Students sat in two long rows snaking
through Jennifer Edwards’ classroom at
Point Park University earlier this year as
they prepared to pitch a new project: a
multi-city tour by one of the world’s leading ballet companies in its American debut.
The program would include an imaginative piece dealing with erotic themes in an
exotic and brightly colored vision of the
East. Another piece, based on Russian folk
tales, would feature music by a fast-rising
young composer. The students touched on
target audiences, marketing strategies and
branding considerations for the tour on the
premise that this was the turn of the 20th
century and they were trying to convince
a wealthy patron to help fund the Ballets
Russes performances of The Firebird and
Scheherazade. This is dance history, as
taught by one of the leading voices in a call
to rethink what it means to prepare college
students for a sustainable career in dance.
“We need technique and training, but
that’s maybe 50 percent of the skills that a
dancer needs,” says Edwards. The rest of the
equation, she says, is about professionalism,
creativity, networking skills, a strong sense
of personal values—and entrepreneurship.
Indeed, the most recent report from
the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project
found that three-quarters of the more than
92,000 alumni surveyed who are currently
working as artists say they depend on entre-
preneurial skills in their professional lives,
but only about a quarter of them acquired
Colleges are rethinking how
these skills in school. “By not teaching
those skills,” Edwards says, “we are actually
undermining students’ success.”
According to Alyson Pou, director of
the Creative Capital professional develop-
ment program for artists, many schools have
been reluctant to embrace “career develop-
ment” for art, theater and dance students.
they prepare students for
sustainable dance careers.
BY JOSIE G. SADAN
USC students take notes
in a colloquium class.
Mills students, here in a master
class with Anna Halprin, lobbied
for a seminar on practical skills.
Jodie Gates, here teaching
ballet, encourages students
to take business courses.