Friday, November 13, 2015

What do theatre and dance students learn? Part 2

In Part 2 of “What do theatre and dance students learn?” we explore how theatre and dance students learn the skills that employers most desire in potential candidates. (Haven't read Part 1 yet? Check it out.)

Communication Skills: There’s a fantastic triangle of communication with every performance of theatre and dance: artists communicate with one another and with their audience. They must communicate on multiple levels. And in the creative process one must articulate their intention as well as a reflection on process and on the product and on the relationship between process and product. Students are constantly challenged to articulate their intent through written words, verbal expression and through performance (often through the lens of another artist's play or choreography—another layer of communication).

The auditions sees the demonstration of learning on stage in
productions such as The Nosemaker's Apprentice (Spring 2015).
Problem Solving/Analytical Skills: There are an incredible number of ways to accomplish a performance. The road from first thought to final performance is a winding path with many obstacles. Whether it’s analyzing a script for performance or discovering the piece of choreography that’s right for every measure of music, the theatre and dance student is challenged to be analytical in their creative problem solving.

An important aspect of this skill is Time Management. There is always a great, looming clock that threatens “Opening Night”… The problems, we hope, will have been given a solution by the rise of the first curtain. When alumna Kellyanne Klause was asked, “What would you consider the most valuable thing you have learned at Bloomsburg University?” she answered, “Time Management. You need to learn how to manage your time as a theatre major…to organize and to prioritize your time.”

Teamwork: Collaboration is at the heart of live performance in theatre and dance. Students understand not only that they need to rely on others, but that others rely on them. We stress the value of “ensemble”—respectful, effective collaboration that puts the good of the group first.

Initiative/Self-Starting: Developing a strong “work ethic” is how students will succeed in theatre and dance at school and beyond. We know that being "on time" arriving at least 15 minutes early and being ready to go—warmed up, having rehearsed and prepared on your own—when rehearsal begins. Student set designers, actors, dancers, directors, playwrights are all expected to meet the goals set out by the faculty and by themselves.

Leadership: Students are regularly given leadership roles, formally and informally. Informally, there is a culture built in theatre and dance that the more experienced students are role models for the less experienced. Formally, students are assigned “Practicum” assignments that cast them as Head Usher, Director, Assistant Director, Fight Captain, Producer, Costume Designer and other roles that require that they join the leadership team or are the leader of the team itself.

Flexibility: Sometimes your first idea doesn’t work. Sometimes someone else has a better idea. As an effective collaborator, you have to be willing to let go of your “favorite idea” if there’s a better solution in the room.

Every one of these skills was used in the process of creating
this scene from Macbeth (Fall 2015).
Creativity: This may be the most self-evident?

Willingness to Learn: Every theatre and dance student is challenged to take advantage of every opportunity to learn. A great artist is to be a well-rounded artist. Students should not only be willing to learn about all areas of theatre and dance, but to seek out those learning opportunities every chance they get.

Attention to Detail: On stage and off,  students are asked to “go back to the basics”—what is being communicated in this play, this lighting design, this choreography? Does that match your original intent, in every detail? As an artist you are responsible for every choice on that stage, every word in that script, and every line of that criticism. Every detail is a choice, so you had best pay close attention to every detail.

Interested in seeing these skills at work or in getting involved in the division of theatre and dance? Visit

Thursday, November 12, 2015

What do theatre and dance students learn? Part 1

Students in theatre and dance learn what it means to be a professional artist. They gain knowledge about the history, the profession and the practice of theatre and dance. But in the process they learn the skills that are the foundation for working as a highly skilled professional in whatever field or fields they work in over the course of their likely varied careers.

We know that most students on any college campus will change career paths several times over the course of their lives. The USC Student Affairs office notes: “In a job market where recent graduates indicate they are changing jobs four times within five years of graduation, it is important to articulate the skills you have developed as they relate to new opportunities.”  The skills that employers seek are often referred to as transferable skills—the skills that a student can take with them wherever they go.

What are the transferable skills that theatre and dance students learn? We researched the transferable skills that most employers are looking for in potential employees. We weren’t surprised to find that more than one “top ten list” of skills include those that are integral to theatre and dance education:
Communication Skills
Problem Solving/Analytical Skills
Willingness to Learn
Attention to Detail

How many of these are theatre skills? All of them.

And how do theatre students learn these transferable skills? Stay tuned for “What do theatre and dance students learn? Part 2”…

Top Ten List from USC Student Services