List of The 10 Best Colleges for Dance In the US

Jun 9, 2021

If you are fascinated by the New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, the Alonzo King LINES Ballet, or similar dance company in the entire world – classical or contemporary – you must know that each member of the company went to a top college to study dance.

What is so unique about the Dance Performance major? It’s probably one of the most physically intensive majors of all; every day, learners in this discipline wake up early in the morning and practice seven days a week for hours. 

These dancers learn about ballet, tap, jazz, contemporary styles, and other dance forms from the very best composers. They also need to balance their course structure of English and Math classes like every other college student.

When we study the backgrounds of the top dancers in the country, we consistently see the same handful of schools popping up.

So, we come down to your question– what are the top schools in the country for a dance performance? 

Here are ten great colleges for dance.

10. Cornish College of the Arts (Seattle, WA)

The four-year BFA at Cornish College of the Arts is a physically exhaustive major; students spend around 6-8 hours every day practicing and rehearsing in the school’s studios.

Cornish’s program is attractive, even dancers with good professional experience often apply; through the “Professional Dancers Program,” experienced dancers can finish a BFA program in less than two years.

Like many dance programs, ballet is the essence of the Cornish experience. The school also gives elective classes in jazz, tap, and even martial arts, among other styles.

9. Point Park University (Pittsburgh, PA)

Rated as a top dance program, it is among the best of the best in the world. As per the  OnStage, just 75 dancers are accepted out of over 1,000 applicants each year!

The faculty in the school is top-notch and among the most respected in the discipline. Garfield Lemonius, the Chair of the Dance program, has worked with fabulous talents like Alonzo King, Chuck Davis, and Bruce Wood.

One remarkable facility at the school for dancers is the George Roland White Performance Center, a $16,000,000 LEED-certified space housing 44,000 square feet of dance space. The university also has the on-campus Pittsburgh Playhouse, which performs to over 30,000 people every single year.

Pittsburgh is the country’s art capital, with dozens and dozens of theatres providing off-campus opportunities to students of this prestigious program.

8. Southern Methodist University (Dallas, TX)

Frequently we see lots of top dance programs in the country situated throughout the northeast and west coasts. Southern Methodist undoubtedly stands out from others in the excellence of its program and as the best program in the entire southern region of the country.

One striking aspect of the program is its partnership with the Texas Ballet Theater, the largest professional dance company in North Texas serving tens of thousands of patrons in the artistic center of Dallas/Fort Worth.

A premier destination for jazz and classical ballet styles, students are provided with fantastic opportunities to perform in many of Greater Dallas’ historic arts venues, including the Winspear Opera House as well as City Performance Hall.

The university has its own Bob Hope Theatre, a dance venue with a seating capacity of around 400.

7. University of Arizona (Tucson, AZ)

This Dance School is among the top contemporary and classical dance programs in the US. Students interested in such programs can pursue a BFA or an MFA at the program.

University of Arizona School of Dance is well-known for its student group known as The Dance Collective. Open to everyone at the university, The Dance Collective is composed chiefly of dance majors who endeavor to promote dance in all styles throughout the campus, the city of Tucson and even assist as the sponsor of the annual Arizona Jazz Dance showcase.

The program is known for taking care of its student’s health. Since 2013, a musculoskeletal clinic has been provided to dance students at the University of Arizona. The objective of this program is to reduce injury and enhance the performance of dance students at the school.

Public performances are one of the trademarks of this college. Throughout 2019-2020, seven subscription productions performed over several weeks will be performed by the college students.

6. University of North Carolina School of the Arts (Winston-Salem, NC)

One of the best art schools in the US, alumni of the UNCSA dance program, is now selected in renowned dance companies worldwide and teaching in major universities and academic institutions.

UNCSA is the elite educational subsidiary of the prestigious American Ballet Theatre (ABT). Also, dancers of ABT lead students in masterclasses and lessons. This collaboration is unmatched in the world of dance.

The Choreographic School at UNCSA gives students an excellent opportunity to work with rising professional choreographers designated as “fellows” of the program. In its third year, the program lately announced four fellows for the program, including UNCSA alumni.

Let’s check out the classical ballet and contemporary dance students at UNCSA

5. Oklahoma City University (Oklahoma City, OK)

The Ann Lacy School of Dance and Entertainment grants several degrees for ambitious dance professionals. The degrees include a Bachelor’s in Performing, Bachelors in Entertainment, Dance Management, and Pedagogy. The broad range of study options in dance at OKCU makes it an attractive option for any ambitious dance and performing arts expert.

OKCU is home to the Gaylord Dance Center, which is one of the finest educational facilities for dance in the entire country. Inside the Gaylord, Dance Center is a fabulous eight dance studios, student lounges, locker rooms, and a large atrium.

Performance opportunities are vital at OKCU. The program is home to the American Spirit Dance Company, established by Professor Jo Rowan, and the Spirit of Grace Liturgical Company. With the American Spirit Dance Company, students conduct a Broadway Revue.

Watch the OSU Pom Squad perform this awesome pom routine

4. Butler University (Indianapolis, IN)

Butler is constantly ranked in the top 10 dance programs in the country. Plus, there is a well-written “day in the life” part profiling Butler Dance over at Pointe Magazine.

Jordan College of the Arts at Butler, home to the school’s dance department, is among the noblest arts colleges in the country; the College of the Arts, overall, has a 94% placement rate for graduating students, one of the highest in the US.

The essence of the Butler experience is the Butler Ballet; at Butler Ballet, students perform professional level concert dances of classical productions, including  The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, Cinderella, and many more. Two full-scale ballets are displayed annually at Butler, according to the school’s website.

Check out this video of the second performance of Win during the Xavier game choreographed by the amazing Lisa Zaragoza from Pro Action Dance

3. Fordham University (New York, NY)

Have you ever heard of Alvin Ailey? One of the most significant choreographers of the 20th century, Alvin Ailey, founded the Ailey School, a premier training center for dancers throughout the nation.

In this particular program, students attend both the Ailey School full-time and Fordham University to bring together the perfection of the Ailey School’s faculty & state-of-the-art studios with the academic precision of a Fordham University.

Both Fordham and the Ailey School are situated in Lincoln Center, at the center of the arts scene in all of Manhattan.

Have a look at Fordham Cheerleaders and Dance Team Performs at Halftime

2. New York University Tisch School of the Arts (New York, NY)

Without a doubt, one of the best performing arts schools in the country, you can easily say that NYU Tisch is the top school in the country for the pre-professional dancer seeking both conservatory-level instruction and an overall university experience.

At NYU, students work with well-known faculty and choreographers who are some of the most famous people in contemporary dance. One way students get to work with these guest choreographers is with the help of the Second Avenue Dance Company. This NYU institution allows students to perform new and existing works choreographed by master artists.

The Chair of NYU Tisch’s Dance program is Seán Curran, a universally acclaimed American dancer and choreographer whose teaching accounts for over 100 institutions, including the American Dance Festival, Boston Conservatory, Bates Dance Festival, and many more.

Alumni of NYU Tisch Dance are operating throughout the world’s great companies and Broadway.

The Second Avenue Dance Company of NYU Tisch Dance presents its annual Major Dance Concert, celebrating the graduating class of 2018.

1. Juilliard School (New York, NY)

Where should I start talking about the Juilliard that has not already been spoken thousands of times by the well-known people of art? The success of the school speaks for itself by the amount of well-deserved recognition and prestige it receives.

One of the first “superstar” dance alumni of the school was Paul Taylor, who passed the program in 1953, just two years after the dance division at Juilliard was created. Still active now, his group, the Paul Taylor Dance Company, still tour and perform some of his 144 original works today.

Currently, Juilliard is composed of the leading personalities in the world of dance. Faculty from the school, popular performer and pedagogue Jeff Edwards, who is recognized as a premier talent and scholar of Balanchine’s works, has performed in world-famous dance companies and choreographed artists on Broadway and beyond.

Situated in New York City, the arts capital of the country, off-campus performance opportunities are shared here. Students perform in New York City’s legendary museums and venues, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney, Guggenheim, the Juilliard Opera, MoMa, and many more.

Watch highlights from Juilliard Dance's New Dances: Edition 2019, including works by choreographers Amy Hall Garner, Jamar Roberts, Andrea Miller, and Stephen Petronio premiered on December 11-15, 2019.

Conclusion:

These are our 10 of the best colleges for Dance Performance in the US. 

This ranking was designed as an “averaged” ranking – we saw at six other top dance colleges lists, assigned a score to each school on every list based on their position in each order, then built this list based on which schools had the highest score with all rankings considered.

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