How to Choose Between a BA and a BFA

One of the most definitive parts of the college selection process is deciding whether to pursue a bachelor of arts or a bachelor of fine arts degree. Each has its advantages—the BFA usually provides more performance opportunities and studio time, while the BA allows students to explore the academic side of dance as well as other liberal arts subjects. But it can be hard to know which will best prepare you for an undetermined future and provide you with the college experience you crave. Doing your research—and remembering that this is just one of many factors to consider when choosing a school—can help.

Point Park University students. Photo by Katie Ging, Courtesy Point Park

Know yourself.

"Consider where you want to grow and where you want to go," says Point Park University dance department chair Rubén Graciani. "Do you want to make a go for it in the dance world? Do you want your experience to be more physical or more academic?"

Get an inside perspective.

"Talk to current students and professors to see what the daily schedule is like," suggests University of Michigan junior Yoshiko Iwai, a dance BFA with a second major in neuroscience.

University of Michigan BFA student Yoshiko Iwai. Photo by Peter Smith, Courtesy U Michigan

Consider your strengths and weaknesses.

"Understand where you are in the grand scheme of things," says Graciani. "If you go to auditions for BFAs, do you feel competitive?" If not, a BA might be a more comfortable fit.

Look ahead.

"Find out if the alumni are people you can see yourself as," says Iwai.

Understand the compromises.

"A BFA program is a big sacrifice. Know that you won't get the traditional college experience," says Graciani.

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Luke Isley, Courtesy Ballet West

How Do Choreographers Bring Something Fresh to Music We've Heard Over and Over?

In 2007, Oregon Ballet Theatre asked Nicolo Fonte to choreograph a ballet to Maurice Ravel's Boléro. "I said, 'No way. I'm not going near it,' " recalls Fonte. "I don't want to compete with the Béjart version, ice skaters or the movie 10. No, no, no!"

But Fonte's husband encouraged him to "just listen and get a visceral reaction." He did. And Bolero turned into one of Fonte's most requested and successful ballets.

Not all dance renditions of similar warhorse scores have worked out so well. Yet the irresistible siren song of pieces like Stravinsky's The Firebird and The Rite of Spring, as well as the perennial Carmina Burana by Carl Orff, seem too magnetic for choreographers to ignore.

And there are reasons for their popularity. Some were commissioned specifically for dance: Rite and Firebird for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes; Boléro for dance diva Ida Rubinstein's post–Ballets Russes troupe. Hypnotic rhythms (Arvo Pärt's Spiegel im Spiegel) and danceable melodies (Bizet's Carmen) make a case for physical eye candy. Audience familiarity can also help box office receipts. Still, many choreographers have been sabotaged by the formidable nature and Muzak-y overuse of these iconic compositions.