Ballet dancers have been gaining recognition as embodying strength once thought to occur only in the world’s strongest athletes. As the popularity of ballet grows, dancers such as Misty Copeland and Sergei Polunin are breaking the stereotypes of the frail, dainty performer by showcasing the power of their dynamic bodies that challenge the limits of human strength and understanding the physiology of the body. While the two concentrations don’t seem to have much in common, ballet and STEM share many scientific connections.

As dancers train, they gain an understanding of the relationship between choreography, music, movement and art, yet there is also an education regarding the workings of the human body. With every jeté, assemblé and fouetté combination, dancers are taught how repeating these moves conditions muscles to increase strength, perfect form and reduce the risk of severe injury.

New York City’s Marymount Manhattan College includes a comprehensive dance education program that boasts traditional Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees in Ballet, Choreography, Jazz and Modern, yet also offers a Bachelor of Arts program in Body, Science, & Motion. Through classes in nutrition, anatomy, physiology, movement analysis and somatic awareness, the program forms a cohesive foundation for students seeking roles off stage, such as physical therapists, consultants, educators and movement specialists. Within this unique program, students prepare for work in dance medicine, a growing field that is integral to maintaining dancers’ health and promoting the longevity of their careers.

Beyond the Stage

Ballet students, who work tirelessly in the studio, will often perform at high standards in the classroom, excelling in their schoolwork. “Even students that want to pursue performing careers tend to be incredibly good students, even with the demands we place on them with daily classes and weekend rehearsals,” says Carol Guidry, a Royal Academy of Dance alum and Artistic Director of the Santa Clarita Ballet Company, located in northern Los Angeles County. “They get really good with time management, and are often doing lots of AP classes because they find there’s less ‘busy work.”

Though Guidry’s former pupils have pursued careers with prestigious companies, such as the Joffrey Ballet, Washington Ballet and San Francisco Ballet, she has also prepared dancers for more scientific dance-based roles. “One of my former students who was hearing impaired as well as suffering other congenital birth defects is studying to become a dance therapist at BYU.” These studious dancers also move onto other career paths that are not dance based, according to Guidry. “A recent Santa Clarita Ballet alumna just got a Regents Scholarship to UC Berkeley to study Computer Science.”

Many young dancers dream about landing a place with a renowned ballet company, while others take classes simply because they enjoy the art, or its scientific aspects. Even if a student doesn’t intend on becoming Broadway bound, dedication to extracurricular activities – especially those that are unique to STEM students – always enhance a college application. Make sure to “Expand your career path,” as we learned from Mariel Sanchez in “Advice STEM Graduates Need to Hear.”

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