The Top 10 BFA Dance Programs in the Country for 2017-18

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 cost vs. scholarships, curriculum, performance opportunities, facilities, experience of faculty, career support, everything you yourself would consider before making a college choice. We even have gone as far to call admission offices to ask them questions. 

Once we collect all of the data, it's loaded into a matrix scoring system which determines where schools are ranked. Trust us when we say that some of the results even surprised us. 

We're going to do separate lists for each type of degree field. Let's start today with BFA in Dance. 

10. University of Arizona - Tucson, AZ


Notable Facts: At the University of Arizona, The primary focus is to offer technical training 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 strong and equal emphasis. 

In 2003 the University of Arizona’s dance program was privileged 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 a spacious stage, full-fly system, and full orchestra pit, is host to some 40 performances a year by majors in the dance program. Additionally, performances are supported by a costume shop, scene shop, Pilates studio, and ample dressing rooms.

The UA Dance Ensemble is comprised of BFA and MFA students, privileged to perform in the state-of the-art performance facility; the Stevie Eller Dance Theatre. Dancers enjoy a large performance season, averaging 40+ main stage concerts per year.

9. Butler University - Indianapolis, IN


Notable Facts: The department of dance is housed in Lilly Hall, the home of the Jordan College of the Arts. The dance program operates in five state-of-the-art dance studios featuring sprung floors, audio/video equipment, pianos, mirrors, ballet Barres and observation windows. Ballet and Modern Technique classes are all accompanied by live musicians.

ButlerBallet, the performance component of the program, offers extensive pre-professional opportunities, including full-length classical productions of The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty, Coppélia, Cinderella, and Giselle; all performed to live orchestra.

Butler Chamber Dance is designed to perform original works created by the dance faculty. These productions are often experimental and informal and involve performance venues outside the main stage productions of Butler Ballet. Projects may include collaborations with Butler colleagues, other University programs, professional companies or other performance-based artists.

8. Point Park University - Pittsburgh, PA


Notable Facts: As a dance student at Point Park University, you engage in rigorous training in state-of-the-art facilities — the George Rowland White Performance Center and Pittsburgh Playhouse — progressing to the highest level of performance in order to achieve success in your career. As a dance major, students can become a triple threat in the dance world as you receive intense training in ballet, jazz and modern dance. 

The B.A. in dance pedagogy emphasizes a strong teaching philosophy, which can be used for various levels of instruction, from pre-school to professional. Students must complete one year in the dance program to pursue this degree. B.A. in dance pedagogy degree requirements.

7. The Ailey School - New York, NY

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Notable Facts: Located in the cultural heart of New York City, the Ailey/Fordham BFA Program offers the best of both worlds: professional dance training at the official school of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and an exceptional liberal arts education rooted in the Jesuit tradition of intellectual development and personal attention.

The freshmen and sophomores participate in workshops which result in performances in the fall and spring. The juniors take a Repertory Workshop that culminates in studio showings and performances. In the senior year, students will participate in Ailey/Fordham Student Dancers (AFSD) and perform numerous times in the tri-state area. Various student-run concerts and private engagements offer students more opportunities to perform as well.

6. The University of the Arts - Philadelphia, PA

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Notable Facts: The main studios of the School of Dance are located in the Terra Building. These spacious, bright, and well-lit studios are fully equipped with barres and mirrors, huge windows, pianos, and audio consoles. Their floors are constructed with four-inch, state-of-the-art suspension for the safest and most comfortable dancing surface available. The School of Dance utilizes both on-campus performance spaces such as the YGym Dance Theater located inside Gershman Hall and off-campus venues such as FringeArts.

The Albert M. Greenfield Library contains books, journals, DVDs, and videotapes devoted to dance, which are available to students for research and coursework.

5. 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.

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.

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.

The second year develops these principles with courses in dance history, acting, improvisation, music literature, and advanced dance composition: tools acquired in music and composition classes in the first year are now integrated in a course involving phrase manipulation as it applies to choreography.

The third year focuses on integrating the previous years of training into staged performance and choreography. Third year students gain professional dance experience as ensemble members of Tisch’s Second Avenue Dance Company.

3. Southern Methodist University - Dallas, TX


Notable Facts: All students have the opportunity to dance on the grand proscenium stage of the 392-seat Bob Hope Theatre, complete with orchestra pit, and in the Bob Hope Lobby, site of the hugely successful, standing-room-only, student-choreographed “Brown Bag” series and more.

In addition to campus facilities, students also have opportunities to dance in professional Dallas arts district venues such as the fabulous Winspear Opera House, Annette Strauss Square, Montgomery Arts Theatre at Booker T. Washington HSPVA and the new City Performance Hall. Features a partnership with Texas Ballet Theater, the largest, critically acclaimed, fully professional resident classical ballet company of North Texas, serving more than 100,000 individuals from diverse communities across North Texas.

2. The Juilliard School - New York, NY


Notable Facts: Each year, Juilliard’s Dance Division presents some 30 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 repertory. The dance calendar also includes an annual Senior Production, a performance series featuring works by senior choreographers; and the popular Choreographers and Composers (also known as ChoreoComp) concert, which presents the results of a collaboration of six Juilliard student choreographers with six Juilliard student composers. Dancers are also encouraged to present their own choreographed works in informal concert and workshop presentations.

A Juilliard tradition since 2002, New Dances is the Dance Division's first major undertaking of the academic year. The production features each class of students in a new work made especially for them by a prominent choreographer. Recent choreographers have included Aszure Barton, Helen Simoneau, John Heginbotham, Zvi Gotheiner, Kyle Abraham, Matthew Neenan, Katarzyna Skarpetowska, and Pam Tanowitz. 

1. Oklahoma City University - Oklahoma City, OK


Notable Facts: 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. Oklahoma City University offers ten levels of instruction in each technique of tap, jazz, and ballet. Every semester students rotate through four to five teachers in each technique to expose students to multiple styles of instruction and choreography. 

The school also offers a dance management degree, which is focused on developing employable dancers and managers for the entertainment industry. The dance management program has three core focuses: dance technique training, arts management instruction and business administration.

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.