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Are you considering a graduate school program in dance? In the summer of 2022 NDEO reached out to graduate student members to get their perspective and insight into their graduate school experience, including why they decided to attend graduate school in dance or dance education, how they chose the school that they attend, and what advice they had for others considering an advanced degree. We heard from 21 members representing 16 different graduate school institutions, and have gathered their advice on available programs, choosing a program, preparing to apply to grad school, how to be successful in grad school, and how NDEO can help you in your graduate school endevours.
Pursuing a graduate degree in dance or dance education can be a great way to advance your career, opening the door to new opportunities in teaching, choreography, administration, publishing, and other areas of the dance education field. Graduate study in dance or dance education allows you to explore specific areas of interest, grow your professional network, and hone your pedagogical, creative, and research skills. If you are a recent graduate of an undergraduate program in dance, graduate school can help you prepare for a specialized career path or enter the field at a higher rate of pay.
Greer Shammah, a student at Hunter College, recognized that a graduate degree was an efficient way to achieve her career goals. As she states, “The main reason I decided to attend graduate school was that I needed a master's degree and certification. This decision has greatly impacted my career thus far. I was able to get a job in my field immediately and obtain the certification I needed quickly. If I didn't go to graduate school, this path would have been longer and more difficult”
A Master’s program helped Katrina Brown-Aliffi feel more prepared to start her career as a dance educator. “I decided to attend graduate school initially at the MA level because I felt underprepared in dance education pedagogical and instructional techniques, and I wanted to become a stronger and more responsible educator and develop my ability to think critically about curricular choices and the impact those had on my students,” she says.
Similarly, Marissa Maddox (pictured right), from New York University Steinhardt School of Education felt that graduate school would help her prepare for a meaningful teaching career: “I wanted to be able to broaden my reach and find ways to impact more students. It has opened my mind to so many things that I had never even considered pre-grad school. It has impacted my career by giving me more opportunities for connections and in classroom learning experiences. I feel more equipped to teach than I ever felt after other programs.”
For those already working as a dance teacher, a graduate degree in dance or dance education can help fill in gaps in your knowledge and skills, helping you teach more effectively. Karolina Holmstrom, a student at Rutgers University, is one of many educators who experienced this firsthand: “Upon graduating with my BFA in 2019, I had no interest in teaching, but fell into several teaching positions out of necessity. Over time, I saw how fulfilling it was to teach students through movement-based practices and decided that getting my MEd was the best way to improve my teaching skills and take the next step in my career.” Working dance educators who pursue an advanced degree can also receive practical benefits, such as an increase in salary.
Nancy Dobbs Owen (pictured left), who recently earned an MFA from Goddard College, reminds us that it is never too late to pursue an advanced degree: “I would really encourage anyone considering grad school to take their time--have a career to draw from. Academic study is amazing, but life experience is essential.”
Graduate school is a time to deepen your knowledge of a subject, as well as to contribute new knowledge to the field through research. Through the intense study involved in graduate-level education, you will build your personal understanding of dance and related topics, and discover new ways to apply it throughout your professional life. Ashlee Rapoza, a graduate student at New York University, “I decided to attend graduate school to further my education and to fill in gaps I was missing from my undergraduate experience. I wanted to be a better educator and to learn different ways and techniques of being an educator. Because of this decision, my knowledge of the dance world has broadened extensively. My teaching is more culturally responsive, as is my every day life.”
Eto’o Tsana of Hunter College knew that graduate studies would have a profound impact on her career by connecting her to a community of like minded individuals: “I decided to attend graduate school because I wanted to deepen the conversations. I felt the need to explore and connect with other professionals that invested the efforts to deeply and truly learn and move their craft beyond the physical practice. Thus far connecting with other professionals has bridged the gap in resources that I did not know existed, helped me make connections with others who share my interests, and strengthened my desire to highlight what I do from different professional lenses.”
If you are making a career change, graduate school can be an important part of that transition. This was the case for Rosari Sarasvaty (pictured right), a student at New York University, who made the jump from legal professional to dance educator. She says, “Graduate school has made my career transition rather seamless. It provides me with tools that help me navigate my dance teaching career. It has opened up job opportunities for me, and I will start working as a Children's Division Coordinator at Northern Plains Dance right after my graduation.”
No matter why you are considering graduate school, Nicole Greene-Cramer of Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance has some advice: “GO! I truly believe we need to continuously evolve as dance educators in order to provide high quality training for our students. Getting to learn from top researchers and educators in the field while earning a degree can greatly benefit you and your students. You're also experiencing education from a student perspective again which is humbling and insightful as an educator.”
Dance and Dance Education Graduate School Programs
Finding the Right Program For You
Before Applying to Graduate School
Success in Graduate School
How Can NDEO Help You?
Photo Credits (in order from top to bottom): Barbara McAllister, Rebecca Marcela Oviatt, Michael Higgins, Becca Vision