Dance Program at Oberlin

Other than being in Ohio (we are New Englanders) Oberlin seems to have almost everything my daughter (HS class of 2022) is looking for - she is interested in sound/music technology and film, wants arty, little emphasis on sports, quirky, typical SLAC experience, access to a city (not as close to Cleveland as she’d like but it’s something). However, she is a serious dancer who would like to continue dancing at a relatively high level during college. She is not interested in majoring in dance (might consider a minor, unclear) but wants a good dance program with good access for non-majors. It’s unclear to us if Oberlin has this. While sooner or later she will reach out to the school, I would be very interested in the meantime in hearing from anyone with any knowledge of the dance program at Oberlin. Her grades/test scores make her very competitive for admission.

Other schools in consideration are Smith, Vassar, Barnard, Mt Holyoke (though the NPC suggests MH will be unaffordable for us without merit in addition to needs based), Swarthmore (though admission is probably too much of a lottery & might be too academically intense), Conn College, Bard, Sarah Lawrence. We walked around Wesleyan last summer and she didn’t like it at all, though it would be an obvious choice as well. Bennington was ruled out as too small & remote. Bryn Mawr just recently made the list, though not sure if it will stick. Thoughts on other schools that might check her boxes appreciated. Her grades & scores are excellent, her extracurriculars mainly dance & music, and one leadership program. She works in the summer (though not last summer due to COVID).


@mamaedefamilia and @homerdog any suggestions for this poster?

@Juno16 , the only college I know about regarding dance is Bates, which apparently has an excellent dance program. I know students major in it and there are lots of productions and plenty of people participate who aren’t dance majors. One of my D’s best friends did ballroom dancing for fun. Sorry I can’t help more on that, but I can tell you that you are considering lots of good colleges.

Thanks. She was actually supposed to do a summer dance intensive at Bates last summer but it went online due to COVID (she did participate online & enjoyed it, and did some other programming online last fall). I don’t know why she isn’t interested in applying to Bates, but I’ve asked several times & she is not. She loves Maine too so who knows why. Something in the other departments (film, music) must have turned her off when she looked at the website.

I would add Skidmore to her list. They have a strong dance department and Saratoga is home to the National Dance Museum and Hall of fame as well as the summer home of the New York City Ballet.

Thanks! Yes, Skidmore is on the list, I forgot it!

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I know Bryn Mawr’s entire dance experience is open to non-majors. My daughter is a double major in two other subjects and has been welcomed into any dance class that fits into her schedule, as well as into performing groups. Their studios are also beautiful. Sorry I don’t know anything about oberlin.

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@juno16 My D was a serious ballet dancer all through HS. Access to high level ballet was important to her and shaped her college list. She was partial to LACs but also considered medium sized universities. Here’s what I recollect from her search a few years back:

In general, LACs do not support high level ballet. While classes might be in the catalog, check to see how often higher level classes are offered. Your daughter should also consider dance opportunities in the broader community - cities obviously are advantageous for this. Here are some options:

Mt Holyoke/Smith - there is a 5 colleges dance program that articulates with U Mass Amherst - emphasis is contemporary/contemporary ballet with notable guest artists. There are some videos on YouTube you could check out. Both Mt Holyoke and Smith offer merit aid, Mt. Holyoke’s awards go up to full tuition, Smith’s up to half.

Sarah Lawrence/Barnard - plenty of dance opportunities in the greater metro area. If your D is open to a larger school and is competitive for merit aid, Fordham is great for ballet and offers large merit for National Merit Finalists. I’m not sure how open their dance program is for non majors.

Bryn Mawr - dance is supported and the school “gets” ballet as a deep commitment and all that implies for applicants. Ballet is available and there is plenty in Philly, easily accessible by train, like the Rock School.

Oberlin - the town’s ballet studio was bought out a few years ago by an interesting contemporary regional ballet company called Neos. Oberlin students can take classes there at discounted student rates. The school’s dance department skews contemporary, offers a concert every semester that is open to non-majors (Spring Forward/Fall Back, check YouTube for videos). There is also a ballet student group which accommodates everything from beginners to advanced. My kid ended up going here and branched out from ballet in the end!

Somewhat less selective but still very fine schools are the following:

Dickinson in Carlisle, PA, is affiliated with CPYB, which designed its ballet curriculum. Merit available

Muhlenberg, also in PA, is strong in musical theater and dance. Merit available.

St Olaf, Northfield, MN. Has a very good quality dance program and is superb for music. Merit up to 50% total cost of attendance, including dance scholarships.

Good luck! Be mindful that COVID and Test Optional admissions has made college admissions much less predictable. Make sure she has some safeties and matches on her list.

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This is all really helpful. D is not so much looking for serious ballet, just an opportunity to dance at a reasonably high level in college. She actually prefers modern, jazz, tap, though obviously she takes a lot more ballet than anything else and would need/want to continue ballet. Also, while merit would certainly be nice, we are a single parent household (no non-custodial parent) so most of the meets needs schools will be (more or less) affordable for us (Mount Holyoke, and possibly Barnard, as notable exceptions according to the NPC). Bryn Mawr was a real latecomer to the list, but you make it sound really appealing. I think she’s ruled out Swat as the academics are way more intense than I think she’s looking for, but loved the closeness to Philly. BMC may be a good substitute. I had not considered Fordham since she is looking for a smaller school, but will take another look. She should be competitive for merit, but will partially depend on her next round of test scores. She will not be NMF, but might end up Commended, depending on the cutoff. I had assumed Bard, Sarah Lawrence (and Beloit which I did not mention - she really likes it, but Wisconsin) would be her likely schools - I get they are still selective though & she should probably have another one or two in her pocket. She will likely ED to her top choice as long as the NPC works financially, so will have time to scramble if she doesn’t get in. She rejected Muhlenberg for reasons that now escape me when making her list, and St. Olaf’s is way too religious for my completely non-religious child - though it would tick the music box for her too. Thank you again for a really helpful response.