So, congratulations, you’ve been accepted into a university or conservatory dance program. You’re counting down the days until you arrive on campus. Certainly use this summer to get some well-deserved rest, but there are also some straight-forward things that you can do to step into the university/conservatory dance world with your best foot forward – literally and metaphorically.
Research your program
The first step is to research the program you’re entering. You probably already did that before you applied – hence, part of why you took the time and effort to do so. On the other hand, now that you’ve been accepted, you might take in all of this information in a different way. It might be clearer and easier to absorb when you’re not thinking about other programs that you could potentially enter (as you probably were when you were applying). There might also be new information available to you – a “welcome” pack from your new school or a special section of the school’s website only open to enrolled students.
Yes, you just finished up your senior year, and the last thing you probably want to do is read more. At least you won’t have school stuff to read on top of that (besides required reading for core curriculum classes – but you do have a few months for it all). While you’re thinking about academic logistics, make sure to look into registering for your first semester classes good and early. And do so as soon as you’re allowed to!
When I entered The George Washington University’s BA Dance program, I missed out on taking technique classes my first semester simply because I registered too late. Don’t assume you’ll have someone sending you reminder emails about registration, or even getting a clear explanation of the process. When in doubt, take the time to make a phone call. It could make the difference between an active, productive start to your college dancing and a delayed one.
Look into the techniques you’ll be dancing
When you’re registered for classes, or even before that, look into what techniques you’ll be dancing. If your classes will be in classical ballet, is the style Bournonville, Vaganova, Cecchetti, another style or eclectic? If modern, is it Horton, Limón, Graham or a mixed style?
If the style is more contemporary (either ballet or post-modern), it might take a little more investigation to find out what traditions you’ll be training in. Find out the names of your professors, and read their bios (maybe on the school’s website, or maybe you can find them through Googling). Those will likely describe what traditions they trained in, have performed and teach. From there, you can research the styles and look into taking classes in them over the summer. Sure, you might have danced the style(s) before, and maybe that’s why you applied to the program. But don’t assume that it will be the same in college. It’s a whole new world, a different set of values and standards than the one of studios and competitions. Try to keep an open mind. Stay hungry to learn and grow.
Once you’ve read those bios, a next step is to connect with your new professors on social media. Private messaging, to introduce yourself and express your enthusiasm about starting their classes, is an option. But do be courteous – acknowledge that they’re likely extremely busy, and thank them for their time and consideration. You can connect with dancers in the program, as well as fellow incoming dancers, in similar ways. Some schools have “welcome weekends” for new first-year students. Use the time wisely – ask questions, shake hands, and be friendly. But, again, be considerate of people’s time and attention, and conscious of their personal boundaries. Some people are more open to full networking than others.
You might be able to experience the program’s style even before you enter the program. Some schools have open workshops, intensives and auditions for incoming students. Some of those you have to audition for in advance – and I definitely recommend doing so. Even if you don’t make the cut, you’ll still get head-start experience with the school’s style. You can most likely find out about those opportunities through your earlier research. Again, the sooner the better, so that you won’t miss out on good opportunities just because you weren’t fully informed!
Taking summer classes at your new school, or in its tradition at other locations, is a great way to kick-start your college dancing. On the other hand, it’s the summer before you’ll be very actively dancing for years. It’s a good time to give your body a rest. You could also explore some other movement/fitness forms (yoga, running, Zumba, Nia and others). That could also be great cross-training. It’s also a good time to explore your artistry through other art forms – writing, painting, singing. That could even give you further creative inspiration for your college dancing and choreography. You could also sharpen your knowledge about, and deepen your appreciation for, dance through viewing dance performances and reading inspiring dancers’ biographies. Those could relate to the program you’re entering – which could further kick-start your college dancing – but they certainly don’t have to.
However you spend your summer – tackling the logistics, honing your dance technique, moving and being creative in other ways – make it time well-spent. Lounging on the beach can be just what you need some days, and go ahead and give yourself that well-deserved rest. But the fall will be here before you know it. Use your time wisely, so that you can put your best foot forward come September. Go get ’em!
By Kathryn Boland of Dance Informa.