10 Best Colleges for Dance Performance in the US

If you are a fan of the New York City Ballet, the Alonzo King LINES Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, or really any dance company in the entire world – traditional or contemporary – you would know that just about every member of the company went to a top college to study dance performance.

What is just so special about the Dance Performance major? It’s probably the most physically intensive major of all; everyday, students in this discipline wake up early in the morning and move their bodies 7 days a week for hours and hours at a time.

The amount of information these dancers absorb as well is incredibly vast; they learn ballet, tap, jazz, contemporary styles. They have to absorb the movements of those who dared to choreograph Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, and the very best composers.

They also have to balance their course-load of English and Math classes like every other college student.

When we look at the backgrounds of the top dancers in the country, we consistently see the same handful of schools pop up.

So, you may be asking – what are the top schools in the country for dance performance? Here are 10 amazing colleges for dance in the country…

10. Cornish College of the Arts (Seattle, WA)

photo by Joe Mabel via Wikimedia Commons

The four-year BFA at Cornish College of the Arts is a physically intensive major; students spend 6-8 hours everyday practicing, learning, and rehearsing in the school’s studios.

Cornish’s program is so attractive, even dancers with a professional background frequently apply; through the “Professional Dancers Program,” experienced dancers can complete a BFA in less than two years.

Like most dance programs, ballet is at the core of the Cornish experience. However, the school also offers elective classes in jazz, tap, urban dance, and even martial arts, among other genres.

Collaboration opportunities are a hallmark of the Cornish experience. As the school is an independent arts conservatory, dancers frequently collaborate with students in other performing arts majors, including music as well as drama.

9. Point Park University (Pittsburgh, PA)

One of Point Park’s buildings – photo by J. James via Wikimedia Commons

Regarded as a top dance program, it is among the most selective in the world. According to OnStage, just 75 dancers are admitted out of over 1,000 applicants each year!

The faculty in the school are top-notch and among the most respected in the discipline. Garfield Lemonius, the Chair of the Dance program, has worked with the likes of legendary talents Chuck Davis, Alonzo King, and Bruce Wood.

Other faculty at the school have been members of the Martha Graham Dance Company (Judith Leifer-Bentz), trained at the School of American Ballet (Matthew Powell), and have danced in the company of Twyla Tharp (Jason McDole).

One impressive facility at the school for dancers is the George Roland White Performance Center, a $16,000,000 LEED-certified space housing 44,000 square feet of dance space. The school also has the on-campus Pittsburgh Playhouse, which performs to over 30,000 people every single year.

Pittsburgh itself is an arts capital of the country, with dozens and dozens of theatres providing off-campus opportunities to students of this prestigious program.

8. Southern Methodist University (Dallas, TX)

photo by Yelpet via Wikimedia Commons

We often see many of the top dance programs in the country situated throughout the northeast and west coasts.

That said, Southern Methodist truly stands out in the excellence of its program as perhaps the best program in the entire southern region of the country.

One notable aspect of the program is its partnership with the Texas Ballet Theater, the largest professional dance company in north Texas serving tens of thousands of patrons in the artistic central of Dallas/Fort Worth.

A premiere destination for classical and jazz ballet styles, students are afforded unparalleled opportunities to perform in many of Greater Dallas’ historic arts venues, including the Winspear Opera House as well as City Performance Hall.

The school’s own Bob Hope Theatre is an impressive dance venue itself seating nearly 400.

According to OnStage, alumni have been employed by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Martha Graham Company, Paul Taylor Dance Company, and more.

HONORABLE MENTION: Indiana University (Bloomington, IN)

One of IU’s libraries – photo by Vmenkov via Wikimedia Commons

One of the top programs for Dance Performance in the world, Indiana University is equally adept at training students to become world-class performers in both modern styles as well as classical styles.

Recent graduates of the program are already attaining employment in the top dance companies throughout the world.

Alumni at the school in the last few years are already finding their way into the Boston Ballet, Nashville Ballet, and the Island Moving Company of Newport, RI.

Faculty in the program are widely recognized for their excellence in both teaching and performing.

One such faculty member in the Ballet program, Kyra Nichols, was previously a member of the New York City Ballet, perhaps the most prestigious ballet organization in the country.

She retired from the company after being a part of it for 33 years, making her the longest-tenured dancer in the history of the company.

In the Contemporary Dance program, Indiana University perhaps has one of the most impressive lists of faculty in the nation.

One such faculty member is Stafford C. Berry Jr., who toured for over a decade performing in legendary dancer Chuck Davis’ African American Dance Ensemble.

Despite being a large university, the dance program at Indiana University feels intimately small, allowing for close partnership between the faculty and the students for maximal learning and performing opportunities.


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