BFAs for the Great White Way
Three college programs for aspiring triple threats.
Singing. Dancing. Acting. For college-bound students hoping to become the next triple threat, it’s often hard to find a dance program that nurtures all three—and few musical theater programs offer enough challenging courses for seriously trained dancers. Choosing the right school takes some digging and creative planning. For instance, dance majors can sometimes take advantage of a musical theater minor. Or, they can look for a musical theater major with a dance emphasis, such as Roosevelt University’s newly launched program. Below are three strong schools for aspiring triple threats to consider. —Amy Brandt
OKLAHOMA CITY UNIVERSITY
Located: Oklahoma City, OK
No. of dance majors: 193
Degrees offered: BPA (bachelor of performing arts) in dance performance, BS in dance pedagogy, BS in dance management
Audition required: Yes (ballet, jazz, tap); voice presentations optional
Dance classes required: Tap, jazz, ballet, theater dance
Voice and acting classes required: Music fundamentals, class voice, private voice, acting
Performance opportunities: American Spirit Dance Company (2 main-stage shows, plus local performances and touring), 4 musicals (2 full-length), 4 operas, student choreography show
Opportunities for outside study: Students are encouraged to perform in summer stock theater/theme parks, including Music Theatre of Wichita, Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma and Busch Gardens. Summer internship organizations include Broadway Dance Center and Jacob’s Pillow.
Alumni: Broadway, Las Vegas, national tours, cruise ship productions, Radio City Rockettes, television, film, music videos
Above: OCU’s American Spirit Dance Company. Photo by John Bedford, Courtesy Oklahoma City University.
Located: Chicago, IL
No. of dance majors: 18 (22 incoming freshmen expected for 2014–15)
Degrees offered: BFA in musical theater—dance emphasis
Audition required: Yes (ballet, jazz, song, monologue)
Dance classes required: Ballet, jazz, tap, modern, hip hop, partnering, navigating song and dance, anatomy and kinesiology, dance pedagogy
Voice and acting classes required: Ensemble singing, piano, music theory, private voice, acting for the musical stage
Performance opportunities: 3 main-stage musicals, 3 main-stage plays, 4 freshman showcases, 4 musical theater showcases, 3 acting showcases
Opportunities for outside study: RU has internship programs with Goodman Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Lookingglass Theatre and Chicago Shakespeare Theatre. Juniors and seniors may audition for outside productions.
Alumni: Broadway, off-Broadway, Chicago theater, national tours, film, television
Above: Roosevelt students in Thoroughly Modern Millie. Photo by Zeke Dolezaleck, Courtesy Roosevelt University.
POINT PARK UNIVERSITY
Located: Pittsburgh, PA
No. of dance majors: 240
Degrees offered: BFA in dance, BA in dance, BA in dance pedagogy, minor in musical theater. Many musical theater dancers pursue a BFA (jazz concentration) and a musical theater minor.
Audition required: Yes (ballet, modern, jazz); audition for musical theater minor occurs sophomore year.
Dance classes required: Ballet, modern, jazz, anatomy, kinesiology, dance history, music fundamentals. Ballet concentrations take pointe/men’s class, pas de deux. Jazz and modern concentrations take contemporary partnering.
Voice and acting classes required: For musical theater minor: voice, private voice lessons, acting, musical theater techniques, piano/theory fundamentals, sight-singing fundamentals
Performance opportunities: 6 main-stage productions a year (including one full-length) plus The Nutcracker. Dancers can also audition for the theater department’s full-length musicals.
Opportunities for outside study: Dancers may pursue outside opportunities, but because of Point Park’s rigorous class and rehearsal schedule, they must be selective. Students may also study abroad for one semester.
Alumni: Broadway, national tours, Cirque du Soleil, ballet and contemporary companies, film, television
Above: Point Park University students in Oklahoma!. Photo by Jeff Swenson, Courtesy Point Park University.
It's a cycle familiar to many: First, a striking image of a lithe, impossibly fit dancer executing a gravity-defying développé catches your eye on Instagram. You pause your scrolling to marvel, over and over again, at her textbook physique.
Inevitably, you take a moment to consider your own body, in comparison. Doubt and negative self-talk first creep, and then flood, in. "I'll never look like that," the voice inside your head whispers. You continue scrolling, but the image has done its dirty work—a gnawing sensation has taken hold, continually reminding you that your own body is inferior, less-than, unworthy.
It's no stretch to say that social media has a huge effect on body image. For dancers—most of whom already have a laser-focus on their appearance—the images they see on Instagram can seem to exacerbate ever-present issues. "Social media is just another trigger," says Nadine Kaslow, a psychologist who works with the dancers of Atlanta Ballet. "And dancers don't need another trigger." In the age of Photoshop and filters, how can dancers keep body dysmorphia at bay?
If "Fosse/Verdon" whet your appetite for the impeccable Gwen Verdon, then Merely Marvelous: The Dancing Genius of Gwen Verdon is the three-course meal you've been craving. The new documentary—available now on Amazon for rental or purchase—dives into the life of the Tony-winning performer and silver-screen star lauded for her charismatic dancing.
Though she's perhaps most well-known today as Bob Fosse's wife and muse, that's not even half of her story. For starters, she'd already won four Tonys before they wed, making her far more famous in the public eye than he was at that point in his career. That's just one of many surprising details we learned during last night's U.S. premiere of Merely Marvelous. Believe us: You're gonna love her even more once you get to know her. Here are eight lesser-known tidbits to get you started.
Every dancer knows that how you fuel your body affects how you feel in the studio. Of course, while breakfast is no more magical than any other meal (despite the enduring myth that it's the most important one of the day), showing up to class hangry is a recipe for unproductive studio time.
So what do your favorite dancers eat in the morning to set themselves up for a busy rehearsal or performance day?
When it comes to dance in the U.S., companies in the South often find themselves overlooked—sometimes even by the presenters in their own backyard. That's where South Arts comes in. This year, the regional nonprofit launched Momentum, an initiative that will provide professional development, mentorship, touring grants and residencies to five Southern dance companies.