learn and perform, how many professional companies come to the school, and what lectures are given in dance-related subjects.

For further information concerning college dance festivals, contact Paul J. Organisak, executive director, American College Dance Festival Association, 201 Wood Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15222-1984; (412) 392-3496.t
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1997, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:part 1
Author:Organisak, Paul J.
Publication:Dance Magazine
Date:Feb 1, 1997
Previous Article:Penny Frank.
Next Article:Shopping for a company.

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