At Reigate Dance Centre, we're often asked this questions from our parents and older dance pupils, and there isn't a straightforward answer. Do they go the academic or performers route? If so, which colleges are best for the career path they want?
The first question to ask is what career do they want? Teaching, pure dance performing, theatre/West End performing, and so on. This is extremely important, as this decision will influence their career.
DANCE INTEREST CAREERS
For those who have been dancing for a long time but have no desire to have a career in performing or teaching dance, we have had some students use their dance knowledge to specialize in other careers. For example, one girl has become a fully qualified physiotherapist. She has treated dance related injuries and being a dancer herself she can fully relate to the patients she treats. Others have gone the fitness route with dance featuring within their fitness programmes.
DANCE UNIVERSITIES / DEGREE ROUTE
Most universities will cover a broad range of dance styles and and you will learn much about physiology and become an overall performer. Candidates will get a degree after 3 years, and those who don't perform mostly go into teaching or advisory careers. There are some universities which specialize more in performance in certain dance genres, but generally they give you an "educated" dance performance training. Some do go on to perform, while many of the others teach.
Generally, these are geared more towards the performer although many offer teaching programmes if you prefer this route. There are several questions to ask when applying for these colleges? Ask your teacher about advice as they know your full potential. Although on paper some of these colleges offer all-round training, some are known more for their specific dance genre training.
For a career in Musical Theatre, there are so many colleges out there at the moment. However, there are a handful of colleges that keep producing students who perform regularly in the West End and these have longevity and working experience of what the industry wants. These colleges include Laines Theatre Arts, Doreen Bird, Arts Educational School, London Studio Centre, Performers, Mountview, Guildford School of Acting (GSA musical theatre) to name but a few.
The Royal Ballet School has an outstanding training for ballet, plus any of the following: English National Ballet School, Tring, Central School of Ballet and Elmhurst. There are others - for example our own past pupil went to ballet West in Scotland to study dance. She is now dancing professionally on MSC crusies in her 3rd year.
There are other colleges which specialize in Contemporary Dance which offer outstanding training and doesn't necessarily limit you in that field. Street/Hip-Hop schools are equally rewarding.
Whichever path you choose, the career of a dancer is tough one, but it is one of the most rewarding careers out there. Our advice is to learn as many styles as you can as a child, performing in shows and possibly taking examinations if you plan to teach in the future, educate yourself with current shows/artists/styles, remaining current and broadening your horizons. A strong ballet training is considered important, but with the diversity of embracing other styles in your dance for you to be as adaptable as possible should you wish to work in the industry. Most of the colleges mentioned will give you an all-round training for you to be able to adapt. Talk to your teachers and really listen to their advice. Try talking with other professional dancers or college graduates and absorb their advice and knowledge.
The rest is up to you