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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Ballet BC dancers Tara Williamson, left, and Darren Devaney in RITE by Emily Molnar. Photo by Chris Randle, Courtesy Ballet BC

Why Do Mixed-Rep Companies Still Rely on Ballet for Company Class?

In a single performance by a mixed-rep company, you might see its shape-shifting dancers performing barefoot, in sneakers and in heels. While such a group may have "ballet" in its name and even a rack of tutus in storage, its current relationship to the art form can be tenuous at best. That disconnect grows wider every year as contemporary choreographers look beyond ballet—if not beyond white Western forms entirely—in search of new inspiration and foundational techniques.

Yet dancers at almost all of the world's leading mixed-rep ensembles take ballet classes before rehearsals and shows. Most companies rarely depart from ballet more than twice a week and some never offer alternative classes.

"The question, 'Why do you take ballet class to prepare you for repertory which is not strictly classical?' has been in the air since Diaghilev's time," says Peter Lewton-Brain, Monaco-based president of the International Association for Dance Medicine & Science. "What you're doing onstage is often not what you're doing in class."