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About Me:

My name is Olivia and I am a senior at Butler University. I spend most of my time in Lilly Hall as a BFA Dance Performance major. When not in rehearsal or ballet class, I write papers for my English Literature second major. In my super-abundant, never-lacking, this-is-highly-sarcastic spare time, I attempt to cook in my apartment kitchen, watch Youtube videos of ballet, knit sweaters that never seem to come to an end, and read books both silly and serious. If I could take any class at Butler just for kicks, I'd go for DiffyQ.

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Q&A: Dance Department

Last week I got a series of great questions from a high school senior looking into Butler’s dance major. I thought I would answer them here on the blog so other prospective students can see and comment!

Q: Is Butler’s dance program based in classical ballet? Most programs seem to be modern emphasis.

A: Yes, the dance department is grounded in classical ballet. I was struck by the scarcity of options for a serious classical ballet, liberal arts program when I was looking for schools four years ago. I take a ballet technique class five days a week, plus pointe, classical variations, and classical partnering.

Snow Corps, The Nutcracker, 2010, choreography by Cynthia Pratt

Q: What other techniques are you learning at Butler?

A: The semester counts here are out of seven, since I am taking my seventh of eight semesters. I have studied jazz (4 semesters), modern (7), contemporary partnering (1), Slavic character (1), Spanish character (1), and improvisation (1).

In less technical-movement-based classes, I’ve studied: Laban Movement Analysis, Teaching Analysis of Classical Ballet (of Jazz and of Modern are also offered), Body Placement (a sort of Pilates-nutrition-anatomy mishmash), and Choreography.

On the purely academic front, the Dance Department offers/requires: Masterworks of Dance, a history of music class, Music Theory for Dance, Design and Construction of Dance Costumes, Dance History, and Theory and Philosophy of Dance. Other related requirements include an acting class, piano, and voice.

Midwinter Dance Festival 2010, 1st of 3 in 17, choreography by Cynthia Pratt

Q: Anything you think would be helpful…

A: This senior mentioned double majoring, which I am doing with great difficulty. If you want to double major, my advice is to be realistic and to become intimate with the requirements of both departments and with the colleges of each department. The trouble I’ve run into personally is the language requirement demanded by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (for my English Literature major) — though it’s not required by the Jordan College of Fine Arts (the college of my primary major in Dance Performance). Look carefully at all your requirements and do the credit-hour math beforehand. You might, as this senior wisely mentioned, have to stay an extra summer or semester to finish.

Q: I live in Georgia, so scheduling a visit is tough. Can you give me some pointers?

A: Here are some questions you might want to consider before flying/driving to Indianapolis if you are from out of state or looking at the dance major:

– Do you want a liberal arts environment (versus a conservatory)?
– Do you want a program based in classical ballet?
– Are you open to learning all sorts of other techniques?
– Does Butler offer the classes you want, both in and outside the dance major? (Which you can check here…)
– Could you live in Indianapolis? Could you fly/drive a substantial distance for the holidays?

As I told this senior, if you have any other questions you want answered about Butler University, don’t hesitate to ask! If I don’t know the answer, I can find someone who does and get that information to you as you begin your college decision process. You might also like to peruse the departmental requirements or the Jordan College of Fine Arts Facebook page.

9 Responses to Q&A: Dance Department

  1. Olivia says:

    Hi Tara,

    That’s a hard one! Have you talked to your parents about this? If it’s simply a matter of finances, there are several things you can do… Try getting a part-time job to pay for classes yourself; see if you can do a work-study program at your studio; ask about scholarships available.

    It would be very hard to get into a college-level dance program without taking regular lessons. You can always give yourself classes, but this probably just maintains technique, since it often takes an expert eye to perfect technique (and as one of my old teachers used to say, “Only perfect practice makes perfect.”). Still, hard work and determination can take you far.

    What I would suggest is to look honestly at your current skill level and interests. Do you want to dance ballet? modern? Do you want to teach? In what capacity? A pre-professional program affiliated with a company? A more suburban school? Some of these are more attainable goals than others depending on your background because ballet, thanks to its aristocratic roots in the French courts, still relies sometimes annoyingly on “pedagogic pedigree.” Arts Administration is another area where you can do a lot of good if you want to interact with the arts world on a different level.

    I hope this helps and that you find a way to follow your dreams. : ) Best of luck to you.


  2. Tara Reed says:

    I need help. my parents won’t pay for dance lessons, but dance is my passion and no matter what, I know that it will be my life. I’m a sophmore to be at Bigelow High school, and my guidance counseler isn’t exactly very helpful. can you give me any tips on how to get into a dance college without dance lessons?

  3. […] zillion posts about applying and auditioning for Butler University’s Department of Dance (see here here here here), I uploaded from my camera/was given pictures from my extended birthday […]

  4. […] school seniors looking for colleges left me comments recently with some truly awesome questions. Among them was “What universities would you […]

  5. Olivia says:

    What great companies to aspire to join! Both are very competitive, and I believe ballet technique is essential to create a strong dancer. Repertory on pointe simply will not be possible without ballet training. However, you are correct in that both companies would not hire a dance unversed in other techniques.

    If you want to look at what sort of dancers the company directors have been hiring, you should look at the company bios for both Alvin Ailey and Complexions. For instance, a quick glance through the biographies of the Alvin Ailey dancers revealed that many had graduated from the Ailey/Fordham B.F.A. program in dance. You can then look at the schools that appear — or at the curriculum of the schools as compared to Butler’s degree plan or to other schools’ courses. Obviously, I think Butler is a great choice (and I am definitely and unapologetically biased in that respect)…

  6. Kelsey says:

    Thank you Olivia =) You’re not being biased at all, you’re being right. since you’ve been through the search for a dance university, what universities would you recommend for a dancer aspiring to dance with AAADT or Complexions Contemporary Ballet Company?

  7. Olivia says:

    Hi Kelsey,

    All this depends, I think, on what you mean by “contemporary.” Contemporary ballet? Like LINES or Nederlans Dans Theatre? If it has pointe work, you need a strong classical ballet background. Frankly (and I may be biased because my first love is the classical ballet technique), I think all dancers benefit from ballet technique, from its precision and strength and control. Decide what type of company you are interested in and look at their rep. What sort of work do they dance? What sort of technique will you need to perform that work?

    As for the frequency of dance scholarships, I don’t really know. They are merit-based, so I should think they depend on the individual, plus the number of applicants in a given year. The Butler Dance Department website advises you to audition earlier rather than later for a better chance at scholarship money.

    As for double majoring with pharmacy… I hate to be the one to say this, but I’m really not sure it’s possible. I am having tremendous difficulty just finishing my English Lit major, which requires 36 hours outside university requirements. The PharmD major count is well over 100. Pharmacy is notoriously difficult — because Butler’s pharmacy program is top-notch and very competitive — and the major is structured in such a way that courses must be taken in a very specific order (as with the dance major). I hate to discourage you, but realistically it seems practically impossible. However, I’m not an expert on the pharmacy major. I would sit down and compare the dance performance/arts admin/pedagogy and pharmacy courses of study. You may want to avail yourself of Butler’s admissions counselors as well.

    Good luck!


  8. Kelsey says:

    I’m a high school student, but I’ve been seriously considering Butler not only for its dance program, but for pharmacy. If I’m considering a contemporary dance career post college is Butler a good choice, or should I attend a college that focuses more on modern?
    Also, how common or uncommon are dance scholarships?

  9. Ginger says:

    I would like to start a non-profit fund for the arts. I need to get a few people to help me in my efforts. I have a get platform to start being in the financial space already.
    If you are interested in helping me please contact me at Contact Me. Thanks Ginger

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