Advice for Dancers

When It Comes to College and a Ballet Career, Can You Really Have It All?

Numerous ballet dancers have completed their degrees while performing professionally. Photo by MD Duran/Unsplash.

My parents are worried that dancing professionally will interfere with my education, even though I have friends who dance and take college courses. I can't go to a university the usual way when I'm trying to make it in contemporary ballet. Can you help me explain my situation to them?

—Lauren, Miami, FL

You and your parents have equally valid concerns. From a dancer's perspective, it may be important to start your career as early as you can, given the short shelf life of a ballet career. However, it is possible to complete college first. Some dancers choose a BFA program affiliated with a professional company; others shift their major to modern dance or musical theater, where age isn't as much of a priority. Regardless of when you choose to go to college, the more education you have, the greater your chance of employment and a higher income later.

Fortunately, nationally recognized programs like LEAP (Liberal Education for Arts Professionals) from Saint Mary's College of California take you and your parents' concerns into consideration. LEAP offers current and former professional dancers individualized study for BA degrees, and classes are held in New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

You could also enroll in a nearby college, taking one course at a time or completing online courses while you perform. Your parents should know that it's entirely possible to pursue your art form and get an adequate education. While doing both isn't easy, having a dancer's work ethic helps.

Send your questions to Dr. Linda Hamilton at

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