How to Tell If a Musical Theater Program is Dancer-Friendly

July 25, 2017

Serious dancers interested in musical theater face a difficult choice when applying to college: Should you major in dance or musical theater? “You can make a career following either pathway,” says Lynne Formato, associate professor of performing arts at Elon University. If you choose to go the musical theater route, find a program that will challenge your dance technique:

1. Ask what the program focuses on. “A lot of schools I auditioned for would come out and identify themselves as a dance program or not a dance program,” says Reagan Ogle, a music theater major at Elon University.

Elon’s production of In the Heights. PC Scott Muthersbaugh

2. See if graduates are being cast in dance-heavy shows.

Elon’s production of Oklahoma! PC Scott Muthersbaugh, Courtesy Elon

3. Find a program that lets you place into higher-level technique classes through an audition.

PC Kyle Froman

4. Sit in on classes to see if they’ll be hard enough for you, or get a sense of the level at your audition, suggests Jeremy Hurr, who majors in musical theater with a concentration in dance at Otterbein University.

Jeremy Hurr, PC Evan Moore-Coll

5. Look for small class sizes, where teachers can individualize exercises based on your experience.

PC Duncan Cooper

6. “Don’t choose a program that says, ‘You’re a great dancer, so you don’t have to train as hard in singing and acting,’ ” says Jonalyn Saxer, a Syracuse University graduate who’s currently a swing in CATS on Broadway.

Jonalyn Saxer (center) in Holiday Inn, PC Joan Marcus