Majoring in dance is worth the difficulty in finding a job

By on January 8, 2013.

Excitement and relief. That is how dancers feel when they see their name on the list. Step one accomplished.

Over the course of their remaining college career, they will push themselves through the blood, sweat and tears and the tiresome hours of rehearsals. After years of studying with little time for sleep, it is time to wear that cap and gown. Panic and worry start to set in as they struggle to find a job after graduating.

[Photo taken by Mark Philbrick] Hilary Wolfley, a senior majoring in dance, leaps across the stage in Theatre Ballet’s production of “Snow Queen” last February.

Dancing at BYU

Kirsten Cannon, a junior majoring in dance, knew all along that she wanted to come to BYU to dance. After visiting the campus, she was impressed by BYU’s dance program and wanted to be a part of an uplifting and inspiring atmosphere.

“What I hope to get out of the dance major is a greater understanding of how I can use dance as a vehicle to enrich other people’s lives,” Cannon said. “I want to expand my view of dance and be shown different opportunities of how I can contribute my knowledge of dance with others.”

Cannon came to BYU to dance so she could achieve her career goals and discover her own niche in doing what she loved. Cannon knows that the dance major at BYU can prepare her for just that.

Preparing for the real world

Megan Beardall, the dance academic adviser at BYU, helps dance majors stay on track so all requirements are fulfilled for a timely graduation.

“Often students don’t realize how beneficial their academic adviser may be,” Beardall said. “We can clarify confusion about the degree programs, refer students to innumerable campus resources and help plan out a smooth path to completing their degree.”

Beardall advises dancers to network and talk to faculty, professional dancers and alumni to find out how they started their careers and learn of possible opportunities to help launch their own careers.

Kori Wakamatsu, the dance education committee chair and assistant professor of dance, said that the dance department is also trying to keep up with the times and make students more marketable by implementing an ePortfolio.

“I think this gives students tools to compile their best work, know how to share it electronically and learn how to communicate well in this media-saturated world,” Wakamatsu said. “We are constantly trying to improve and change our curriculum to match trends, while still providing a strong educational foundation.”

Difficulty in finding a job

During this difficult time, Wakamatsu emphasizes the need for dancers to think outside of the box because there are not very many nine to five, full benefit jobs in the arts. She mentions that it may take years for a dancer to land their ideal job in a big company and that dancers should not get discouraged about the amount of money they will make in the industry.

“One thing I love about the arts in general is that it’s not all about the money,” Wakamatsu said. “Sure, money is necessary, but artists live with a sense of passion and a pay-it-forward kind of attitude that is so motivating.”

Heidi Atkinson, a dance major alumnus, had to find a non-dance related job before she could land her dream job. However, she is still grateful for her education in dance as it sets her apart from her peers.

“Being a recent graduate, I have experienced the frustration of trying to find a job involving dance,” Atkinson said. “Although it was a struggle trying to find a job, the experiences I gained while being in school, performing and learning more about what I loved made it all worth it.”

Felicia McPhee, a recent alumnus in dance, knows the competitive nature of the dance field and is doing research about different dance companies. She hopes to find a performing job in a contemporary ballet company in the San Francisco area while her husband goes to law school.

“Right now I am preparing an audition video to send to companies,” McPhee said. “If they like my video, they will invite me to an audition class with the company. Some companies do it this way, some just have open calls for a mass amount of people.”

Majoring in dance does not automatically ensure students a job after graduation, but that is the same as many other majors. The excitement of getting into the major comes with a cost of difficulty in finding a job in the dance industry after leaving BYU. Regardless of the sacrifice and trials dance majors must go through, they continue to dance because they love it.

Valeria Chao

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