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Discovering College and Career Preparation

This is an excerpt from Discovering Dance With Web Resources by Gayle Kassing.

Moving in new ways, remembering movement sequences, and executing them in time to music within changing formations and pathways is challenging. Dancing is a complicated process that requires mental and physical coordination, memorization, problem solving, refining, and performing. Like sports and many other fine arts, dancing demands that you juggle many factors to perform at your best. College and careers demand the same.

The processes of dancing, dance making, and dance appreciation fuel the discipline of dance. Across the arts the processes of creating, performing, responding, and interconnecting support other studies. Learning the movement languages of dance genres helps you not only in dance-related studies and careers but also in other arts-related disciplines and in life.

Activity 15.1 Research

College and Career Options

Write a list of two or three potential careers in dance, fine arts, or another discipline that you are interested in learning more about. Do an Internet search about each career, and note the following factors:

  • Educational requirements
  • Skills and abilities needed for this career
  • Working conditions (for example, hours)
  • Pay range and other benefits
  • Personal benefits and values someone in this career would receive

After you have collected the answers to these questions for each career path, write a short descriptive paragraph about each career, and share it with the class.

In another document, write what appeals to you about this career. Also add what you think are your challenges in considering this career. Decide whether this career is a future possibility for further consideration or it is not a direction you wish to pursue.

Did You Know?

Dance Employment

The U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics posts the Occupational Outlook Handbook on its website ( This handbook includes employment information about dancers and choreographers as part of the country's work force. These government data provide information about work environment, pay scale, and job outlook for the future as well as other information. In 2010 about 25,600 dancers and choreographers held jobs. Approximately 20 percent of dancers in performing arts companies and about 78 percent of choreographers work in a variety of schools and other places (Bureau of Labor Statistics 2012).

Employment of dancers is expected to increase at about 11 percent with a projected employment of 13,700 more people by 2020. This percentage is in the average range of all occupations. Employment of choreographers is projected to increase 24 percent with a projected employment of 16,400 by 2020. This is faster than the average for all occupations. The growing interest in dance as entertainment attracts people to enroll in dance classes. In turn, this growth in enrollment creates employment opportunities in television, movies, and other leisure settings.

Exploring Dance and Associated Careers

Imagine you are looking for a job, and you see an advertisement that reads, "Employer looking for creative, innovative, adaptive thinkers. If you are qualified, please apply." As a dancer, you can meet these and other requirements for work in the 21st century. Dancing, dance making, and thinking like a dancer train you in the skills you need for your education and career.

The time since the start of the new millennium has seen tremendous changes at a rapid pace. This quick pace is in part because of advances in technology that affect everyday lives and careers. Near the end of the 20th century, some of the world's greatest thinkers began to investigate what types of knowledge and skills 21st-century workers and citizens would need to be successful. As a result, they identified various types of learning and literacy such as financial, environmental, artistic, and others.

Across these categories, a series of broad topics reach from school to work, into the community, and the world:

  • Communication
  • Creativity
  • Collaboration
  • Critical thinking

The skills that support these four C's for 21st-century learning are presented in table 15.1.

Scanning the entries in table 15.1 can be overwhelming. Pause a moment, and reflect on the assignments you did in the chapters of this book and your other class work. Then, recall the dance learning processes contained in the items listed. The point to remember is that the four topics contain major knowledge and skills that span dance and other disciplines of study as preparation for college and careers. In table 15.1 you will see that some of the skills identified cross one or more of the four categories.

Acquiring these attributes is a long-term process; it can take many years to complete. Reading these ideas gives you an understanding of how learning spans from the classroom through experiences in your community and life. These four C's are deeply embedded in dancing, dance making, and dance appreciation processes:

  • Communicating through dance: In dance you communicate when you create, perform, or reflect on a dance work. In making a dance, the choreographer, dancers, and associated artistic staff need common arts vocabularies to effectively communicate, analytical skills to solve problems, and negotiation and teamwork skills along with an array of management skills to create and produce a dance performance.
  • Creativity: When choreographers and dancers analyze and solve movement problems in a dance work, they use the creative process. The choreographer approaches an idea or theme for a dance and creatively seeks a choreographic design through which to communicate a cohesive artistic statement. The audience viewing a dance reflects and analyzes what they perceive as the meaning and the design of the dance work. Their feedback may be communicated to the dancers, choreographer, artistic staff, or the community. These responses can influence the direction of a choreographer's future works, artistic directions, or a company's finances.
  • Collaboration: Collaboration is an integral part of dancing and creating artistic works with other artists. Improvisational structures and dance compositional forms require that dancers work as a highly functioning team to perform a dance. In dance making, choreographers strategically plan movement for dancers to communicate ideas. Associated artists join forces to present a unified message in an artistic work.
  • Critical thinking: Through all dance processes, dancers and choreographers, associated artists, and audience members use critical thinking. Dancers have to make logical and quick decisions during a dance for safety or for artistic expression. Choreographers use analytical skills along with management and technology skills to make dances that satisfy an artistic mission and to meet business goals. Dance audiences determine whether attending a dance company performance will be a continuing venture.

Dance provides a wide range of professional career options in communities, cities, and around the world. Dance careers span areas of the arts and entertainment, media, fitness, recreation, business, education, technical fields, and other areas.

As you learned in chapter13, dance as entertainment is big business. Dance in education spans from preschool through university and graduate education, and into communities and people's lives across the nation as participation or through education, performance, and advocacy. Dance studios, gyms, recreation centers, and performing arts organizations have expanded their community contributions as more and more people realize the importance and contribution of dance and the other arts to their lives. Dance professional organizations provide continuing professional development for students, educators, artists, scientists, writers, and others interested or involved in dance as profession or associated professions. Dance professionals work as performers and in many roles that support dance performance. Often professionals with a dance background work in associated fields such as dance therapy, kinesiology, production, media, and arts administration. Their presence as dance professionals in these fields brings deeper perspectives to new audiences of how dance can play a role in other disciplines.

Transferring Dance Skills to Life Skills

Life and career skills - the skills you need in order to succeed in work and life - require four characteristics: flexibility, adaptability, taking initiative, and being self-directed. In school, work, and community you should demonstrate cross-cultural and leadership skills. In your school and career, you should be responsible, productive, and accountable for your work. In the dance class you cultivate dancer attributes that then apply in your dancing and personal development.

Your experience in dance develops a number of traits that apply to other life endeavors. Personal development through dance for future career directions beyond dance include these:

  • Physical, intellectual, and kinesthetic awareness
  • Fine-tuned observation skills
  • Enhanced focus and concentration
  • Extended self-discipline, responsibility, and empathy
  • Perception and sensory awareness of personal movement and others' movement choices and styles
  • Versatility, ability to adapt, and flexibility in various situations
  • Expanded interpersonal (mental and physical attributes you share with others) and intrapersonal (the internal conversation you have with yourself) communication skills

Observation and Awareness

Observation skills are critical to learning dance and are essential in any career. Observational skills take time to develop. Concentrated observation helps you acquire visual, auditory, and sensory information. As a dancer you filter through this information and determine how it applies to get the desired result.

Dancers learn to coordinate movements of body parts in a step or movement. This complicated coordination of brain and body improves as you move through more complex exercises, combinations, dance sequences, and dances. When you memorize movement you initiate an internal cueing system that engages a complicated synergy of intellectual and body actions with the elements of space, time, energy, or effort. So, what you do in dance contributes directly to your personal development in dance and also to future directions beyond dance. When you take dance classes or perform, you develop these skills:

  • Using interpersonal spatial awareness
  • Having a physical and intellectual presence in space
  • Creating movement as a result of being internally sensitive and intuitive
  • Acquiring performance awareness and a professional attitude
  • Reading movement and then reproducing the movement (translate it, transpose it) presented by the teacher or choreographer
  • Memorizing movements and dances to create a memory bank
  • Understanding movement systems, genres, and styles

Creativity and Communication

When composing a dance, you use the creative process to formulate a design and structure for dance movements. You use the creative process in dance when you experiment with the following:

  • Determining movement patterns as part of choreography and choreographic designs in space and time using a range of energy or efforts
  • Manipulating the order of movements to make a logical statement using seamless transitions
  • Using choreographic structures and strategies for augmentations
  • Connecting musical knowledge to movement sequences
  • Relating visual design elements of patterns, relationships to dance, and identifying styles to apply or augment
  • Applying movement, choreographic, and aesthetic principles to dancing and dance composition
  • Employing stagecraft and media knowledge in producing the work

Producing a dance is a complicated process that combines design elements, problem-solving skills, and communication with artists and technicians. When you practice these processes, you enhance your abilities as a dancer and create conduits that relate to many associated dance careers.

Media and Artistic Literacy

When you view dances, you develop a visual and mental store of classical to contemporary dance works. Dancers and choreographers have used this system of "recording" to create a memory bank since before the common use of notation systems and electronic recording systems. These mental memories of movements combine with kinesthetic responses you receive from watching dancers perform. Your response to a dance in conversation, discussion, or written forms is also kinesthetic in nature. Translating movement experiences into descriptive and meaningful commentary supports and expands your dance and artistic literacy and your media literacy.

Artistic literacy is the knowledge and understanding required to participate authentically in the arts. Arts include dance, music, dramatic art, visual art, and media. The arts contain content, principles, and applications that are common to them as art forms. In artistic literacy, the processes of creating, performing (in dance, music, or theater), presenting (in the visual arts) or producing (in media arts), responding, and connecting reach across all of the arts. Learning these processes in various art forms contributes to your media literacy and to your experience (State Education Agency Directors of Arts Education 2013).

Media literacy is the ability to access, analyze, and evaluate media content. Viewing and responding to a dance performance includes both deconstruction and construction.

After you reflect upon the dance as a complete work, the next step is to take the dance apart. Deconstruction is analyzing or taking a dance performance apart. It is how you look at the components of the choreography, the dancers' performance, and the production elements of the work. Construction activities use the dance analysis (or deconstruction) as a basis for participating in a discussion about the dance, writing a dance report about a work you have viewed, or summarizing your findings and filing them in your memory bank along with your visual memories of the dance work.

When you attend a dance concert or view a video of a dance performance, you may have been assigned to write a dance report. A couple of strategies are useful for preparing you to write your response. Before you view the performance, read over the items or questions you have to cover in the report. When you view the dance, watch, hear, and feel the performance. Some people suggest reading the program notes about the dance after the concert. Your viewing experience of the dance provides the information from which to write your report.

In past centuries, literacy meant reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills. These skills remain foundational today; they have become the basis of 21st-century skills such as media literacy. When you gain an understanding of a media presentation and its components that create meaning, then you are engaging in media literacy.

Dance literacy includes knowledge of movement, music, theater, and arts terminology. Dance is multilingual through its various genres, their specific terminology, and the application of movement, choreographic, and aesthetic principles. Other facets of dance literacy include knowledge of rhythmic and musical languages, stagecraft and theater vocabularies, arts education, arts media processes, and production terminology. Dance literacy skills contribute to overall media literacy.

Activity 15.2 Explore

Analyzing a Dance Performance

When you view a dance performance, you use your skills in media literacy to analyze it. After you reflect on the dance as a complete work, the next step is to take the dance apart. It is how you look at the components of the choreography, the dancers' performance, and the production elements of the work. When you deconstruct a dance work, think about these questions:

  • What do you think is the choreographer's message, idea, and theme?
  • Were you able to discern the choreographic structure of the dance?
  • How did the music interact or support the dance?
  • Did the dancers' technique meet the requirements of the choreography?
  • Did the dancers express the style of the choreography?
  • Did the production elements of lighting and costuming support the presentation of the dance work and contribute to it as a work of art?
  • Was the dance aesthetically moving to you?
  • Would you consider this dance a work of art?

Multiple Intelligences

The theory of multiple intelligences (MI) and 21st-century educational theories have provided evidence that students acquire many ways of being smart through dance. These intelligences translate to other courses of study and into the workplace.

The theory of multiple intelligences was developed by an educational psychologist named Harold Gardner. Beginning in the 1980s, Gardner's original system of seven intelligences has expanded to nine; it continues to expand. The following list summarizes Gardner's nine intelligences. Your multiple intelligence quotient is really a combination of all of your intelligences. You may rate very high in certain intelligences and not as high in others. Gardner claims that you can strengthen and expand the intelligences that you ignore or challenge yourself (Gardner1983).

  1. Verbal-linguistic intelligence: Verbal skills and sensitivity to meaning and rhythm of words.
  2. Mathematical or logical intelligence: Conceptual and abstract thinking skills in both numerical and logic patterns.
  3. Musical intelligence: Understanding and ability to use rhythm, pitch, and texture.
  4. Visual-spatial intelligence: Thinking and visualizing using images in spatial and abstract configurations.
  5. Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence: Moving and handling objects with grace, skill, and artfulness.
  6. Interpersonal intelligence: Communicating appropriately with other people in relation to their moods, ideas, and directions.
  7. Intrapersonal intelligence: Self-awareness of feelings, values, and thinking processes.
  8. Naturalist intelligence: Recognizing and categorizing plants, animals, and other things in nature.
  9. Existential intelligence: Deep thinking about philosophical and essential questions about life and its meaning.

Adapted from

Activity 15.3 Discover

Your Multiple Intelligences (MI)

Do you recognize some of your intelligences? The web resource includes a link to an MI test to take for fun and to find out the various ways you are smart. Then you can compare your MI with those of others in the class. Knowing your MI can give you insights into some possible career directions. Your MI can change over time as you develop other intelligences. Documenting your MI can be an interesting way to self-check and track your changes in the future.

Learn more about Discovering Dance.

More Excerpts From Discovering Dance With Web Resources