Nearly every successful professional dancer in the modern world has collaborated internationally; it is an essential component to having a successful dance career. Therefore, young dancers today realize that the training you receive at your place of residence is simply not adequate on its own, when there are thousands of other approaches out there to be explored. By studying dance abroad you get to transcend spoken language and communicate with fellow dancers using your body, and learn to embody cultural traditions through movement. Students who study dance abroad will come home with a whole new range of techniques and tools to infuse in choreography in order to create their own dance style.
Why Study Dance Abroad
When you study dance abroad, you get the extraordinary opportunity to experience a culture through its movements that have been developed over generations to capture the essence of what it means to belong in that place. You also get to witness how the techniques and styles you have been learning at home have been integrated into the local dance scene in a unique way.
Your ideas about the function of dance in society change when you discover dance’s role in a new place. For example, did you know that in many traditional native societies, dance sequences include movements with specific linguistic meanings? In these places, dance sequences are like sentences, and a full piece is a complete story told in a language that everyone in that cultural group understands. In some societies, performance is the only realm where it is appropriate to discuss taboo social issues, like sexuality, and thus many community development groups use dance to spark discussion on public health issues like HIV/AIDS. Seeing dance operate in these contexts while studying abroad will change the way you think about your craft and add a deeper meaning to your career.
Dance Study Abroad Programs
Every country has its own unique dance traditions to explore, but here are a few with particularly strong offerings when it comes to dance study abroad programs:
Thailand has a phenomenal range of traditional dance styles, especially for women, and each region of the country offers something a bit different. However, there are also plenty of opportunities to study ballet, contemporary, jazz, and many other styles not native to the country. Bangkok in particular boasts the elegant Bangkok City Ballet, along with dozens of other studios, training centers, and universities.
Spain is one of the true cultural meccas of Europe, and cities like Barcelona and Madrid seem to have a dance organization on every corner. Flamenco is the prominent local style, but many other styles such as ballet and hip hop are extremely popular, especially with younger generations. Don’t forget the clubs too! Don’t be surprised to see crowds of people dancing through the night and even into the wee hours of the morning at clubs in Barcelona.
South Africa is known mostly for its gumboot dance, which was conceived by black miners to make the most of oppressive conditions, much like many popular dance styles created by slaves in the United States prior to the 20th century. In the past few decades, other forms of dance, such as Toyi-toyi, have been used in political movements and played a big role in the dismantling of apartheid in the mid-1990s. Cape Town, which was named the World Design Capital of 2014, offers a wide variety of dance styles at several universities and other dance centers and is considered by many to be the most beautiful city in the world.
Ecuador is home to many traditional dances of the Andes region, notable for their bright garments and stylized movement with several recurring characters. The Galapagos Islands have more than exotic wildlife, there are whole communities living there who have adapted Ecuadorian forms to the island lifestyle.
Ireland has a rich and recognizable dance tradition, and studying dance in Ireland is also a great chance to learn Irish music. Dublin has many dance organizations and centers, but be sure not to overlook the World Academy of Irish Music and Dance which is based in the University of Limerick in the western part of the country between Dublin and Cork; this is one of the premier training centers for Irish music and dance in the world.
Dance Study Abroad Programs
Institutions. Many institutions offer dance study abroad programs, but remember to look beyond the standard university, and explore studios, dance schools, conservatories, and other training academies in your search too.
Structure. You can select from an array of components in your dance classes abroad, so be sure to explore what types of classes each program offers before applying. Decide if you want to have lots of hands-on practice, opportunities to observe performances, or courses on the history of various techniques or styles, and then look for a program that fits your goals in studying dance abroad. Also be mindful of class sizes, as it can be easy to get lost in larger classes.
Styles. Dance is an artform that regularly blends multiple international styles, even within one performance piece. Studying dance abroad exposes you to new styles that improve your movement vocabulary, while also offering a window into the local dance industry, which can vary widely from place to place. Depending on where you choose to study dance abroad, you may have the opportunity to study African, Asian, European, and many other variations of dance techniques, styles, and industries.
The Learning Process. Be ready to feel like a beginner again while learning techniques that are wildly different from anything you’ve experienced before. Prepare to take risks, but take care of your body and don’t rush the learning process. As they say in Swahili, “haba na haba hujaza kibaba” or “step by step we reach the goal.” This is especially true in locations that speak a language other than your own, or dance styles that are in your non-native tongue, so have patience and consider your dance classes as a chance to learn new vocabulary and practice your language skills. If a new language and a new style seems like too much for you, try a dance study abroad program in an English speaking country. Also be prepared for different teaching methods, which are bound to vary across the world.
- Studying dance abroad will expose you to new techniques and styles that will diversify your style and skills, and possibly introduce you to a new favorite style of dance!
- Experience studying dance abroad will help you get used to the multicultural environment that is inevitably present in any career related to dance, and employers will recognize that when they see it on your resume.
- Dance students can surpass language barriers in far off places, by utilizing their dancing skills to express where they come from and learn about their new home.
- Dance study abroad programs allow you to network with dance professionals from around the world, whether instructors or fellow students, and begin finding your place in the dance industry on a global scale.