The 10 Best Dance Schools in New York City

Dubbed the “Dance Capital of the World” – alternatively, the “Cultural Capital of the World” – New York City is home to some of the most reputable dance schools in the world. The Big Apple is the most densely populated city in the country, with more than 2,000 cultural and artistic organizations and over 500 art galleries. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Broadway, and the once-Bohemian mecca, Greenwich Village, immediately spring to mind when thinking of the city’s eclectic arts culture.

Any student with high aspirations in dance and choreography would do well to peruse NYC and its dance schools. Students have access to numerous opportunities to hone their skills and make a dent in the world of dance. Many of the schools have affiliations and partnerships with artistic and cultural organizations. They are uniquely placed because of the breadth and depth of the city’s cultural and artistic landscape.

Here are 10 of the best dance schools in New York City.

Queens College

Queens College
Faisal926, Rosenthal Library, QC, CC BY-SA 3.0

Dance students at Queens College receive a well-rounded education that combines rigorous study in the liberal arts and science and professional, technical training in ballet, jazz, Asian, African, Modern, and tap. Graduates have a gamut of career opportunities, ranging from choreography to dance therapy. To top off its dynamic, liberal arts and dance curriculum, the school is nestled in the most diverse zip code in the country.

Many dance performances are held at the Kupferberg Center for the Arts (KCA). Named as one of the “Best Places to Visit” by Lonely Planet, the KCA has been the setting for professional-level shows produced by Queens’ College students and world-class artists alike. It is also the incubator-site for the CUNY Dance Initiative, a residency program that supports artists from the five boroughs.

Admissions into Queens College is selective; applicants are expected to have a competitive, academic record. Prospective Dance majors are expected to audition and have a background in dance.

CUNY Hunter College

CUNY Hunter College
Beyond My Ken, West Building Hunter College CUNY, CC BY-SA 4.0

The mission of the Hunter College Dance Department is underpinned by a belief that dance is integral to a liberal arts education. Its alumni are the products of its comprehensive and diverse curriculum; many have starred in Broadway shows and worked with luminaries such as Liz Lerman. Dance faculty are accomplished and seasoned professionals in their own right. According to a recent ranking, Hunter College is among the top 20 Dance Schools in the nation and the 3rd best in New York.

For those who are impassioned about dance and teaching, the school has a strong Dance Education program. Students become versed in pedagogical theory, gain practical skills in classroom teaching, and hone their skills, enabling them to share their passion with the broader world. They gain hands-on training through field placements in NYC public schools.

In recent years, enrollment in the dance department has been increasing, making it an increasingly selective program— at a school that is already quite selective.

Barnard College

Barnard College
Beyond My Ken, Barnard College Lehman Hall, CC BY-SA 4.0

The dance department at Barnard College gleams on this list. It finds its home at one of the Ivies and one of the oldest and diverse institutions of higher education in the US, Columbia University. It has a vibrant, interdisciplinary curriculum that intertwines the art of dance with a robust, liberal-arts education.

Students work with accomplished artists and develop connections to the professional world of dance via a wide array of partnerships. One such partnership is Barnard Dance in Paris. The Barnard College Department of Dance partners with the University of South Florida’s Dance program that exposes students to the technical, cultural, choreographic, and historical aspects of dance in the City of Lights. This is an intensive summer program that runs through June.

The acceptance rate for Barnard College, in general, is a mere 11%. For admissions into the Department of Dance, prospective students are neither required to audition nor send audition tapes; applicants are evaluated in terms of their academic standing in Barnard College and Columbia University.

American Musical Dramatic Academy

American Musical and Dramatic Academy
Mx. Granger, American Musical and Dramatic Academy, CC0 1.0

With an acceptance rate of 31%, the American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA) is one of the most selective schools on the list. Prospective students are required to submit the standard fare for a college application: an application, an essay, an audition, a letter of recommendation, and, of course, academic records and transcripts.

While the application process may be normal, AMDA’s dance program is unique. It is one of the only programs in the country specializing in dance theater offering a BFA, an Associate of Occupational Studies, and a Conservatory Certificate. Not only are the faculty outstanding in their instruction, they are also active professionals in the field. Alumni have earned nominations for Broadway performances or founded their own award-winning dance companies

Pace University

Students aspiring to dance careers in the entertainment industry should look no further than Pace University. The program is the first of its kind, training students for a BFA in Commercial Dance. Commercial dance majors are immersed in a well-rounded curriculum that trains them in ballet, jazz, and contemporary styles. Students have the option to choose a concentration in either choreography or performance.

Commercial dance majors consistently prove themselves as rising talent, starring in TV ads or making their first Broadway debut, before graduating. Faculty of the Commercial Dance program include: Rhonda Miller, whose work has been featured in commercials for Fortune 500 companies, and Scott Jovovich, who has been featured in dozens of Broadway musicals, commercials, and soaps.

With such a unique program and stellar faculty and students, it is no wonder that Pace University frequently pops up as having one of the top dance programs in the country.

Marymount Manhattan College

The Department of Dance at Marymount Manhattan College is profiled as one of the Top Ten Colleges for Dance by College Magazine. MMC Dance alumni are employed in a wide array of professions, from Broadway to physical therapy. As students can expect from a top dance program, its faculty are professionals with impressive resumes. Students transition into the professional world through a variety of opportunities, such as internships, study abroad programs, or a year-long residency with the MMC Dance Company.

The Department of Dance has access to five state-of-the-art facilities for rehearsals, training, and performances. The most notable, the Theresa Lang Theatre, is a 249-seat proscenium theater where dance and theater performances are staged.

Being one of the smallest schools on this list, admissions into MMC, in general, is relatively competitive. The Department of Dance tends to be more selective; applicants are expected to show professional promise, in addition to academic excellence.

New York University

NYU Tisch
atp_tyreseus, Tisch School of the Arts NYU, CC BY 2.0

New York University Tisch’s School of the Arts is one of most internationally prestigious schools. Unsurprisingly, its dance department made it to the top 5 on this list. Three recent graduates have been profiled in Dance Magazine’s list of “25 to Watch in 2021.” Tisch dance faculty are world-renowned professionals who have earned prestigious awards and have danced in many of the greatest companies alongside top choreographers.

The undergraduate dance curriculum is intensive, with its emphasis on the techniques of ballet and contemporary dance. In the first and second years, students are taught the fundamentals of dance form, as well as dance history, music literature, and composition, culminating in professional training in choreography and performance, in the third year. Given its emphasis on technical training, students participate in intensive summer residencies after the first year.

Admission to Tisch’s Department of Dance is extremely competitive. Applicants must demonstrate strong technique and earnestness in becoming a professional artist.

The New School

New School
Beyond My Ken, New School University Center, CC BY-SA 4.0

The Dance major at The New School’s Eugene Lang College actively incorporates new developments in the field of dance. Research and experimentation drive the curriculum, providing students with a “hybrid experience” that combines the rigor of a quality, liberal arts education with practice and performance.

Eugene Lang College is at the heart of Greenwich Village, one of New York City’s major hubs of art and culture. Dance students have access to visionary artists, institutions, performances, and events. Faculty have garnered many prestigious awards, including 22 Guggenheim Fellowships in choreography. 

Lang College proudly differs from the many, conservatory-style programs on this list; it accepts students with varying degrees of training and experience. No audition is required for admission. 

Fordham University

Fordham University
Indefatigable2, Collins Hall Rose Hill, Fordham, CC BY-SA 4.0

Through its partnership with the Ailey School, Fordham University’s BFA Dance program offers students the best of both worlds: an outstanding liberal arts education, coupled with professional training in dance. Students will venture out into the world as well-rounded and talented, human beings and young professionals.

Ample opportunities for performing are available to dance students. Seniors perform at various venues and work alongside stellar choreographers throughout the city. Graduates have joined renowned companies such as the Dance Theatre of Harlem, Kansas City Ballet, and many others.

The program has a unique, dual-application process; prospective students must submit separate applications to Fordham University and The Ailey School. Applicants must expound on their previous dance training and experience, as part of the application process. On average, around 35 students are admitted to Ailey/BFA Dance program each year, making admission quite competitive.

Juilliard School

Juilliard School
photo by Brian Lauer via Flickr Creative Commons, CC BY 2.0

The Juilliard School of Dance faculty is comprised of virtuosos and trailblazers. Art Bridgman, for example, is the co-artistic director of Bridgman-Packer Dance, the first company to be awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship for collaborative work. The company is known for its innovative approach to live performance and video technology. Outstanding faculty is just one facet of the dance program’s illustrious reputation.

Any top-ranking school is nothing without the achievements of its alumni, many of whom perform at prestigious venues and companies throughout the country, such as Hubbard Street Dance Chicago or the San Francisco Ballet.

As with the other schools on this list, Juilliard students benefit from the numerous opportunities available to them because of NYC’s robust, artistic and cultural institutions. The rigor and preeminence of the conservatory curriculum at Juilliard ensure that it will hold out as the top choice among the world’s most promising artists for many years to come.