Perspectives on Dance and College: Part 3

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!

Lorianne Barclay

Lorianne Barclay is in her third year as a Ballet 5:8 Company Artist. She currently serves as our resident Ballet 5:8 costume designer and Head of Wardrobe in addition to dancing and teaching a few classes at Ballet 5:8 School of the Arts. 

Q. So, what did you do for college?

I went to the Academy of Art University as a full-time online student and graduated with a degree in Graphic Design.

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

I took two years after High-school before deciding my direction for college. I chose online so that I could get a degree  during my “college years” while dancing in a trainee program. I looked into a dance degree but decided I wanted to major in something other than ballet, something that could support me while I danced and become my main job later on when I retire from performing. The online route worked for me because it fit into my busy dance schedule and cut out commute and class time significantly. 

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

I was able to kill two birds with one stone! I got both a high quality training (in my home town!) while also getting a collage degree. It was a welcomed contrast to have something other than ballet to focus on. The only disadvantages were that I was extremely busy. I had little spare time and managed my time my a sergeant. I would encourage dancers considering this path to lighten the load by doing part-time (if possible). But for the most part, dancers are trained to be very self-motivated and disciplined which works well with an online education. I also felt like being a part of a university helped me gain a broader perspective on the arts culture at broad, not just in dance.

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

Yes, I do freelance and contracted graphic design work on the side (elementaldesigner.com). I have even had the joy of designing for Ballet 5:8 recently!

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

Think long term. Unfortunately, ballet isn’t forever, but that doesn’t have to be a reason for you not to dance now. It is a so short window of time you get the privilege to dance. So take it! And if you have an interest in another field outside of dance it can be a great outlet to explore. Who knows! It might even help get you a job in the ballet world.