Course helps arts majors plan for life after college

Jenna Gerling

Between internships, head shots, resumes and exit interviews, it would be easy to assume theater or dance seniors would be well on their way to find thriving careers. But in these competitive fields, finding a job is more difficult than it seems.

To help dance majors, the School of Theatre and Dance offers a class designed to help them break into a competitive market.

In Professional Aspects of Dance, seniors are pushed to research dance companies they may be interested in to prepare them for their possible futures in dance performance.

“Our students choose and research different companies (in the class) and then write to them asking for further information about auditions,” said Andrea Shearer, associate professor and coordinator of dance. “It is actually the dancers that have to approach the companies that they’re interested in.”

Senior professional dance major Tina Buckler said the class has helped her prepare for life beyond college.

“I definitely feel a lot more prepared by knowing what to do when I graduate. I’m more confident now,” she said.

Both Buckler and Shearer said what students learn about the dance profession in this class goes beyond the basics.

“This class helps me mostly with all of the other aspects of dance — basically what we need to know to live as dancers: how to file for taxes, how to write a grant and getting health insurance,” Buckler said. “The most helpful so far for me is when we started going over our resumes and cover letters because we’re handing those out all of the time.

“One of the projects we’re doing is . where we pick two cities where we want to live, and we look up the demographics, like where we would live, what rent would be and what job we would have while training and auditioning.”

For theater majors, obtaining acting jobs can be just as difficult; however, large job conventions, where several theater companies are represented, are held specifically to aid graduating students.

“Our students usually attend the Southeastern Theatre Conference to look for summer and full-time jobs,” said Cindy Stillings, interim director of the School of Theatre and Dance.”

“The Musical Theatre (Bachelor of Fine Arts) students have a showcase in New York every spring and invite agents and casting directors to view their work.”

Stillings said nine musical theater students will perform in the showcase, and several students will go to the Southeastern Theatre Conference, where more than 1,000 students audition and benefit.

“(Students) have the ‘practice’ of interviewing,” Stillings said. “They learn what employers want to see, most end up with summer or full-time work, (and) the students performing in the New York City Showcase may end up with agent representation.”

Unlike theater majors, the only way dance majors can find out about job openings are through word of mouth, fliers posted in studios and in advertisements in entertainment publications.

Contact performing arts reporter Jenna Gerling at [email protected].