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To degree or not to degree?

That is the question. When it comes to studying intensively in the dance field, a dancer has several options to continue dance education after completing a secondary education. Most dancers, with the exception of those who are dancing in a professional company or training in an intensive classical ballet program affiliated with a company, are a bit too young to jump into the professional dance world immediately following high school graduation. When thinking about how you want to continue your young pre-professional or professional dance education, you want to think about what kind of training curriculum will fit your particular needs.

Differences between Conservatories and Certificate Programs

Like conservatories, admission to certificate programs is audition-based. While a typical dance BFA program or university college with a dance major/minor will require you to complete numerous academic credits, a certificate dance program usually will not.

Typically, certificate dance programs target young, emerging dancers between the ages of 17 and approximately 25. These programs range in length, but it will usually take two to three years to complete one’s training and earn a verified certificate. Some of these programs will have multiple tracks or focuses to choose from. For instance, the certificate program at Peridance Capezio Center, a well-known training school in the heart of NYC, has a Ballet/Contemporary dance track, as well as a Commercial dance track. Other certificate programs, such as the highly reputable certificate program at the Ailey School, have core curriculums that encompass an eclectic selection of styles, and a wide variety of repertoire. Certificate programs are like conservatory dance programs minus the liberal arts education. Some certificate programs will include dance seminars, and classes such as dance history, but the main focus of these programs is on technique classes and performance experience.

Benefits of Certificate Programs 

Certificate programs will provide dancers with rigorous training and ample performance and networking opportunities. Similar to certificate dance programs are year-round training programs, which allow young dancers to enroll and train similarly year round, but without verification of course completion.  These programs are highly specialized and focused, and for advanced dancers, who possess the talent and motivation, can be highly beneficial. It is really impossible for an individual to say whether or not a certificate program or conservatory program would increase the chances of dancers getting jobs. So, what itreally comes down to is whether or not a substantial, supplemental academic education is important to you alongside your dance training.

The Case for Conservatories

As someone who comes from a conservatory dance background, I see the benefits to both. A certificate program, being shorter in length, may ultimately be much less expensive than attending a conservatory. These programs give dancers an opportunity to focus on training and not worry about other obligations. At the same time, having a substantial liberal arts education can help inform dancers about the world, and allow them to explore outside areas of interest. The conservatory approach provides dancers with a more well-rounded, balanced education. These intellectual experiences and explorations will further inform the dancer as an artist and an individual.

A few exceptional certificate or year-round dance programs include Peridance Capezio Center and The Ailey School as I mentioned earlier. In addition, Alonzo Kings Lines Ballet school has a two-year ballet training program for dancers ages 17-24. The San Francisco Conservatory provides intensive training in ballet and modern for professional dancers ages 17-23. Lastly, the Millennium Dance Complex in Los Angeles, California, has a commercial dance certificate program ranging from 3 months to one year of training. These are just to name a few! When it comes to choosing the right place, I would recommend thinking about location—where do you want to dance in case you find a local choreographer that you want to continue working with after graduation? Above all, do your research, and think about your particular needs as a student.

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