The Latest: BFA Fast Track
Boston Conservatory faculty member Adriana Suárez. Photo Courtesy Boston Conservatory.
The Boston Conservatory and Walnut Hill School for the Arts have had a close relationship for some time. They are only 30 minutes apart in Massachusetts and share one full-time faculty member, as well as guest and adjunct faculty. But in fall 2015, the college and boarding school will make their partnership official. A new program will allow select Walnut Hill graduates to earn a BFA in dance from Boston Conservatory in three years. “In some ways the creation of the partnership was organic,” says Walnut Hill director of dance Michael Owen, who proposed the program one year ago. TBC dance director Cathy Young agrees. “The more we talked, the more we saw similarities in what both schools believe is essential to developing dance artists. We’ve taken a few Walnut Hill students each year, so we know they’re a great fit for our program.”
Walnut Hill students still must complete the audition and application process to be accepted into the college. Owen will identify possible candidates from Walnut Hill as early as their sophomore year, and the Conservatory director and assistant director will observe these students in classes and performances during their junior year. Candidates who are then invited to apply will submit application materials and audition in the fall of their senior year. Accepted dancers must complete three specified Walnut Hill upper-level academic courses that have been approved by Boston Conservatory before they begin their first year. Young predicts she will take about five students, out of an approximately 30-student Boston Conservatory class, from Walnut Hill each year.
Once at Boston Conservatory, students will be completely integrated with other freshman dancers, though they will be working toward slightly different degrees; traditional Conservatory students graduate with a BFA in contemporary dance performance. Curriculum will follow the same requirements, from technique classes to pedagogy to Laban, but students on the three-year track will have a condensed final year that combines junior and senior coursework. The program is especially attractive for students who may have considered forgoing college to start their professional careers. “It will be extremely useful for our dancers to be able to enter the professional field a little earlier,” says Owen. “But most importantly, they’ll be able to do it with a degree under their belts.”
Dancers are understandably obsessed with food. In both an aesthetic and athletic profession, you know you're judged on your body shape, but you need proper fuel to perform your best. Meanwhile, you're inundated with questionable diet advice.
"My 'favorite' was the ABC diet," says registered dietitian nutritionist Kristin Koskinen, who trained in dance seriously but was convinced her body type wouldn't allow her to pursue it professionally. "On the first day you eat only foods starting with the letter A, on the second day only B, and so on."
Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.
"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."
Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.
Now, college scholarships are just one of many ways NYCDA has gone beyond the typical weekend-long convention experience and created life-changing opportunities for students. We rounded up some of the most notable ones:
Yvonne Rainer's Parts of Some Sextets (AKA "the mattress dance") hasn't been revived since it premiered in 1965. Nor has Rainer had any wish to do it again, to ask performers to heave 10 mattresses around while carrying out 31 tasks that changed every 30 seconds. It was an unwieldy, difficult dance. (Even the title is unwieldy.) But Emily Coates, who has danced in Rainer's work for 20 years, became curious about this piece and was determined to see it again—and to dance in it. She will get her wish November 15–17, when the mattress dance will be performed as part of the Performa 19 Biennial.
"The show must go on" may be a platitude we use to get through everything from costume malfunctions to stormy moods. But when it came to overcoming a literal hurricane, Houston Ballet was buoyed by this mantra to go from devastated to dancing in a matter of weeks—with the help of Harlequin Floors, Houston Ballet's longstanding partner who sprang into action to build new floors in record time.