Tips & Advice

4 ways to dance in college without the major

college dancers

Most of us dreamed about being prima ballerinas when we were little. The reality is that it can’t turn out that way for all of us. Many high school upperclassmen (juniors and seniors) realize that, although they’ll always love dancing, it’s just more realistic – or just more for them personally – to delve into another field of study in college. If you’re headed into a college major that’s not dance, dancing doesn’t have to leave your life. Here are four relatively easy and accessible ways that you can keep dancing in college.

#1. Join an athletics dance team.

Many universities, especially larger ones, have dance teams (in addition to cheerleading squads). Many of these require auditions for a limited number of openings. If you don’t make the cut, don’t hesitate to ask about other ways that you can be involved, that can allow you to keep dancing. Those include choreographing, dance captaining, teaching the team’s technique classes and/or taking the team’s classes in exchange for helping out in other ways (notating choreography, doing costume adjustments, operating and designing performance and rehearsal music mixes).

Perk: You could get opportunities to travel to other schools and engage with other dance teams. But expect late night and early morning commitments, as well as possible interruptions to your typical schedule for that traveling. All in all, involvement with a dance team can be fun, inspiring and full of school spirit!

#2. Join a dance club.

Many universities and colleges have a wide variety of dance clubs. Many schools also have fairs in the early fall when all student clubs can make themselves known to potential new members. Most college dance clubs are student-run organizations that focus on a particular dance style. Bhangra and Step clubs, for instance, are becoming more and more common and popular on college campuses. Some perform regularly, some compete, and some just meet to share the type of movement that all members love. Some hold entrance auditions, some have auditions for parts in their shows, and some welcome all regardless of experience and technique level.

Being in these clubs can be a great way to make friends and feel a satisfying sense of community with like-minded peers. But please be aware, most require dues (not always easy for college students!). Many face challenges finding suitable and consistent rehearsal/class space. Despite these challenges, dance clubs often create great work and foster greater support for dance on college campuses.

In my undergraduate years, for example, I was in a ballet group. A few fellow members participated in an annual show called “Battle of the (Dance) Bands” (a take-off on the popular TV show). The show always sold out a huge auditorium. The crowd of college students all went wild cheering the various dance groups “battle” it out in friendly competition. What a great event for building love for dance! 

#3. Work-study at a local dance studio.

I also did this in my undergraduate years, at a partnership of studios in Washington, D.C. I had an overall great experience helping out with production on their monthly shows and taking classes at any of the studios as my payment. Sure, it could be hard to balance all of that with my studies, ballet group, work and personal life. In hindsight, however, it was definitely worth it! Depending on the studio, work-studying allows you to continue training in various styles with well-qualified, professional teachers (which is not always guaranteed with the two prior options).

Do keep in mind, however, that this most likely won’t be conveniently on campus (if your school is in that type of setting, rather than one integrated into a city). Check out Yelp and Google reviews to get feedback on a studio you’re thinking of joining as a work-study student. Ask around in your present dance community for recommendations. Check out Dance Informa’s article on doing dance studio work-study here.

#4. Join your college gym.

Maybe what you really love about dancing is being able to move, stretch and express yourself through your body, in community with others. For the time being, through the often haphazard and extremely busy college years, fitness classes at your school’s gym can fulfill all of those things. It can be a suitable alternative, until life likely settles down a bit. Aerobics, zumba, yoga and other dance/movement fitness forms can be fun, inspiring and help you stay in great shape.

Some colleges offer these classes to all students at no additional cost, and some charge for them. And there can certainly be conflicts between your other commitments and classes you’d love to take. On the plus side, being involved with these classes, and the communities within and around them, could lead to new jobs. It could even draw you toward a fulfilling, stable career in fitness instruction, nutrition, physical therapy, personal training and related fields.

Even if you’re not majoring or minoring in dance in college, you don’t have to give up on dancing. With a little research and smart planning, you can keep it in your life, in some form or other. There are always ways to keep moving, the way you need to – with whole-person health in mind, with meaning, with heart, and with others! Like Luigi always said, “Never stop moving!” 

By Kathryn Boland of Dance Informa.

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