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I will be a BFA Dance major in college. I am trying to choose from several offers. Is it reasonable for me to request/demand to take a few dance classes on my college visit to allow me to gauge the fit?

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I have been accepted to several really good college dance programs and am still waiting on audition results from a few others. Once I have all the offers, my parents want us to visit the primary contenders. When I go to do these official campus visits, is it reasonable for me to request/demand the opportunity to participate in a few dance classes on my visit (or at least sit in on and watch if their is a liability concern by the college)? My dad said it is analogous to a college football recruit at least getting to sit in on watching formal practices to see how the coaches coach, which he knows is routinely allowed. #dance #dance-education

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Suzanne’s Answer

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Interesting question, and congratulations! As someone who has been both a professional dancer and university dance program faculty, I would love to give you my thoughts.

It is a wonderful idea to see the program in action. It is in the best interest of you and the program you attend that you like it! Some universities have designated times of year when they host a "getting to know us" session. Personalized visits are often also able to be arranged. I am unfamiliar with programs that would allow you to participate directly in normal session classes. There is a liability issue, as you said, but there is also a duty to create a safe and consistent learning environment for the registered students that would be breached if others were regularly participating in class. Some programs may offer special open classes that are intended to allow prospective students to dance with the current students. All this being said, it should be acceptable to politely ask about their policy/opportunities to dance during the visit.

Watching a class or many different classes is often permitted. I think this is a great option because it could potentially allow you to see numerous concurrent classes in a non-threatening manner. Dancers learn so much from watching, and I think you may be surprised at how much you could absorb when you are observing a program. Additionally, your mirror neurons will be working and you will be able to get a good sense of what it would be like to be in that class (for info on mirror neurons and even how mirror neurons relate to dance, check out http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/sciencenow/3204/01-resup.html
and
http://www.stack.com/a/learn-by-watching-the-role-of-mirror-neurons-in-sports
for starters. Pub Med, a free biomedical search engine, has detailed scientific literature about mirror neurons if you want to really dive in: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/).

Additional things to ask/consider: are there current students that you can talk to (informally during the visit or formally by some outreach group)? Can you time your visit to coincide with a departmental performance? What opportunities and points of emphasis does the program have? Does the program offer opportunities to grow your mental concept of what dance is and how you want to engage with it?

Best of luck in your decision-making process and in your career!
Thanks so much for your great feedback and suggestions! Sorry if my question sounded too demanding, I was probably channeling my Dad too much. :-) I definitely find that just sitting in and observing often gives me a great sense for what the teachers are like and the feel and energy they bring to their work. Unfortunately, the acceptance announcement date of one of the schools I am very interested in is April 1st, and every college expects an answer by May 1st, so there's not a lot of time to make the various colleges' pre-set accepted student presentation weekends. We will just have to make the best of it. Thanks again for taking the time to answer my question, I really appreciate it. Chaslyn D.
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