Career Advice

Music in Motion

Student choreographers and musicians get collaborative.

You might think only professional dancers and choreographers get to perform with a full orchestra, or commission scores for their compositions. But some college programs offer opportunities to work directly with music students, giving dance majors a chance to learn from artists outside their department. “We are moving into an era where the lines between disciplines are blurred,” says Cathy Young, director of the dance division at The Boston Conservatory. “Learning how to collaborate is an invaluable experience in preparing for success as a 21st-century artist.”

A doctoral student from the Jacobs School of Music accompanies IU dancers. Photo Jeremy Hogan, Courtesy IU.

Indiana University

Bloomington, IN

Degrees offered: BFA and minor in dance through the department of theater, drama and contemporary dance

No. of majors: 50–60 total

Collaborative coursework: In a required course called Choreographic Projects, dancers work with artists in various departments, including composers from the Jacobs School of Music. Student musicians also accompany many dance concerts and musicals on campus, and are often involved in the annual concert produced by senior dance majors.

Music for dancers: All majors take music theory, and some study voice.

Additional opportunities: Each year, a group of student composers and dancers spend eight months collaborating on short original works, which they present at a local theater. A student-run dance group and choreography lab also offers chances to work with musicians on independent projects.

Stephens College

Columbia, MO

Degree offered: Three-year BFA in dance

No. of majors: 15–20 total

Collaborative coursework: Each year, Stephens choreographers collaborate with composers from University of Missouri’s Mizzou New Music Initiative to create original works. The process culminates in a student-produced performance accompanied by the New Music Initiative orchestra. This is the capstone project for the dance major.

Music for dancers: Dancers are required to earn three credits in music through music theory, piano or voice lessons, or music history.

Additional opportunities: Stephens recently expanded its interdisciplinary offerings by introducing a dance-for-camera course during      the summer.

TBC dancers in Francesca Harper’s Maladjusted Pride. Photo by Jim Coleman, Courtesy TBC.

The Boston Conservatory

Boston, MA

Degree offered: BFA in contemporary dance performance

No. of majors: 130 total

Collaborative coursework: In the school’s Junior Composition course (required for majors who choose the composition-and-improvisation emphasis), student choreographers create an original work with a composer from the music division or Berklee College of Music, which is merging with TBC. Many of the school’s dance performances are accompanied live by music division students—sometimes a full orchestra.

Music for dancers: Dance majors are required to take courses in Western music, time and rhythm, and voice. They can take additional music courses at Berklee.

Additional opportunities: Dance students have choreographed for music videos, participated in improv jams with music students and been part of the informal student-run performances that take place regularly at Berklee. 

The Conversation
Left: Misa Kuranaga in The Veritginous Thrill of Exactitude. Gene Schiavone, Courtesy Boston Ballet. Right: Sasha Mukhamedov in Apollo. Altin Kaftira, Courtesy Dutch National Ballet.

San Francisco Ballet just announced some major news: longtime Boston Ballet star Misa Kuranaga will be joining the company as a principal dancer for the 2019-20 season, while Dutch National Ballet principal Sasha Mukhamedov will join as a soloist. They join a slew of newly promoted SFB principals and soloists, announced earlier this year.

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The cast of Dragon Spring Phoenix Rise in rehearsal. Photo by Stephanie Berger, Courtesy The Shed

Akram Khan loves to dive into genres he is unfamiliar with. While his own movement vocabulary is a hybrid of kathak and contemporary dance, he has choreographed a new Giselle for English National Ballet, collaborated with flamenco artist Israel Galván and made a dance theater duet with film star Juliette Binoche. Now, in between touring Xenos, his final full-length solo, and several other projects, he's found time to tackle kung fu. Khan is part of the collaborative team behind Dragon Spring Phoenix Rise, a blockbuster musical based on themes of migration and the fight for survival, running June 22–July 27. Directed by Chen Shi-Zheng and featuring a score that remixes songs by Sia, it's part of the inaugural season of The Shed,
a new venue in New York City.

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