Dance departments run by choreographers with active companies
While many college programs provide good foundations for dancers hoping to work professionally, sometimes the leap from classwork to career can seem daunting. Some schools have created a natural bridge between the two by tapping choreographers who lead vibrant companies to head their dance departments. These directors’ groups frequently spend solid chunks of time on campus, giving students an up-close-and-personal view of company life. “It demystifies the idea of the professional dancer, but also exposes students to their rigor and discipline,” says Connecticut College dance chair David Dorfman. And occasionally, a student’s work in the dance department even leads to a job offer with the troupe—a significant career jumpstart. —Margaret Fuhrer
Located: New London, CT
Degrees offered: BA, minor in dance
No. of dance majors: About 40
No. of studios: 3
Dance department chair: David Dorfman
Affiliated company: David Dorfman Dance
Alumni who’ve joined the company: Several, including current company member Raja Kelly
Nature of the school/company relationship: Since the fall of 2007, David Dorfman Dance has been permanent company-in-residence at Connecticut College, which allows the troupe to spend several weeks on campus over the course of the year. Company members not only teach classes but also take them alongside students, and students are welcome to sit in on any DDD rehearsals. Each year DDD dancers also contribute to the seminar for senior dance majors, answering their questions about life in a professional company.
Above: David Dorfman leads class at Connecticut College. Photo by Adam Campos, Courtesy Connecticut College.
UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA
Located: Minneapolis, MN
Degrees offered: BA, BFA in dance
No. of dance majors: 96
No. of studios: 4
Director of dance: Ananya Chatterjea
Affiliated company: Ananya Dance Theatre
Alumni who’ve joined the company: Three of ADT’s 10 current members
Nature of the school/company relationship: Though Ananya Dance Theatre has no set residency at the University of Minnesota, the company frequently rehearses on campus, allowing dance students to rub elbows with company members. This summer ADT will also host a summer intensive at UMN for the first time. ADT uses a specific vocabulary based on classical Indian dance, a style Chatterjea also teaches at UMN. Occasionally, she’ll mix students and company dancers in performance projects, including a showing at the Weisman Art Museum.
Above: Ananya Chatterjea corrects a University of Minnesota student. Photo by Brandon Stengel, Farm Kid Studios, Courtesy Ananya Dance Theatre.
Located: Princeton, NJ
Degrees offered: Certificate (minor) in dance
No. of dance certificates awarded annually: About 12
No. of studios: 4
Dance program director: Susan Marshall
Affiliated company: Susan Marshall & Company
Alumni who’ve joined the company: None yet, though students have appeared as volunteers in SMC performances in New York
Nature of the school/company relationship: Each year, Marshall teaches a special course as part of Princeton’s Atelier program, which is designed to allow professional artists to engage students in their creative practices. Susan Marshall & Company members usually participate in these courses. Last year, Marshall and SMC dancer Kristin Clotfelter worked with Princeton students on a duet that ultimately became part of Play/Pause, which SMC premiered and toured last fall.
Above: Susan Marshall works with Princeton students. Photo by Denise Applewhite, Courtesy Princeton University.