Dr. Cheryl L. Sington is a truly amazing woman with a wealth of knowledge about the dance industry, dance education, and financing higher education. Academically, Dr. Sington has a double major undergraduate degree in Dance & Theatre from the University of Alabama, a Master’s of Education from Middle Tennessee State University, and a PhD in Psychology. Aside from that, Dr. Sington is also a Studio Owner and Educational Consultant, and, as a side note, she also appeared in Michael Jackson’s Thriller video (among many other professional performance, choreographic, and directorial credits). What a resume! We are thrilled to have her as a contributor at The Dance Exec and look forward to her upcoming, informative posts.

What Will My Students Do Next?

By Dr. Cheryl L. Sington

While only a small percentage of dancers will pursue a career in dance, everyone should continue their education after high school. However, in today’s world, it has become a tedious process that easily becomes overwhelming, resulting in many young adults choosing to go straight into the work force instead of continuing their education. Whether your students want to pursue an education and career in dance or accounting, knowledge of this process is invaluable, as is the education they will receive. Education is knowledge and knowledge is power!

It is important to familiarize yourself with options for students wishing to continue their education in dance. There are many different paths one can choose. There is no choice that is wrong. Your students must consider, based on their particular goals, dreams, and life situation, the choice that is most right for them.

The choice of public or private colleges and universities, conservatories, performing arts schools, professional companies can be overwhelming since there are many options available for each. The degree that comes from each of the different choices is a part of understanding the process and beginning your students’ search for the right place to study.

The Associate of Art’s degree comes from a 2-year community college or junior college. The Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees comes from 4-year universities, colleges, conservatories or specific performing arts programs. Understanding what each degree allows your students to gain post-graduation is important in the decision making process. Many colleges and universities are associated with or have specialized programs within their majors. For instance, Fordham University has a partnership with Alvin Ailey. New York University has one of the top, competitive programs at Tisch School of the Arts. Then, there are also specialized programs such as the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, The Julliard School, the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, Florida School of the Arts, New World School of the Arts and many more! Most colleges and programs require auditions, so maintaining awareness regarding options, dates, and application/ audition time frames is key.

Students must also look at the actual program/course of study and determine if the program focuses on their preferred styles or disciplines of dance. Most collegiate programs focus on Ballet and Modern, but many have a much larger scope of study, which can range from Musical Theater to Tap. It is important to know what you want, but to also be open to learning other things, as no artist ever completes their learning curve throughout their life. There are a number of careers beyond working in the industry as a professional dancer. Exploring every path possible is important in gaining the much-needed knowledge and information required to make an informed decision.

Perhaps, your students would like to teach dance at a high school, or work in Dance Therapy? Maybe your students would like to direct and choreograph? Whatever their desire, let them know that it is attainable.

Many may think, “I know what I want to do in college, but I cannot afford to go.” There are plenty of grants and scholarships that allow you to reach your goals and attend any program of your choosing after high school. Do not let money be an obstacle to your education! It takes work to get the money, but it is well worth it in the end.

Keep in mind that students can continue their education, regardless of circumstance. As educators, it is imperative that we be resourceful, knowledgeable, and supportive about every available avenue. Encourage your older students to consider their future plan of action. How can you help them pursue their dreams?

In the coming weeks I will discuss Financial Aid, Scholarships and Grants. Be sure to check back for future topics on educational matters! cheryl sington