Looking for LAC with strong dance department

Hi-my dd is looking to get an academic degree but wants to keep up her dance. (Ballet/pointe, modern). She is focused LAC that are somewhat rigorous. ( Hamilton, Tufts, Haverford etc.) Do any of these schools have a particularly strong dance program? thx.

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As an indication of program strength, your daughter may want to emphasize colleges in her search that offer a major in dance (many offer only a minor or no concentration at all). Beyond this, colleges that offer a distinct department in dance may be stronger for dance than colleges at which theatre and dance are combined. Other than Hamilton from your group, which meets these criteria, look into Barnard, Smith, Connecticut College, Amherst, Middlebury and Kenyon.


I was going to suggest Barnard and Skidmore, Vassar, maybe Bard.

One thing to watch out for regarding post by @merc81, is that in a school with a formal dance program (like, say, Goucher) the dance majors may get the best classes, teachers and performance opportunities, so make sure that a non-dance major can have a good experience with dance at schools with strong dance programs.

Bennington and Sarah Lawrence have a lot of modern, not so much ballet, and emphasis is on choreography. Non majors and those not experienced can take dance at Bennington.

For BU, dance is in the PE dept., or last time I was there, but they have a great dance theater and performance opportunities. Dance ‹ Fitness & Recreation Center ‹ Boston University (bu.edu)

You really have to look deeply into details for each school.


I would say that the best combo of high level dance and high level LAC academics would be Barnard. My daughter is at haverford, and she’s danced every semester (she’s not a dance major or minor), and was made to feel very welcome in the department (which is housed at Bryn Mawr and has gorgeous studios), but there is definitely not a very large amount of offerings and it’s not ballet focused. I don’t even think they have pointe.


Agree on Barnard. Marymount Manhattan might be a possibility too.

Mount Holyoke. Vassar has a great extra-curricular program but more modern emphasis I believe. Less rigorous academically but Muhlenberg has a great dance program.

Maybe take a look at each school’s dance department course offerings showing levels, days of week, etc. And you can see who is on the faculty and their background. Some schools used to let you take a class when you visited (Barnard for example) but I doubt that it’s allowed during covid.

Your child will also probably want some matches/safeties on her list and for those I recommend Dickinson (affiliated with CPYB), Muhlenberg, St Olaf, possibly college of Wooster.

For the more competitive schools, you’ve already gotten good recommendations - Barnard, Bryn Mawr/Haverford, and any school in the Amherst/Smith/MoHo/U Mass Consortium.

Be mindful that higher level pointe classes can be hard to find at LACs, even when they appear in the catalog. They might not be offered that often or canceled for low enrollment… It would make sense to reach out directly to the dance departments at schools of interest.

When I did this search for one of my kids, I also looked for high-level dance in the nearby community - for example, Philadelphia (easily accessed by train from Bryn Mawr/Haverford) or NYC (Barnard).

Finally, if she has any interest in mid-sized competitive schools - Wash U St Louis, Case Western, and Princeton might we worth checking out.

Good luck!

I very much agree with previous posters that if pointe is important to her she needs to look long and hard at who is actually offering pointe classes. My daughter was looking for mid-sized research universities, so a different mix, but she absolutely found many, many schools with strong dance programs were contemporary focused and did not offer pointe or very limited.

If ballet is a focus (most ballet programs will have contemporary, not all contemporary programs will have strong ballet) you may want to look at the traditional ballet programs: Indiana University, Oklahoma, Point Park, and Butler. Also, there is excellent information and discussion about college programs on Ballet Talk for Dancers forum if you aren’t already on there.

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