July 2017 | College Close-Ups | Beloit College

College Close-Ups: What students need to know about college and university dance programs

Beloit College

With about 1,300 students, Beloit College in Beloit, Wisconsin, may be small, but it has a thriving dance program. Since 2001, Beloit dances have regularly been selected for the gala concerts at the American College Dance Association regional conference, alongside dances from much larger universities. Students have performed abroad in Moscow, Russia; Prague, Czech Republic; Arusha, Tanzania; and Angers, France, as well as in cities throughout the United States. Beloit students have won international awards for choreography, and faculty have been honored for their social justice work.

Guest artists bring new perspectives and additional dance forms to Beloit.
Photo by Trevor Johnson

The Beloit dance program offers unique classes, such as the dance entrepreneurship course repertory dance company, in which students learn how to run a nonprofit dance company by actually doing it—writing a mission statement, creating promotional materials and budgets, putting out calls for and choosing repertory, scheduling performances in various cities and venues off campus, running workshops for grade school students, and collaborating with dancers from around the region. Students learn valuable interpersonal communication skills in the contact improvisation course and learn about their bodies in the dance kinesiology course. The professional development class that students take as seniors includes many practical assignments, such as writing a resume/CV, writing artist statements, and networking, that help prepare them for post-college life.

Each year, the department brings in guest artists to work with students, teach classes, give presentations, and choreograph new works in which they often perform alongside students. These guests are frequently experts in dance genres that are not part of the Beloit curriculum, such as West African dance, classical Indian dance, capoeira, hip-hop, and butoh. Guest artists offer unique perspectives; for example, Katy Pyle, who taught dance classes and workshopped with students last fall, is director of Ballez, a lesbian, queer, and transgender ballet company, and Jesse Zaritt, who taught contemporary technique in 2012, has studied the relationship between political conflict and choreography in Israel.

Dance classes and performance opportunities are available to all students regardless of major. Many students double major in dance and another subject, such as biology, psychology, creative writing, art history, anthropology, or sociology. Graduates go on to various careers, including teaching dance in studios and at universities; some become choreographers, dancers in regional companies, dance/movement therapists, or physical therapists.

For more information, visit beloit.edu/dance/.

—Christine Johnson


Year founded: 1993

Department philosophy: The community-oriented dance program at Beloit College supports the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of students. Though students are expected to commit fully to their development as dancers and artists, they are also encouraged to pursue their other interests and areas of study. The department believes in the power of art to connect and to create positive change, and practices art making, community outreach, and performance to act on those beliefs. Faculty focus on educating the whole person and nurturing artists who create work that speaks to their experiences in the world.

Beloit dance students have the opportunity to perform in a mainstage concert each February and a student choreographer’s showcase each December.
Photo by Kristie Kahns

Entrance audition required: No

Degrees available: Major and minor in theater arts with a concentration in dance

Number of students in department, 2016–17: 10–15 majors, 10–15 minors, 50–75 students in dance classes

Ratio of students to faculty: 11:1

Technique classes: Ballet, modern, jazz

Additional classes: Choreography, dance kinesiology, dance history, contact improvisation, dance improvisation, repertory dance company, performing gender, professional development seminar, ballroom dance

Faculty: Christine Johnson (chair, Department of Theater, Dance, and Media Studies and director, dance), Gina T’ai, Sarah Wolf

Performance opportunities: Annual student choreographers’ showcase, annual mainstage concert by Chelonia Dance Company (featuring student, faculty, and guest artist choreography), student-directed performances each spring, choreography class showing each fall, theater productions, and frequent collaborative performances with guest artists; students often travel off campus to perform in festivals and conferences, such as the Harvest Chicago Contemporary Dance Festival, the New Prague Dance Festival, World Dance Alliance Global Summit, and the Richmond Dance Festival

Additional opportunities: Service opportunities; study abroad programs in Malta, Russia, Argentina, Ghana, Senegal, and the United Kingdom; students are frequently awarded summer internships at places such as the American Dance Festival, Bates Dance Festival, and Hollins University