In January, I wrote about making plans for the year ahead, and drawing on past experiences to make sure you’re taking the right steps. There are those among us, though, that are about to embark on a journey that nothing can really prepare you for: College!
For all you high school seniors, spring can be time of mounting excitement, but also anxiety. By now, you’ve probably already decided where you want to go, but haven’t heard back from schools yet, unless you’ve applied for early decision, or early action. But in any case, you’re most likely starting to spend a lot of time thinking ahead to what’s coming up in August, and saying goodbye to your old life in preparation for a new one, whether it’s going to be close to or far from home. Hopefully, though, the one thing that will remain constant for you in your new life will be dancing.
If you haven’t chosen to attend a conservatory program, doing ballet in college can be tricky. I went to a small liberal-arts college in New England known for the quality of its dance program, and I had even auditioned with a solo from Balanchine’s Who Cares? to boost my chances of admission. I knew that I would be taking ballet and modern, and that there would be performance opportunities. I expected to be able to dance a lot, and use my serious ballet training to my advantage. However, when I got to school, I found that the reality of the department was quite different. It was much more modern-oriented than I had anticipated, and there were only two ballet classes a week, as opposed to three modern classes. There was a Dance Club, with two programs of student choreography per year, and this was the only time my ballet training came to good use. The faculty was not really much interested in ballet, and I learned that getting cast in other students’ pieces, in the faculty show, and the senior dance major show depended in large part on whether you were a dance major (which I ended up not being). I wish I had asked more questions about the department before I came to the school, so I could have adjusted my expectations. I have no real regrets, though, and I had a great time and got a very good education.
My point here is that if ballet is something that you want to keep pursuing in college, you need to ask lots of questions you may not have thought needed to be addressed. Before you go, think about what parts of dancing ballet are important to you–is it the classes? Performing? The academic aspects? Make sure you know whether these avenues will be open to you, whether you major in dance or not, and what the requirements for participation are. That way, you will arrive in August not only well prepared for your new academic life, but also your new dancing life.