I Have A B.F.A….And I’m Not Afraid To Use It

“…I always feel prepared. I have a million and one experiences I can pull from that help me every day that I continue to dance.”

Last night I was sitting in my kitchen handwriting ballet class plans. It reminded me of the plethora of class plans I wrote over the course of my college career and how I had vowed many times to never write another. But I still do. I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.) degree in Ballet Pedagogy from The Hartt School at the University of Hartford. This ever-expanding program helped me learn about every aspect of the dance world-ballet technique, modern technique, Graham technique (oh lord, those hip flexors), anatomy, pedagogy, marketing, backstage work, stage management (the power of the headset), choreography, improvisation, grant writing, studio ownership-tools for any dance career imaginable. But dancers and non-dancers alike should understand that receiving an arts education in a conservatory-style environment is not a piece of cake. It’s not all “let’s dance today!” and “how does this piece make you feel?…” It’s work. I believe it to be work that can refine our talents, molding us into ideal candidates for the dance professions of the world.

Paquita, The Hartt School, 2010
Paquita, The Hartt School, 2010

B.F.A. programs are not for everyone. We all have different needs. But I believe it is an excellent path if you are looking to continue your education and prepare yourself for a career in dance. This was a step I needed. And the amount of information and experience I gained in four years, honestly went above and beyond my expectations.

What’s also fantastic about the B.F.A. path is the preparation you receive for company life. I was in awe when I began my college dance training because to me it was like a summer program that never ended. And isn’t that what being a company dancer is like? Although our lives are also filled with second jobs and teaching, it’s really all dance all the time in a company. And that can be a transition. Not only mentally, but physically. You have to know what you can handle. You must constantly push yourself to your absolute best and beyond, but in a healthy and safe way. If you give just a little too much, it can be your downfall.

Hartt School Graduation Day, Class of 2011
Hartt School Graduation Day, Class of 2011

Now obviously I have a bias towards B.F.A. programs. But, honestly, at The Hartt School I experienced some of my proudest and most challenging moments. As a dance educator, I find myself constantly referencing stories I heard or things I experienced (stories from Hilda Morales of ABT and filming The Turning Pointe; improv-ing on the streets of downtown Hartford with my classmates; stage managing an entire show for the first time; teaching class and cuing a live pianist…). Now I always feel prepared. I have a million and one experiences I can pull from that help me every day that I continue to dance. And as a teacher, I am essentially certified to teach ballet. I have meticulously studied every level, and I have a slew of lesson plans, Richard Glasstone articles, and technique books to prove it.

I’m proud of what I accomplished in those four years. Some believe that by going to college you take time away from your dance career. I believe it is a stepping stone to it and a time to gather every possible tool you can to help you succeed (when you are ready). B.F.A. dancers can dance, teach, choreograph, and successfully operate their own studios. We are an asset to our art form, and we are making long-lasting contributions as performers and educators. I decided to get a B.F.A., and it’s one of the best decisions I ever made.

2015, Photo Credit-Keith Alan Sprouse
2015, Photo Credit-Keith Alan Sprouse

 

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