4 Tips for soon-to-be college dance graduates

Close up of a graduation cap and a certificate with a ribbon

by Roger Lee for The Dance Journal

Congratulations! Many college students are preparing to graduate next month with degrees in Dance. It can be hard for undergraduate dance majors to think about life after college with all of their current academic and extracurricular commitments. But it is still necessary. Especially with just one month left until graduation!

If you are a soon-to-be dance degree holder there is still time to prepare! Do not be afraid. There are still 4 main things that you can do to make your transition from college to professional dance as smooth as possible.

Tip # 1: Meet with your professors

Professors are there for a reason. They have been where you are and most likely been where you want to go. Professors have a wealth of knowledge both inside and outside of the dance studio. Most bring a combination of experience in academia, teaching, choreography, performance, directing, production, journalism, and research. Why not take full advantage of their diverse knowledge?

College dance majors often see their professors as their bosses. They come to class, study for exams, and complete assignments under the direction of their professors. However, few college dance majors take the time to get to know their professors outside of the confines of a classroom. They usually meet with them about coursework and rarely talk about their future dreams and ambitions within the field.

I recommend that graduating dance majors set up meetings with their professors before graduation. These meetings should serve as an opportunity for students to pick their professors’ brains, so to speak. Students should clearly articulate their goals within the dance field, ask for advice on achieving those goals, and ask about being connected to people in the field. Professors not only bring a wealth of experience and knowledge, but they also are heavily connected within the dance field. Making connections within the field is going to be a major requirement for newly degreed dancers entering the professional field.

Tip # 2: Network with Alumni

There are a growing number of college dance alumni in the real world. These alumni are connected to the small dance field. Chances are that alum are heavily involved in the dance field or know someone who is! As a soon-to-be dance degree holder, it is important to reach out to alumni of your college’s dance program.

How can you reach dance alumni? You can start by asking your college’s Alumni Relations and Career Services offices for leads. These particular offices exist to help connect alumni with current students. I recommend that graduating dance majors meet with staff from Alumni Relations and Career Services to find out what dance alum have been doing since graduation. Also, express your interest in networking with these alumni to jumpstart your professional career. Alumni Relations and Career Services will be more than happy to help you network with alumni!

Another option is to hit social networking sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. You can run a search for your school’s alumni and seek out those interested in dance and the arts. Once you find alumni, strike up an informal conversation online. Introduce yourself, ask about their time at your college and life after graduation, and express your personal dance goals and interests. Alumni usually love to give back to their college by helping current students. This presents them with a great opportunity to give back without making a monetary donation. Alumni will most likely be happy to give you some free, valuable career advice and help you transition from college to professional dance.

Tip # 3: Intern

Internships are a great way to gain valuable work experience, learn about your desired field, and network with potential employers. Dance internships can provide college graduates with hands-on experience that bridges the gap between college and the professional world.

Most new dance degree holders are in a period of transition immediately following graduation. Whether they are seeking a contracted company position, looking for a dance administrative position, forming their own dance ensemble, or preparing for graduate school, new dance degree holders are transitioning. Obtaining a dance-related internship can help make the transitional period a lot smoother. It may even lead to a full-time position or a great professional connection!

Tip # 4: Market Yourself

Dancers can be some of the most extroverted, confident people on stage. However, dancers can also be some of the shyest when it comes to marketing themselves. One of the main keys to success in the professional dance field is strong marketing. 21st Century dance artists will need to separate themselves from the pack by marketing their most unique qualities.

Dancers can now market themselves using the internet. Personal websites, blogs, and social media pages are all popular tools for dance marketing. I recommend that soon-to-be dance degree holders invest in having a creative, informative, and user-friendly website created to showcase their work. I also recommend that they spend lots of time posting engaging content and building membership on all of their social media pages. Dance marketing has officially become easier thanks to the internet.

About Roger Lee

Roger Lee is a nationally published dance journalist whose work has appeared in Dance Magazine, Dance Magazine College Guide, Dance USA/e-journal, The Dance Enthusiast, The Dance Journal, Dance Advantage, Broad Street Review, and 4dancers.org. His self-published writing includes the e-books Your Freelance Artist Advantage (2016) and Overcoming Dance Fear (2014) and the Roger Lee Arts Blog for artist career tips and interviews. Roger's dance teaching credits include Joffrey Ballet School, Broadway Dance Center, The Rock School for the Dance Education, Koresh School of Dance, Joan Myers Brown's Philadelphia School of Dance Arts, University of Pennsylvania, Eastern University, and Ursinus College. In 2012, he founded the Roger Lee Dance Company that went on to perform for Philadanco's Founders Day Concerts, WaWa Welcome America Festival, and the 2016 Democratic National Convention. Roger earned his Master's Degree in Arts Administration from Drexel University and Bachelor's Degree in Dance and Media & Communication Studies from Ursinus College.

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