A Taste of Undergrad

Pre-college programs offer a glimpse of campus life. 

A West African dance class at UCLA’s Summer Institute. Photo by Brianna Gray, courtesy UCLA.

You can visit colleges and take campus tours, but it still may be hard to imagine what being a dance major is really like. A pre-college summer workshop can help ease that transition, offering a chance to immerse yourself in college life. Students live in the dorms, take class from faculty members and visiting artists and perform original work alongside their peers. “Students are asked to consider dance in a much broader way,” says Donna Faye Burchfield, head of the Summer Institute at University of the Arts. “These programs help students find new ways to see themselves and find a new community in dance.” —Suzannah Friscia

Rutgers University

New Brunswick, NJ


The programs: Junior and Senior Conservatories for middle and high school students, by audition; Pre-Conservatory for middle and high school students, with no audition required.

No. of students: About 200

Timeline: Two weeks (students may stay for one or both): July 17–29, 2016

Application deadline: June 1

Coursework: Ballet, contemporary, repertory, improvisation and choreography. Special workshops have included Broadway, hip hop, West African, jazz, voguing and dance history.

Additional opportunities: Guest artists like Monica Bill Barnes, Douglas Dunn and ABT Studio Company dancers teach master classes and perform. Senior Conservatory students are paired with graduate students who observe and provide assessments. Seniors also attend a performance in New York City.

Performance: Students perform faculty repertory and their own work on Rutgers’ main stage.

University of the Arts

Philadelphia, PA


The program: Pre-College Summer Institute, open to high school students, by audition. College credit is offered.

No. of students: 35–50

Timeline: Three weeks: July 11–30, 2016

Application deadline: March 19 (scholarship deadline is April 1)

Coursework: Classes incorporate ballet, jazz, modern, hip hop, tap, contemporary styles and composition.

Additional opportunities: Students visit museums and attend performances in Philadelphia. They sit in on open rehearsals with UArts companies-in-residence, which have included BalletX and Sidra Bell Dance New York. Additional guest artists like James McGinn, Sara Procopio, Burr Johnson and Lanette Costas-Stampley and Nathaniel Stampley give master classes and talks.

Performance: The program culminates in a show that students help curate. They perform repertory and their own original work.

University of California, Los Angeles

Los Angeles, CA


The program: Dance/Performing Arts Summer Institute, open to high school students by online application. College credit is offered.

No. of students: Approximately 45

Timeline: Nine days: June 18–June 26, 2016

Application deadline: Application opens February 1. Admission is rolling.

Coursework: West African, Hawaiian dance, postmodern, hip hop, composition and an academic class that incorporates spoken-word poetry and written reflection. Specialty courses may include tap, popping and stepping.

Additional opportunities: Students take a three-hour acting class with a professional actor and improv coach, and a workshop on the process of choosing a college. Current UCLA dance majors act as teaching assistants and live in the dorms with students.

Performance: At the end of the program, students perform their own compositions and work they’ve learned in class at the UCLA theater. n


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