Brains and Ballet Panel Discussion

Curated by Christian Von Howard and Chandra Moss- Thorne

August 21, 2020



B.F.A.  Bachelor of Fine Arts  

-more courses in studio practice

-can be considered professional

B.A. Bachelor of Arts

-include other areas of interest(usually arts related)

-can be considered academic

B.S.  Bachelor of Science

-include other areas of interest(usually sciences)

-can be considered technical/research

M.F.A.  Master of Fine Arts

-applied arts degree

Colleges are often smaller institutions that emphasize undergraduate education in a broad range of academic areas. Universities are typically larger institutions that offer a variety of both undergraduate and graduate degree programs. {there can be exceptions such as Boston College has graduate programs}

One of the most definitive parts of the college selection process is deciding whether to pursue a bachelor of arts or a bachelor of fine arts degree. Each has its advantages—the BFA usually provides more performance opportunities and studio time, while the BA allows students to explore the academic side of dance as well as other liberal arts subjects. But it can be hard to know which will best prepare you for an undetermined future and provide you with the college experience you crave.

Chart on BA, BFA, and BS

Detailed list of schools in the US with dance programs



A school that specializes in the study of a specific art form – music, dance, theatre, art, design, etc. Often universities and colleges have Performing Art Conservatories or Schools for the Arts that house all of the art disciplines under the auspices of their institution. 

Inside of a Dance Conservatory, students are usually only able to focus on one area of study. Some programs have specific majors or tracks. For example a Ballet Major or a Modern Dance Majors. Some conservatories allow you to have a dual major or double major in either another art or academic major. Granted it is quite hard to double major in any BFA program, which most conservatories focus heavily on the BFA degree. Those programs that offer a BA major have systems in place in their curriculum that allow more freedom in your academic choices.  Again, most conservatories are centered around Performance and Choreography for their students who are heavily interested in performance related careers. 


If you want to drench yourself in nothing but dance, a conservatory is probably going to be best for you. If you want to study primarily dance, but also want to round out your education by majoring or minoring in or sampling other fields, like sports, science or business, a liberal arts school would make a better fit. But there are also hybrids—liberal arts colleges that house their own conservatories, like New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts or the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre and Dance. Some allow you to take a limited number of courses outside the conservatory, some don’t.

Examples of Conservatory Programs:

The Juilliard School, University of the Arts, Columbia University, Tisch-NYU, Montclair State University, Point Park University, Butler University. University of Oklahoma




What is a liberal arts college?

A liberal arts college, then, is a place of higher learning that maintains focus on these classical themes and objectives. Their goal is not necessarily to train students for a career (though that may happen), but to challenge their beliefs, make them critical thinkers, and poise them to become global citizens.

Examples of Liberal Arts Colleges:

Barnard College, Sarah Lawrence, Purchase College, Marymount Manhattan College, Vassar College, University of Richmond, Goucher College, Hollins University, Morehouse College, Pomona College


  1. Going to college can provide you with the additional training needed to prepare for a professional career 
  1. Depending on the program you could potentially be dancing less than high school may have to supplement your training
  1. College is often the first time for pas de deux and variations classes
  1. College is a place to broaden your experience in dance forms outside of your comfort zone/high school training
  1. Gives dancers an introduction to stage production teams/wardrobe/lighting designers/striking a show
  1. Enables dancers to explore and grow in their artistry
  1. Schedules can be challenging volleying between academic classes and dance courses
  1. Provides exposure to guest artists/choreographers/peer choreographers/conferences/festivals
  1. Opportunities for various dance outlets (dance clubs/dance teams/choreography)
  1. Study abroad opportunities to enhance both the academic and studio courses
  1. Examine different avenues of job opportunities in ballet ie. arts administration, pedagogy




  1. Look for programs that have international study options for majors – This will not only allow you to travel the world and study in and around different cultures, but gives you the opportunities to make lifelong connections with artists and organizations overseas.
  1. Look at schools that have a performing company or an outreach program affiliated with their program
  1. Look at Dance or Arts Related Internships through universities/colleges or local dance companies, schools and art advocacy organizations
  1. If teaching is part of your goals/interests – look at programs that have teaching courses or Dance Education certification/degrees as part of their BA/BFA program


Chandra                                                Christian

  • Butler University $60,000                        University of Southern California/Kaufman $51,000
  • Indiana University $57,000                        Texas Christian University $50,000
  • Point Park College $33,000                        Butler University $60,000
  • Julliard $71,000                                Julliard $71,000
  • University of Utah $50,000                        Boston Conservatory $72,000

Additional Schools (Possibly not on your radar)

LINES at Dominican University – $47,000

AILEY/Fordham University –  $55,000

Richmond Ballet Trainee Program/Virginia Commonwealth Univ. – $36,000

University of Alabama – $31,000

Schools that Christian and Chandra are associated with or have been associated with:


  • AILEY/Fordham University
  • Columbia College – SC
  • School of Classical & Contemporary Dance – Texas Christian University
  • Tisch – New York University
  • Mason Gross Schools of the Arts – Rutgers University
  • Virginia Commonwealth University
  • University of Richmond
  • Montclair State University 


  • Butler University
  • Towson University 
  • Goucher College
  • Swarthmore College 
  • Stockton University
  • Bryn Mawr College
  • University of Cincinnati


  • With a BA and BS the options are easier to Double Major or minor in an area that interests you or consider a dual degree
  • Major in your main area of focus
  • Dual degree (two separate degrees in courses of study that are in separate fields) ie.pre-med and dance
  • Double major (in similar departments/ two college (often refers to the department within the college/university) majors with one degree)
  • Minor (can complement your major and/or allow you to explore other interests in a “mini” major way 
  • You can get a job regardless of your major…what matters is the amount of classes/rehearsals you take during your college experience
  • Taking courses in subjects that you would consider pursuing after college
  • Consider summer programs in dance or internships in academia

A few questions to consider as you begin your exploration of colleges and universities with dance programs.

  • What do you want out of the college experience?
  • What are your intended dancing goals after college?
  • What type of schedule would you like to pursue in college?
  • What academic interests would you consider pursuing after college?
  • What styles are you interested in exploring?
  • What do the school’s alumni do after graduation?
  • What connections do you think the program could offer?
  • Do you want to double major?
  • Do you need a degree in dance?
  • How can you look at college as a stepping stone and still dance?
  • What are you looking for in school, is ballet the focus?
  • What does the audition process look like?

LIST OF SCHOOLS (Schools with Full-Time Faculty of Color) not comprehensive

Derek Reid, Butler University, 

Chandra Moss Swarthmore College & Stockton University,

Christian von Howard, Montclair 

Donna Faye, Uarts,

Royce Zackery,Howard University

Melanie Person, Fordham/Ailey     

Vincent thomas, Towson University,

Alicia Graf Mack, Julliard

Elena, Marymount Manhattan

Tanya Wideman/Davis, University of South Carolina

Jodie Gates, USC Kaufman, 

Iquail Shaheed, Goucher

Nyama McCarthy Brown, Ohio State University,

Marina Hotchkiss, Dominican University/Lines

Karen Bond, Temple University

Shauna Steele, University of Cincinnati,

Mary BurnsNew World School of the

Sean Curran, NYU Tish,

Nelly van Bommel, Suny Purchase,

Paul Scolieri, Barnard/ 



Karl CruzUniversity of

Eric RiveraVirginia Commonwealth

Adam McKinneySchool of Classical & Contemporary Dance at

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