Considering Women’s College? Here’s What You Need to Know

March 17, 2022

The dance field is chock-full of bright, talented women. And yet, when it comes time to choose a college program, dancers often overlook the possibilities that lie within a women’s college. Although they aren’t as common as they used to be, these institutions foster a safe, supportive environment for female-identifying dancers to flourish in.

Why consider it?

You want a women-focused education.

The Gold Program within The Women’s College at Brenau University creates space to understand the contributions of women thought leaders. “Many of our classes are dedicated to focusing more on the history of women,” says Madia Cooper-Ashirifi, chair of Brenau’s department of dance. “So focusing on women authors, women leaders, women historians.”

You’ll enjoy an intimate cohort.

Since women’s colleges are typically smaller than other schools, students often enjoy a low student-to-faculty ratio, meaning more one-on-one interactions with professors. “There is generally a more close-knit sisterhood and communal solidarity in an all-women’s college,” says Wesleyan University’s dance department chair Hari Krishnan, who earned his doctorate from Texas Woman’s University.

You want female mentors.

The faculty at women’s colleges is stacked with female industry leaders who are eager to share their knowledge with young women. Not only can they impart general wisdom about the field, they can offer advice specific to being a woman in the arts.

You’ll push yourself physically.

Mady Cantor, director of the dance program at Bryn Mawr. Courtesy Cantor.

At a women’s college, artistic works originally choreographed for men and women are reconstructed for an all-female cast, giving women the opportunity to dance roles traditionally done by men. “The expectations of what women can do in dance are broader,” says Mady Cantor, director of the dance program at Bryn Mawr College.

You want to embrace your body.

Dancers often enjoy a curriculum designed to help women embrace and harness the power of their bodies. At Bryn Mawr, the program is body-positive. “All bodies are welcome, and there is no specific ‘dancer body,’ ” Cantor says. “A ‘dancer body’ says something about the male gaze, and we are free of that.”

Best of Both Worlds

If you can’t decide between a coed or all-women’s college, some schools let you experience both. While Brenau University is coed, students can choose to enroll in The Women’s College of Brenau University at the Gainesville, Georgia, campus. Barnard College, which exists within the larger, coed Columbia University, is another example. So although you can still experience the campus life of a mixed-gender institution, you can enjoy the academic benefits of a women’s college, including classes exclusively for women, an alumnae networking system, all-women study-abroad programs and professional preparation specifically tailored to women.

What If I Identify as Nonbinary?

More and more women’s colleges are changing their admissions policies to welcome nonbinary students. If you’re considering a women’s college as a nonbinary dancer, speak with the faculty about how the department is actively creating an inclusive environment, and, if you’re able, take a tour to see for yourself.