Dance programs that are compatible with engineering/science majors?

My DS21 is just beginning his college search and is interested in majoring in civil engineering or something in the sciences. He is also a serious ballet dancer who would like to continue dancing in college. He does not want to major in dance, but is interested in finding a school where dance is possible for a STEM major. Does anyone have any recommendations for colleges that would fit the bill. He is a strong student–no SAT scores yet, but 99th percentile on the PSAT and a 3.8ish unweighted GPA.

If he wants dance instruction in actual college course work, then that would mean:

  • Finding colleges with the desired major (e.g. civil engineering) and the dance courses of interest.
  • If the major is in engineering, note that the curriculum tends to be voluminous, so that there may be few free electives. In this case, checking that dance courses can be used to fulfill general education requirements in humanities and/or arts would be worth doing. Note: all ABET-accredited engineering majors have general education requirements, but the nature of general education requirements varies.
  • If the major is in sciences, there may be more free elective space, although if there are voluminous general education requirements that dance courses cannot fulfill, that can limit the number of dance courses that can be taken.

A different option would be doing dance as an extracurricular with a college or community organization (in the latter case, the other participants could include working people in varied non-arts professions). Of course, in this case, it would help if such organizations existed at or near the college, so that needs to be investigated.

Princeton, Harvard, Columbia, Stanford have extracurricular ballet. I believe at Duke you can take classes with the dance majors w/o being a major. At the U of AZ, my understanding is you can minor in ballet (but must audition). Not sure about U. of Utah or OK… IU Bloomington and USC’s BFA classes are just for the majors (but USC has other ballet classes that non-majors can take).

I believe there was a a thread not too long ago about schools with strong dance options for non-majors, so you might search for that.

Off the top of my head, Duke and Columbia are two that come to mind. Duke has a very active ballet “club” that has pretty high level dancers, as well as a strong dance major.

University of Illinois has excellent engineering/science and a great dance program, as does Ohio State. I don’t know about accessibility of classes to non-majors, though, and those programs definitely emphasize modern rather than ballet.

@SCMHAALUM has a S18 at Stanford who is a ballet dancer and a STEM major, you might PM her as she isn’t on CC very often.

Your son should be able to do both to some extent at just about any major school. He can take dance up with dance clubs etc
He will just need to Google his options at his target school. Many also have dance in the community of the school and can join something off campus. He can also start his own dance club or activity…my son couldn’t find anything that floated his boat with 1600 activities /clubs so he started his own with another student. They hold weekly/lectures /projects with 20-50 students… Like finds like.

Also for the fun of it your son has an expertise in movement and ergonomics that he might not be aware of. Google engineering and dance and see what you come up with. There are tons of article for the fun of it.

I love the last one developing a ballet shoe… He knows a lot about ergonomics and doesn’t even know it yet… Combining his passions can lead him into areas he never thought about… Plus it’s kinda fun to see what you come up with.

My D20 went through this exact exercise this year - although looking at biomedical engineering/biology instead of civil engineering. Ballet is not as easy as other dance forms to find especially if you want to perform. What we learned:

Columbia/Barnard - probably the strongest ballet/academic but look carefully at the core requirements and if your student is interested, my student was not

Duke - this is where my D20 will be attending next year. The ballet is strong and there’s tons of flexibility - anything from a BA, minor, to just taking classes (which are not restricted to those in the major), there’s also a ballet focused performance group

Johns Hopkins - they have a BFA program through Peabody where one could double major as well as just take classes. The biggest drawback is it is not on the same campus, so logistically my daughter didn’t think it would work.

Washington University St Louis - good flexible ballet offerings and strong academics, this was her most likely ED2 if Duke hadn’t worked out.

Rice - they do not have on campus ballet offerings, but their easy proximity to Houston Ballet made it possible but not ideal

University of Southern California - you can’t take classes with those in the major, but lots of offerings and a high level for non-majors

University of South Carolina - great Balanchine ballet program, need to audition for major, but also has a minor. The honors college and great merit made this particularly interesting for public options.

University of Iowa - good flexible ballet - even minors need to audition though.

University of Utah - BFA only, cannot take classes with major and unless you’re committed to a 5th year and/or summer classes no way to combine BFA and engineering even with extensive AP credit.

Now she was specifically looking for on campus ballet classes, including pointe and ballet performances. As time went by, the on campus and potential to minor/double major became more important to her.


“University of Utah - BFA only, cannot take classes with major and unless you’re committed to a 5th year and/or summer classes no way to combine BFA and engineering even with extensive AP credit.”

I’d agree that engineering wouldn’t work with the BFA schedule at Utah. Though it may not be applicable for OP if her son doesn’t want to do a BFA, for completeness I’d add that a double major with math or environmental studies combined with the ballet BFA is feasible and can be done in four years with at most one summer spent there (which many Utah students do anyway because they can then get residency for tuition purposes).

The key reason is that engineering majors require many more courses (80-90 semester credits) whereas the other majors are 50-60 credits. A BFA is also 80-90 credits (whereas dance BAs are usually 50-60 credits). So think carefully about whether your S wants an engineering degree and to only have time for a few dance classes, or another STEM major, which would leave room for more dance classes and in some cases even have the possibility for a double major.

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Thanks @Twoin18 for pinning me :smile: My son is a sophomore at Stanford, majoring in Human Biology and minor in dance. The dancer professors and lecturers are excellent. There are many high level student dance groups. Cardinal Ballet put on Nutcracker in winter and another ballet in spring. There are a few ballet dancers who take time off dancing at ballet companies. My son is classically trained but love contemporary. He is currently seeking dance positions in San Francisco. They LOVE male dancers. Hope that helps and please feel free to pin me and I will log in to chat.

Your post is so helpful, @Darcy123 ! We have been trying to find colleges with strong academics and dance. Barnard is also top of the list for my daughter. I’m curious what your daughter didn’t like about the core requirements there? Also: did you consider UC Santa Barbara? I heard they have a good dance program, and their CCS looks great. Thank you!

Also, a question for @SCMHAALUM. Are the dancers in the dance minor at Stanford performing at a high level? My daughter is a very strong contemporary ballet dancer.

@solano3 My daughter was not interested in a single sex college, so was looking at Columbia and planning on taking dance at Barnard. Columbia has one of the more extensive core requirements. We did not consider UC Santa Barbara as we are out of state and were not interested in paying OOS tuition. She only applied to OOS publics that offered merit money.

Just briefly checked some prior old threads on the subject, when I was involved; eg

I was looking for a humanities major, and I see that few of the colleges that popped up on these old threads had strong engineering programs.
From a quick glance at these it seems most of what we found in these old threads has been covered; screen Columbia, Duke, maybe Harvard, Princeton. Maybe screen U Michigan (find out what non-BFA students can do) and Northwestern. A couple weird ones: U Buffalo? Trinity College (CT)?

@Darcy123 did a great job, far beyond my prior feeble efforts.

Somebody on another thread suggested look also at which schools had student-run ballet troupes, as extracurriculars. Most just have modern.

IMO a stumbling block may not only be whether they have sufficient ballet. Another one may be whether they have sufficient civil engineering offerings. A number of smaller engineering programs do not cover the field comprehensively, and I’ve noticed in the past that some of them cut back by not offering a civil engineering major.

@Darcy123 thanks for this helpful post. My DD21 is also planning on majoring in biomedical or bioengineering, but also wants to be able to continue doing ballet in college.

Have your child join IADAMS. I lectured there a few years ago. There is a student price and the journal is worth the cost. They are scientific articles on college research for dancers around the world. Their conferences are one year in the states then one year around the world. They also hold master classes and lectures. This is for the medical community solely for dancers and dance medicine. Lots of physical therapists I know are retired dancers per se. Dance medicine could use someone that understands dance plus engineering. So many possibilities here.

The conference I went to had just about every known dance company represented from around the world. Very impressive and the lectures were some of the best I have heard at any medical conference.

Thanks for the helpful advice! My son decided to apply ED to Duke as a civil engineering intended major and found out today that he was accepted! He’s thrilled to be able to be involved with their dance program while studying engineering.


Thank you for your helpful post @Darcy123 ! Congrats on Duke! I was interested in ballet and a science major at Duke and am considering Duke ED. I was just wondering if you were double majoring with dance at Duke and how you thought the management of dance and a science major is there (hours a week, difficulty)? Thank you

This is a 2-year-old thread, so they may not reply. I have some info. I will DM you.

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Our ballet studio often imports, so to speak, college age male dancers dancing in our city. The ballet studio is expensive but I don’t think those men are paying anything because they are never officially enrolled. The studio produces many accomplished female ballet dancers, many of whom, go off to dance at companies and/or colleges. But we don’t produce enough accomplished male dancers to provide sophisticated pax de dux. Some of the men are enrolled in college while they reach their full strength and then pursue ballet full time. Several just drop in to perform and have fun.

So do not discount your value and opportunity within the local community.

Sorry for the late response, I missed your initial post. Covid impacted both dance classes as well as performance opportunities (which are part of the major requirements at Duke) for my daughter’s freshman year. She decided to continue dancing, but pick up a second major in computer science instead of dance. She is part of two different performance groups as well as taking dance classes, and has balanced with with double majoring in biology and computer science.


Thank you for your response and helpful information.