College Dance Curriculums are Finally Catching Up to 2019

June 28, 2019

After Boston Conservatory at Berklee renamed select courses in its ballet curriculum in support of an ongoing institutional effort to ensure inclusivity in the classroom, the school’s senior vice president and executive director Cathy Young sat down with Dance Magazine to discuss how the Conservatory is rethinking dance instruction for today's dance student. Read the article excerpt below, or at DanceMagazine.com.

From DanceMagazine.com:

College Dance Curriculums are Finally Catching Up to 2019

By Rachel Rizzuto, Dance Magazine

Cathy Young, executive director of Boston Conservatory at Berklee, already had change on her mind last year when a student approached her about how ballet classes were titled. The conservatory took swift action, renaming classes to make it clear that anyone could enroll.

The course catalog now includes "Constructed Gender Identities in Classical Ballet: Ballet Technique: Men's Technique," along with similarly titled pointe and partnering classes.

"The skill set associated with men's technique—an emphasis on ballon and strength, for example—those are skills other people might want to learn," Young points out. "Why would we say that only people who identify as male get to learn those skills? At the same time, we want our students who identify as male, who want to understand how it feels to dance on pointe, to get that technical training."

Though she suspects this shift may have caused initial concerns for some faculty regarding the traditions of classical ballet, Young says the faculty is fully committed to creating a curriculum that is diverse and inclusive. "We cannot, as a higher ed institution, offer a curriculum that appears to be geared to only one gender category," she says.

But this change serves another purpose, too. "The new course titles make a statement about examining and contextualizing the presentation and interpretations of gender embedded in the form," says Young. "Ballet, like any other dance form, reflects a particular time and place in history, and we want our students to know that. We have students who identify as male, female, nonbinary, transgender—and all of them need to be able to determine for themselves how they interface with ballet."

The response has been affirming, she reports. "When we announced this, we got so much positive response," says Young. "We had alumni saying, 'I'm so proud to have gone to this school.' " She hopes the new curriculum will set a precedent. "I think people in the field will realize 'This is a new idea of what a conservatory can be,' " she says.

Boston Conservatory at Berklee’s B.F.A. program in contemporary dance is widely considered the best in the U.S., and consistently ranks as a “top 10” school for dance. Learn more about the Conservatory’s dance degree program.