Dance with a Practical Edge: Some College Dance Programs Train Students for a Second Career

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Calling all dance majors! If prospects of nailing a job after graduation seem slimmer in this economic climate, there are other options to consider when seeking a dance career. There also are options when it comes to choosing a college that will not only keep a dancer in leotards and tutus, but provide her with marketable skills. Today's colleges offer not just performance degrees but more pragmatic programs, including Dance Science, Dance Management, and teaching certification. Dance Magazine chose three undergraduate programs to profile. While each takes a different approach, all are geared toward providing the dancer with necessary skills to find a job in the dance arena.

TEACHING DREAMS: University of North Carolina at Greensboro Sue Stinson, coordinator of the dance education program, arrived at UNCG in 1979 to run the dance teacher licensure program, one of the country's first. As with any performance degree, students are required to audition as well as take dance major courses. The certification program is hands-on, with candidates going into the public schools as part of their training. Once finished, graduates are qualified to teach in these schools. Since North Carolina has a mandate to offer dance in the schools, jobs had always been plentiful for graduates with certification, but that isn't quite the case today.

"Until the recession, every graduate got a job," says Stinson. "Last year was the first time we had anyone looking for a full-time teaching position. We tell them we won't guarantee a job, but with a teaching license and some flexibility--being willing to relocate, for example--your chances of being hired are really good."

Stinson adds that many alumni who did not get licensed regretted it later. A number of people who had been dancing for several years were ready for a career change and then enrolled in the program.

Faith Mottershead graduated last year with a BS in dance education from UNCG. She currently teaches at the Community School of Davidson in Davidson, NC. "Since I was young, I wanted to dance and choreograph and start my own company, but I fell in love with teaching," says Mottershead, "and UNCG has an excellent program. The faculty is great, and when I graduated I had three job offers. Since we also took technique and choreography classes, I felt like I was prepared to help the kids I now teach to put on shows."

ANATOMY OF THE BODY: California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) In this harbor town south of Los Angeles, the university boasts a lively dance department, with seven studios anda Pilates center. For those seeking careers in dance or dance fitness, CSULB offers a BA in Dance, Option in Dance Science, a curriculum that includes biology and kinesiology. These are taken in addition to the required classes, such as technique and dance history.

Karen Clippinger, whose work involves the application of scientific principles to enhance alignment and movement while lowering injury risk, designed the program in 2004 with Judy Allen. She is also the program advisor. Because the science studies are rigorous, with numerous labs and courses in human anatomy, exercise physiology, and motor learning, only five students graduated from the program in 2010. …