Perspectives on Dance and College: Part 2

If you are in high school or know someone who is, you know that making choices about higher education can be tough. If you are a dancer, you know that allowing dance training to play into that decision can make the process even more challenging! There are so many factors - and opinions - to take into account. You have to ask many questions that don't always seem to have clear answers, like: 

  • Can majoring in dance at a college be a helpful stepping stone for my career? 
  • Is college the only way to receive post-high school training in dance? 
  • Can I go to college and major in something besides dance? 
  • Is it best to go to college right out of high school?

With these and similar questions in mind, we asked Ballet 5:8 Company Artists and School of the Arts instructors to reflect on their traditional or nontraditional experiences in college. Throughout the series, you'll see a variety of stories from different perspectives. Hopefully, this will help you as you consider questions about dance and higher education for yourself!

Brette Benedict

Brette Benedict is a Lead Artist with the Ballet 5:8 proffessional company. She is also the Ballet Mistress for Ballet 5:8's Trainee Program as well as the company Répétiteur.

So, what did you do for college?

For college I attended Indiana University full time.  In order to attend the ballet program you had to be accepted into the University as well as the Jacobs School of Music.  The music school is one of the top music schools in America.

What made you decide to do this? When did you decide what you would do for college? 

Honestly, it was a rather difficult decision for me to make.  In my mind I thought that I would be "ruining" my dancing career if I went to college.  I didn't make the decision to go to college until audition season was over.  I was attending the Rock School's RAPA program (Rock Academic Program Alliance).  While being a part of that program the program director insisted that we all apply to six colleges.  I was able to get away with only applying to three: University of Utah, Butler University, and Indiana University.  Once I had gone through the entire audition season I only had two options, attend North Carolina Dance Theater's Trainee Program (which is now Carolina Ballet) or attend any of the three colleges I had applied to.  On receiving my acceptance into the Jacob's School of Music I was also offered a scholarship.  It still seemed like an impossible decision to make.  Once talking to a couple of my teachers at the Rock they convinced me that IU was the best decision for me.  I will never know what would have happened if I had taken my other option but I know that I wouldn't be where I am today had I not attended IU.

What top pro’s and con’s stand out to you about doing what you did for college? 

There were a lot of pros to attending Indiana University but also just college in general.  I watched many dancers realize that dance is not what they wanted to do, which allowed them to continue dancing a little while longer while pursing a degree in anything else. While I attended IU, I watched dancers leave with business, pre-med, history degrees and many others.  IU's program is extremely unique.  Most dancers graduated with an outside field, which is a degree that is a little more then a minor but a little less then a major.  Some people put in the extra hours to just get that full second degree upon graduating.  Some added on some minors.  There were other dancers that left before graduating because they got a job with a professional dance company.  They have since then come back for the summer and done some online classes to complete their degrees.  I think all this goes to show that IU's program is very helpful to each individual's needs for whatever you would like to pursue. 

Other pros are like a lot of other colleges.  You get to work with different choreographers and really begin to build your resume a little more.  There are three large production each year.  Since the University has a lot of money they are able to bring in ballets that you would only have the opportunity if you were a part of a large company.  Ballets that include choreographers such as Balanchine, Anthony Tudor, and many others! You perform with live music for each production since the music school has five orchestras and a few bands. As well as a large chorus of singers! Other performing opportunities are with the Operas they put together.  They have six operas each season, though they don't always add dancers to them.  Over my time at IU I was in three Operas, one of which included West Side Story which was set by choreographer Joshua Bergasse who is an Emmy Award winner. 

Another pro is that there are hundreds of free concerts and recitals every year. 

The last pro I will include is that since its a part of such a large university you have many opportunities to have a "normal" college life.  With football, basketball, soccer games, and many other events that are fun to attend.  As you can see I could go on for a long time.  Feel free to ask me anytime you see me if you have any questions about IU! I can't really think of any cons. There is a possibility that you end up realizing a career in ballet is not what you want, but from watching the experience of some of my friends, they said they liked the environment that they were in as they finished up their time with ballet.

Are you currently using your degree? If so, how, and if not, what are your hopes for the future? 

My degree upon graduating from IU was a Bachelor of Science in Ballet.  I would say if I'm dancing I'm using my degree though it isn't necessary to be a ballet dancer.  The fact that you graduate with a BS instead of a BFA has been convenient for a lot of dancers to go back to grad school should they choose to do that. 

What is one piece of advice you have for student dancers considering higher education?

Definitely consider it! Also, do your research and really begin to ask yourself what it is you really want to do with dance.  There are a lot of great dance programs in America, each with their own focus on dance, whether its ballet, modern, contemporary, etc.