One of the most physically intensive majors out of any of college degree program is dance performance – likely, it is easy to understand why. Dance majors are often up as early as 5am on a daily basis, attending rehearsals, ballet class, auditions, and choreographing for the big stage for a number of campus auditions. I have myself dated a dancer before, and I can tell you that she was regularly out of the house by 6am and didn’t even get back until 9pm, with her whole day dedicated to dancing. Yikes!
There are a number of excellent colleges available to dance performance majors in the US, however, a few of them stand out among others. One strong preference for a number of aspiring professional dancers is location: if you choose to attend a dance program in NYC, you not only receive the opportunity to network with a number of the most important troupes, choreographers, and professors, but also the chance to participate in a number of activities outside of your school. Other strong considerations include whether your program of choice has a strong ballet element, a strong contemporary dance element, a strong jazz element, a strong tap element, or even all four.
Having looked at a number of critical factors, including location, strength of the department faculty (most important), what recent alumni have accomplished, and opportunities available to students in and out of the institution, we present to you our top ten schools for dance performance in the US.
2019 NOTE: A new version of the 10 best dance schools list is available on College Gazette, the #1 leading source for higher education news in the US.
10. Boston Conservatory
Location: Boston, MA
Under the direction of the esteemed dancer and pedagogue Cathy Young, who has taught classes at over 30 colleges throughout the entire US, the Boston Conservatory is among the finest schools for dance performance in the US. Equally at home in ballet, jazz, tap, modern, and ethnic dance styles, students at the Boston Conservatory are offered unparalleled opportunity to study a variety of dance methods and traditions. Additionally, the college is located in a cultural epicenter of America: from the Boston Ballet to the Luminarium Dance Company to Urbanity Dance and so many more, a number of prominent choreographers and dancers are available for career networking opportunities throughout the city outside of the conservatory.
9. Oklahoma City University School of American Dance and Arts Management
Location: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
An excellent college that is known for having a triple strength in three prominent dance forms, ballet, tap, and jazz, Oklahoma City University’s dance program is much more than just about training dancers to be excellent purveyors of classical and traditional styles. The school places a large focus on giving its students a chance at making a successful career in the arts. One of the greatest strengths of this program is providing dance training to be successful in a musical theatre context: indeed, dozens of their alumni are currently performing regularly on Broadway to the tune of a successful, well-paid commercial careers.
8. University of North Carolina School of the Arts
Location: Winston-Salem, NC
Boasting impressive alumni who have gone onto impressive careers in dance performance, including former principal of the American Ballet Theatre Patrick Bissell, a current principal in Gillian Murphy, as well as the entrepreneurial choreographer Trey McIntyre, the North Carolina School of the Arts is one of the very best colleges for dance in America that consistently produces top alumni. The NC School of the Arts is primarily known for its classical and modern ballet programs. Located in Winston-Salem, this school is attached to the University of North Carolina, allowing students the freedom to pursue a double major with the university in conjunction with their dance degree.
7. Dominican University of California
Location: San Rafael, CA
Some dance traditionalists may see this as an odd choice for this list, however, make no mistake about it, this school is one of the top colleges for dance performance in the US. The college has a partnership with the Alonzo King LINES Ballet, one of the premiere contemporary ballet companies in the entire US. With access to all of the resources available in San Francisco, this school has become a hotspot for aspiring dancers throughout the globe, which combines the academic prestige of one of California’s oldest universities with the hands-on approach of working with a professional company. Like Fordham University’s partnership with Alvin Ailey’s School, a college that is able to provide its students professional training with a well-recognized company gives them an edge over the competition when applying for positions outside of college.
6. Southern Methodist University
Location: Dallas, TX
For unparalleled quality in instruction, look no further than Southern Methodist University’s Meadows School of the Arts. A top quality, selective college for dance performance, Southern Methodist University is a premiere college for aspiring performers throughout the globe. In addition to a strong academic program, SMU’s dance program is widely known for being excellent in ballet and jazz disciplines. Perhaps those seeking instruction in contemporary dance may not fit into this excellent school, however, for unparalleled training in traditional technique and performance, look no further than one of Texas’ finest schools for dance.