The Top 10 BFA Dance Programs in the Country for 2016-17

The end of August is usually a time where college seems to be on everyone's mind. Whether it's incoming freshmen getting ready to move into their residence halls or high school seniors preparing their applications, college is a constant discussion. 

For theatre students, where you attend can certainly have an impact on your career with the type of training you receive. It's also important to note that while each school listed here is excellent, a college degree doesn't guarantee success nor is one required to become successful in this industry. 

Here at OnStage, we take months to research the best BFA programs to come up with our own lists. We base it off tuition, curriculum, faculty, career support, basically everything you yourself would consider before making a college choice. We even have gone as far to call admission offices to ask them questions. 

We're going to do separate lists for each type of degree field. We've already done BFA Musical Theatre, Acting. and Theatre Design & Tech. 

Today we move onto Dance. 

Now keep in mind, while some schools might be stronger in Ballet than in Jazz, this list rankings programs overall rather than just one program. So don't be surprised if schools that specialize in let's say, ballet only, aren't on this list. 

10. SUNY Purchase College - Purchase, NY

Notable Facts: 

- The conservatory’s BFA program has a shared emphasis in dance technique, performance, and composition. If desired, students can apply to further focus their study with one of the following concentrations: Ballet performance, Composition or Dance production.

- Students will be dancing every day in a demanding schedule, including classical ballet and modern/contemporary dance, ballet and modern partnering, pointe, improvisation, somatics, and more.

- Starting in their freshman year, students in the Conservatory of Dance audition for the Purchase Dance Company, which performs repertory and commissioned works and offers two major on-campus concerts a year at the college’s Performing Arts Center.

- Faculty include Rosanna Seravalli. Ms. Seravalli joined the Joffrey Ballet shortly after her arrival in the U.S. She then moved to American Ballet Theatre, where she spent the next 11 years, attaining the rank of soloist. After leaving ABT, Ms. Seravalli joined the faculty of the Conservatory of Dance at Purchase College.

- Alumni include Cain Coleman(Martha Graham Dance Company), Rena Butler(Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company), Chalvar Monteiro(Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater) and Emma Pfaeffle(Finding Neverland).

9. The University of the Arts - Philadelphia, PA

Notable Facts:

- Students will have the opportunity to work with companies like the Pennsylvania Ballet, Philadanco!, Zero Moving Dance Company and others. Students also get an opportunity to work with New York-based dance organizations like Movement Research and Chez Bushwick & the Center for Performance Research.

- The faculty of the School of Dance have developed five essential learning goals that help to shape the school’s curriculum and the young dance artist and professional.

  • Mutuality:  Students will activate relationships in dance on personal, collective, regional and global levels.
  • Relationship:  Students will engage with the world through multiple lenses of collaboration, exchange and difference.
  • Expressivity:  Students will develop tools and ideas of expression to speak, write, and dance about/with/of/alongside.
  • Sustainability:  Students will be immersed in anatomically sound technical training that consistently weaves and references both historical and emerging techniques, forms and styles through informed somatic practices.
  • Resourcefulness:  Students will develop and sharpen skills of reciprocity, relationship and network building through consistent contact with professional artists in the expanded field both within their communities and in the world.

- Dance alumni have performed on Fox TV's "So You Think You Can Dance" and "American Idol," CBS TV's "Live to Dance" and Ovation's "A Chance to Dance." They can be found performing in numerous Broadway shows, including in the current highly acclaimed musical "After Midnight."

8. University of Arizona - Tucson, AZ

Notable Facts: 

- The School of Dance was honored as the top program for undergraduate education within the University of Arizona, due in part to the highly interactive approach linking undergraduate students and dance faculty members.

- The School of Dance is unique in its equal emphasis on ballet, modern and jazz dance training. It is through performing that students are fully able to integrate and apply what they have learned in the classroom. With the extensive number of performances each season, students grow increasingly more comfortable, spontaneous and free to take risks on stage.  The UA Dance Ensemble is comprised of B.F.A. and M.F.A. students, privileged to perform in the state-of-the-art performance facility: The Stevie Eller Dance Theatre.  Dancers enjoy a large performance season, averaging over 30 main stage concerts a year.

- In 2003 the University of Arizona’s dance program was blessed by the completion of the Stevie Eller Dance Theatre.  Home to the UA Dance Ensemble, dance majors rehearse and perform in this award-winning, state of the art facility.  The 29,000 square foot complex, which houses a 300-seat theatre with spacious stage, full-fly system and full orchestra pit, is host to some 50 performances a year by majors in the dance program.

- In that the BFA is a professional degree, the primary focus is to offer technical training and performance experience that optimally prepares dancers for future professional careers in dance upon graduation. In meeting these demands, the unique triple-track design, affords students the opportunity to study ballet, modern and jazz with equal emphasis.

- Since 2013,  UA Dance students have had access to specialized onsite musculoskeletal care through a weekly Dance Medicine Clinic. The goal of the Clinic is to provide the students of the School of Dance timely and accurate evaluations of their injuries, advice on effective treatments for simple injuries, and referrals for more complex problems.  

7. Southern Methodist University - Dallas, TX

Notable Facts:

- Coursework centers on ballet, modern and jazz, all three of which are required for all first-years and sophomores. During junior and senior years, students select the techniques they wish to concentrate on. In addition to technique training, students are immersed in theoretical studies that include dance history, kinesiology, music theory/history and choreography.

- Student choreography is a major component of the student experience, guided by expert faculty with considerable professional experience and accolades, and opportunities to learn from visiting masters such as Shen Wei, choreographer of the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics; Adam Hougland, resident choreographer for the Cincinnati and Louisville ballets; and Michael Keegan-Dolan, Fabulous Beast co-founder and 2012-13 Meadows Prize winner.

- Facilities include The Charles S. Sharp Performing Arts Studio, which doubles as a performing space and is equipped with a grand piano, adjustable black traveler, a control booth, state-of-the-art sound equipment and a theatrical lighting system.

- Alumni currently are or have been employed by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Ballet Hispanico, Dance Theatre of Harlem, Martha Graham Company, Paul Taylor Dance Company, Complexions and many more.

6. Indiana University - Bloomington, IN

Notable Facts: 

- Although the program is based in modern and contemporary dance, students also study ballet and world dance forms, and can elect to study musical theatre, tap, and jazz. Students have technique classes and repertory rehearsals daily, as well as work with their own creative forms several days a week.

- Indiana University also offers several minors which nicely compliment the dance major Dancers using technology and students can also pursue a pre-physical therapy track.

- All majors are performing members of the Indiana University Contemporary Dance Theatre, and perform in the faculty/guest artist concert as well as dance in student works. Seniors produce a concert each fall. Students can find other performing opportunities with the opera, musical theatre program, the African American Dance Company, and Bloomington’s local modern dance company, Windfall Dancers. Dance majors also have opportunities to perform nationally and internationally at various festivals and conferences.

- IU Contemporary Dance is pleased to partner with the Bloomington chapter of Dance for Parkinson's Disese. Dance for PD® offers dance classes for people with Parkinson’s disease in Brooklyn, New York and, through their network of partners and associates, in more than 100 other communities in 11 countries around the world. 

5. Montclair State University - Montclair, NJ

Notable Facts:

- Program combines a conservatory-based approach to training with a liberal arts curriculum to prepare students for extraordinary lives and careers as professional dancers. They're intensive course of study is based on anatomically sound, sequential technique to train dancers in modern dance, ballet, jazz, African dance, and hip-hop.

- BFA Dance majors maintain extensive rehearsal and performance schedules that include opportunities to perform with their Dance Repertory Company,  which performs works choreographed by faculty, guest artists and alumni. Students also choreograph, produce, and perform their own original works. Since the department does not offer a graduate program in Dance, there is less competition for solo and ensemble roles.

- Montclair State boasts exceptional performance facilities with impressive technical specifications. Students will perform in six well-equipped theatres, including the state-of-the-art Alexander Kasser Theater; the 946-seat Memorial Auditorium; their 2000-seat amphitheater, and the intimate L. Howard Fox Theatre. The Dance Division also has exclusive use of the versatile Montclair State Dance Theatre plus two rehearsal studios

- Montclair students compete in the regional component of the American College Dance Festival and often move on to compete at the national level the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

4. NYU Tisch School of the Arts - New York, NY

Notable Facts:

- The BFA training program is a comprehensive, organic approach to dance. Students earn their degree through an intensive three-year plus two-summer curriculum. First-year course work focuses on learning to dance in the most efficient and healthy way. Technique classes emphasize placement and alignment principles. Additional coursework includes dance composition, kinesthetics of anatomy, and music theory.

- Students are able to study the history of dance, which looks at the function of dance as art and ritual, social activity, spectacle, and entertainment through a survey of ethnic dance forms and the history of European tradition.

- In the final year of study at Tisch Dance, the student experience in both BFA and MFA programs, culminates in a modeled professional experience with their resident performing ensemble, the Second Avenue Dance Company (SADC).

3. Point Park University - Pittsburgh, PA

Notable Facts: 

Students can complete the B.F.A. in dance in four years. Students may select ballet, jazz or modern as the focus of their studies, but they also train and gain expertise in the other two concentrations.

- The number of students auditioning fluctuates each year, but traditionally, the dance department will audition approximately 1,000 students for approximately 75 spaces for all three concentrations.

- Conservatory offers two types of awards: scholarships and apprenticeships. Talent awards are offered based on the student's performance during the audition process. A talent apprenticeship offered to a student based on his or her audition is a job-related award. The student will be expected to work a set number of hours per week in exchange for a monthly stipend. For more information on awards, refer to Scholarships and Apprenticeships.

- In addition to faculty mentoring, the department of dance holds a Senior Showcase for graduating students. Select artistic directors, choreographers and agents will travel to Pittsburgh to attend a performance featuring their senior dance majors. They will also teach technique classes and repertoire as part of the audition process.

2. Oklahoma City University - Oklahoma City, OK

Notable Facts:

- Students take a foundation curriculum of dance technique, arts management and production, teaching dance, choreography, dance history, music fundamentals, and general education courses in the first two years. Students are placed in one of the three dance major degree tracks (Dance Performance, Dance Teacher, or Dance Management) for their junior and senior years. 

- The dance performance degree is focused on developing employable dancers for the entertainment industry. The program focuses on tap, jazz, theatre dance and ballet as used in musical theatre. Dancers develop technical and professional skills necessary to have life-long careers in show business.

- Extensive performance opportunities are available through the American Spirit Dance Company, Spirit of Grace Liturgical Dancers, the Oklahoma City University Pep Dancers, the Student Choreography Show, and the Oklahoma Opera & Musical Theatre Company.

- The program has produced dozens of Rockettes over the years. Alumni have also appeared in Broadway productions of Wicked, Spamalot, 42nd Street, Memphis and On the Town. 

1. The Juilliard School - New York, NY

- The Dance Division offers four-year undergraduate programs leading to a Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.) with liberal arts requirements, or a Diploma without liberal arts requirements. Most students in the Dance Division pursue the Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.) degree. In addition to dance and dance-related studies, the four-year degree program includes 24 credits in the Liberal Arts department.

- Graduates of the program dance with ballet and modern dance companies across the United States and abroad; they also are among the directors and administrators of respected companies worldwide. Many have gone on to successful careers as choreographers. Recent alumni have performed in the following companies: Aspen/Santa Fe Ballet, Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, Keigwin + Company, L.A. Dance Project, Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal, Lyon Opera Ballet, Nederlands Dans Theater (1 & 2), and many, many more.

- Each year, Juilliard’s Dance Division presents some 15 public performances. Annual presentations in the Peter Jay Sharp Theater include a New Dances series in December, which features each class of students in a new work made especially for them by a prominent choreographer. In the spring semester, the Juilliard Dances Repertory series, also in the Sharp Theater, gives dancers the opportunity to perform in established works from contemporary repertory. 

- Faculty include Jeff Edwards, a former leading dancer with New York City Ballet, Zürich Ballet, and Lyon Opera Ballet. During his years as a performer (1983-98), created original roles in dances by Jerome Robbins, William Forsythe, and Bill T. Jones. Has taught for conservatories and professional ballet companies around the world including American Ballet Theater, San Francisco Ballet, Cedar Lake Ensemble, Boston Ballet, Ballett Frankfurt, Le Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève, Les Ballets de Monte Carlo, Norwegian National Ballet, and Royal Ballet School.