Everyone can dance, and most cultures have their own dances. To some groups of people, dance is a sort of prayer, to some, it is one of the highest forms of art, to some it is a way to socialize and let loose. Whether you've been dancing your entire life, or you are just beginning, studying dance abroad is a fantastic way to learn how another culture moves.
If you plan to make a career out of dance, then studying abroad offers a unique opportunity to network and learn different styles under different instructors. If dance is more of a hobby, studying abroad will allow you to meet people around the world who share your passion for movement. Either way, you'll be able to bring back what you've learned to share it with others and enhance your skills as an artist.
While studying dance abroad, take advantage of the opportunity to get a feel for both the formal and informal attitudes towards dance in another country. You can take classes with a university during the day and go dancing with friends and locals at night.
If you are going to study dance abroad at the undergraduate level, you will likely have a mix of classes in dance theory and in performance. At the post-graduate level, the focus will more often narrow to either theory or performance. You might also decide to study at a school or organization that specializes in dance but is not necessarily affiliated with a college or university.
Performance-Based Dance Programs
The most common way to study dance abroad is to literally dance abroad. In other words, the majority of the classes you'd take would involve practicing dance. It's easiest to find courses in ballet, contemporary, tap, modern, and jazz. Choreography and ballroom courses are also quite common.
By choosing to study dance abroad, you also have a great opportunity to specialize in a culture-specific style of dance. This could mean studying Maori in New Zealand, Flamenco in Spain, or Irish step dancing (which is different than clogging) in Ireland.
Theory-Based Dance Programs
Dance theory programs are going to be easier to find at the post-graduate level than for undergraduate study abroad. However, even if you focus on theory, you might have opportunities to put the theory to practice in certain classes or as a part of dance clubs on campus.
Theory classes are likely to pull from multiple disciplines enabling you to combine your interest in dance with another subject. You could delve into the history and impact of dance on cultures, you could research the pedagogy of dance instruction, or you could study dance as therapy. The possibilities stretch as far as your imagination.
If you are planning to study abroad with a third party provider for a summer, semester, or year, you will find a greater number of options for studying dance abroad as an elective. In this way, you would likely take several classes in different subjects with dance being one of those classes.
It's hard to find a university in England that doesn't offer some option in performing arts. However, for dance, in particular, London is going to be one of the easiest places to find the most options. It will be more expensive in comparison to many other locations, but the tradeoff is access to a wide variety of performances and classes from ballet at the Royal Opera House, to informal swing dance lessons, to opportunities for dancing in musical theater.
You will find many styles of dance in Argentina, but traditional study abroad programs will likely focus on the Tango or Salsa. You can find several dance schools in Argentina that provide instruction in ballet, tap, modern, choreography, and many other styles of dance training. However, not all of these schools will guarantee credits that transfer back to your home university.
By studying dance in Argentina you will also have an opportunity to take Spanish-language or culture classes. Again, these language classes may or may not transfer to another college. So if that is your goal, it is best to speak with your home college along with a representative from the dance school in Argentina before making any final decisions.
Choosing Spain to study dance means there is a good chance you have an interest in Flamenco. This traditional Spanish dance is a beautiful art form that represents much about Spanish culture. Of course, it is possible to study many other types of dance in Spain as well.
If you prefer to study a range of dance forms in Spain, you will find more options in Barcelona and Madrid. Whereas Seville and other slightly smaller cities will usually offer a focus on Flamenco. Like Argentina, Spain would be a great place to learn dance and Spanish simultaneously. An effective way to do this is to stay with a host family.
How to Choose a Dance Study Abroad Program
The first step in choosing your dance study abroad program will depend on where you are now and how long you want to be abroad. If you are in currently in college and you only want to study abroad for a summer, semester, or year, you can choose from a wide range of third-party providers who will arrange the logistics of the study abroad for you. You can also speak with your international education office to find out if there are direct exchange opportunities for studying dance in another country.
If you are interested in getting your entire degree in dance abroad, you can narrow your search by countries you're interested in, types of dance you want to learn, and cost of the program. If you enroll directly at an international university, you will want to make sure you check the language of instruction, scholarships for international students (which is often based on your home country), and cost of living. If the university has a good website for international students, it's a promising sign for your overall experience.
If you just want to spend time abroad dancing, and don't care too much about getting credits or a degree, check out schools and organizations that focus specifically on dance. You can do this as part of or in addition to a study abroad program focusing on another subject. The overall cost will likely be less than college tuition and you will be around people who love dance as much as you!
Health & Safety
Many of the health and safety recommendations for studying dance abroad will be the same as dancing in the U.S. Staying hydrated, eating right, and getting plenty of rest are of the utmost importance. When you start classes, if you have previous injuries, let your dance instructors know so they can act quickly if need be.
If you have previous experience with dance, you know the types of injuries that are most likely to arise in dance class. If you study abroad with a third party, insurance will probably be included in the cost of the program, but it's a good idea to check what it covers.
Outside of class, it's wise to follow the general guidelines for staying safe abroad. These include:
- Going places in groups as much as possible, especially in the evenings.
- Getting advice from local friends about the best places to eat, shop, and visit.
- Knowing the local laws, and stick to them.
Start planning as early as possible. If you are starting your search from scratch, you might want to create a spreadsheet list that includes categories for everything you're looking for in a dance program abroad. Begin narrowing the search until you have around three options. Then you can start researching those programs more in depth.
Check the programs requirements. Language could certainly be a barrier but look at the level of dance experience that is expected by the program. You don't want to be a beginner in an advanced class and you don't want to be highly experienced in an entry level class.
If you are interested in dance, but don't want to make it your main focus, you can look for universities that have dance clubs or societies that will allow you to dance on the side. In many cities, you can also find informal weekly lessons in a variety of dance styles. Both of these are also fantastic ways to make local friends!