The endless options of available classes can be overwhelming when you first move to LA. Some of you may love having the freedom to take the classes you want, when you want, and where you want. Others of you might prefer more structure and guidance in your training. To help narrow down your options and find what’s right for you, consider the following factors: your preferences regarding class structure, your age, and your skill level. Depending on those factors, you may find that a dance program, certificate program, or a work-study position is where you need to be. There are many options, and each studio’s program is slightly different from the others. So you are bound to find a training program that suits your needs and skill level.
Of the programs I discuss here, the scholarship program is the most structured. Here’s the gist of how it works: program directors look at your strengths and weakness in terms of dance styles, and then they create a program for you that is unique to you. The program they design is meant to align with your personal dance goals. Most scholarship programs require an audition, usually held once a year. So you’ll have to keep your eye out for audition information. While each program is a little different, below is a list of what scholarship programs generally entail.
- A year-long commitment
- A required minimum number of classes per week
- Extra weekly seminars or master classes for scholarship students only
- Guidance from teachers regarding class selection
- Rehearsals for an end-of-program show
- A private audition in front of all major dance agencies at the program’s conclusion
- A headshot session
- Front-desk and/or janitorial work at the studio
Circling back to those decision-making factors that I mentioned earlier, consider how this type of program might work in your life. Scholarship programs are a huge commitment. I have had friends participate in these programs in the past. Their work schedules and social lives revolved around their programs. Think of scholarship programs like college: your school/dance schedule comes first, and everything else must work around that.
As a forewarning, I’d like to say that certificate programs are very hit-or-miss. They are meant to be configured like lower-intensity and lower-commitment scholarship programs. However, unlike the other options I present here, certificate programs not quite as well-developed. I don’t say this to discourage your enrollment in these programs. I just want to caution you to do your research before diving in. That said, the variability of certificate programs is also an advantage. For some, you can choose the length of the program. For others, there is a set number of months, but it isn’t as big of a commitment as a scholarship program. This makes certificate programs a good option for dancers who require more flexibility in their schedules. Furthermore, like scholarship programs, certificate programs offer you the resources and guidance to create a class plan suited to your personal goals. On the downside, though, you are unlikely to receive the extra perks of being in a scholarship program (e.g., private seminars, master classes, headshot sessions, etc.). Regardless, the more time you can invest in a program, the more you will benefit from it. If, however, you have only a few months to spare, then the flexibility of a certificate program may be appealing to you.
Though these programs are not universally offered at studios across LA, you will find that some studios offer work-study positions. What do these positions entail? Of course, work-study requirements vary from studio to studio. But the general idea is that you work for a studio, without pay, in exchange for “free” dance classes. This could mean working the front desk and/or it could mean cleaning the studios. You may be required to make a year-long commitment or you may be allowed to work for a time period of your choosing. Either way, the studio will allow you take a certain number of free classes per week. (Note: you will not be able to take or skip a class as you see fit—you will be monitored by staff and will be required to take a certain number of classes per week.)
Being a work-study participant is easier in terms of working other jobs and maintaining other commitments. Though the studio will still set an expectation for work hours and class obligations, these requirements are easier to incorporate into an existing schedule. Compare that to a scholarship program which, as I previously mentioned, is the centerpiece of a participant’s schedule. Keep that in mind when weighing your options.
Information regarding the availability of work-study positions can be found on studio websites or on Instagram. You may also find signs posted around the studio itself. If a work-study program is of interest to you, then keep your eyes open!
Before applying to any of the above-mentioned programs, here are a few more things to consider:
- Atmosphere: if you don’t like a studio’s vibe, you aren’t going to have a good experience working or dancing there. Wherever you find a work opportunity, make sure you feel comfortable.
- Transportation: Is there surplus of parking available? Will you have to pay a meter every two hours to keep from getting ticketed? Or how close is the nearest bus or train station to the studio? If you cannot reliably get to work or class, then the program is not right for you.
- Location: Some programs may require you to be at the studio 5-7 days per week. Do you live reasonably close enough to the studio to commute almost every day?
- Teachers: Some programs will not allow you to handpick each one of your instructors. But if you have the chance, then you should try taking classes with a few different program teachers to see if you like them. Even if you don’t work well with every single teacher at a studio, this shouldn’t stop you from participating in a program.
- Variety: Some programs and work-study positions do not allow participants to take classes at outside studios. Is your program or position based out of a studio that offers a variety of classes that fit your dance goals?
As always, the key is to do your research. Check studio websites. Read online reviews of programs. Talk to studio staff members. Reach out to your local peers and industry contacts. People are your best resources. They can offer more insight than any website, and they can paint pictures of a day in the life of a program participant. Keep in mind that newer studios may not yet offer scholarship, certificate, or work-study programs. Continue to check their websites, social media accounts, and even ask the staff if they know when a program might be implemented at the studio of interest.