Student Blog: Inside the application process
November 4, 2016
By Jake Tribus
Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Jake Tribus, and I am a BFA dance student at the USC Kaufman School of Dance. My dance training began about 10 years ago when I was nine years old; I started with a “Bring Your Friend to Class Day” hip-hop class, and over the years have trained seriously in ballet, contemporary, jazz, tap, hip hop, and more. Throughout my high school career, I was able to travel around the country, assisting many professional choreographers from both Los Angeles and New York City in classes at regional dance conventions. This professional experience has been beneficial in the sense that my pre-collegiate training was very versatile. Dancing on a global scale was introduced to me first in my high school career as I attended dance intensives both around the country and overseas. I knew having four years of college training under my belt would be essential to my development as an artist, and so I decided to start touring and learning more about major dance schools during my junior year of high school. In my eyes, a dancer with a rich knowledge of the fundamental techniques and history of any style is not only a smart dancer, but an effective one.
What was it like to apply to USC Kaufman?
Any senior in high school applying to colleges will most likely answer the same thing: applying to college in general can be a nerve-wracking and most often stressful process. My experience with applications required a lot of patience and self-reflection, forcing myself to really ask the important questions. What do I want out of my college experience? What do I see myself doing with a dance career after college? Where do I want to spend the next four years of my life? (The location of your school can be a deciding factor.) I really took the time to speak with my mentors, teachers, and parents about what would be most optimal in a college dance program. Once all of my discussions had transpired, I remembered what one of my mentors said: “You have listened to everyone that you wanted to hear from, and now you must listen to yourself.” I find this piece of advice so vital to anyone applying to colleges. You must go with what feels right inside. Yes, you can make pros and cons lists (much like I did) to help make your decision, but ultimately, the right choice will be made by listening to your instincts. When looking at the different colleges’ applications, I was particularly impressed by the amount of liberty they gave each dancer in terms of representing themselves. USC Kaufman is unique in their application process, because they allow the dancer to submit two solos of any style they wish – something that typical college dance programs do not offer. This inclusivity and freedom within the application process was attractive to me as a dancer who has training in multiple styles. The Kaufman application includes something that I have personally never heard about or seen in any other application; each dancer is required to submit a brief video response to a question chosen by the faculty. This really speaks to how much Kaufman values the people they are accepting into the program over their specific talents and training experience. The result: the most warm, welcoming, and family oriented class of dancers I have ever met and trained with.
How was the live audition process?
I will never forget my audition for the USC Kaufman program, especially because I was one of twelve people at the audition; the snow storm in January caused lots of flight cancellations! The day started off with a ballet class taught by Jackie Kopcsak, followed by a hip-hop class with d. Sabela grimes, and finally a modern and improvisation class taught by Saleemah Knight. Following the three classes, each dancer was given the opportunity to be interviewed by the faculty attending the audition. This part of the audition is formally called an “interview,” but students in the Kaufman program agree that this part of the audition felt more like a casual chat with the teachers. Each of the faculty members were easy to talk to, and were genuinely concerned about getting to know more about our backgrounds, goals, and interests as individuals. This made for a very warm and welcoming experience overall at my audition; I felt like an individual that developed a personal relationship with the teachers. Getting to wear name tags during the classes added to the comfort level of the audition; I did not simply feel like a number among a crowd of dancers, but an acknowledged individual who had something unique to offer to the program.
Given the incredible options you had, why did you ultimately choose USC Kaufman?
After weeks upon weeks of going back and forth trying to choose between the dance programs that had offered me admission, I ultimately went with my gut and choose the USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance. I had a nervous, yet excited feeling in my stomach because the school was so new and had so many innovative ideas to offer their dancers. On top of this, the university recently celebrated the ribbon cutting of the brand new Glorya Kaufman International Dance Center. This beautiful building is solely dedicated to the study of dance and is by the far most breathtaking facility I have ever had the privilege to train in. Other than the gorgeous, 2,500-square-foot studios, the building includes a fitness room for dancers, classrooms, and a collaboration space where artists from all fields can work together and create massive projects. I have had the opportunity to work on some of these collaboration projects since being a student at Kaufman, including being a motion capture model for a concept video for a film student. Projects like this drew me to the Kaufman program, because one of my interests is working on multimedia projects after college. What really lead me to the decision of attending the Kaufman program was its ability to facilitate the growth of artists in so many genres: ballet, modern, contemporary, hip hop, jazz, tap, etc. Having this well-rounded training is what I believe to be most important for dancers in our generation in order to be prepared for their professional careers after college.
Has USC Kaufman met your expectations so far, and what is one thing that has surprised you about the program?
My time here at the USC Kaufman School of Dance has been beyond incredible – everything I could have wanted and more! I have discovered how to take my dance education into my own hands and analyze information and form opinions about the art form in ways I hadn’t before. One of the concepts that the faculty here emphasizes is the “why and not just the how” of the techniques we study. I feel as though the dancers here are always digging into the history of the styles we are learning to further expand our knowledge and understanding of why dance is where it is today. We have had the opportunity to work with many choreographers and teachers from around the world, including the incomparable William Forsythe, Desmond Richardson, Glenn Edgerton, and Jared Angle. We have learned so much from these teachers, and we have opportunities to work with more professionals in the future, including choreographers in the commercial industry like Christopher Scott. The mix of both concert and commercial training is something so unique to this dance program, and it keeps things very interesting as we are not simply doing the same thing week after week. Something that really has surprised me about this program is the assistance that the faculty provides in setting up the dancers with outside opportunities, including projects with the film school (I have participated in two of these already), outside dance performances, and any other jobs to increase our professional experience. Overall, I could not be happier with my decision to join the USC Kaufman program, and I highly recommend it to any dancer who is looking for a well-rounded and versatile dance program that incorporates both elements of classical dance and contemporary up-and-coming styles.
What is unique about the USC Kaufman student community?
I am so honored to dance alongside 17 other freshmen, and 33 sophomores that all come from very diverse backgrounds. This collective group of students includes the most talented, loving, and unique people I have ever met. Each dancer has a very particular voice and skill set that they bring with them into every class and rehearsal. Some people are more comfortable in ballet, some in contemporary, and some in hip-hop, which adds to the collaboration aspect of this program; we all learn from each other and grow together as a family. For example, Wednesday mornings include a men’s ballet technique class, where the men are able to work on more advanced skills. I especially love this class because I get to push myself in a room full of extremely talented men who all have equal amounts of drive and work ethic. Another key element that only adds to the supportive feeling of the atmosphere in Kaufman is the faculty that we work with on a daily basis. Each teacher is an expert in their particular style, and knows how to both encourage the students and transfer the knowledge they have into each of the BFA students. An environment so positive and encouraging only increases our motivation and love amongst each other. When we aren’t dancing during the week or studying for our academics, you can find us at football games, relaxing on the beach, taking class at one of the many studios in downtown Los Angeles, or seeing a movie! We love taking advantage of the surrounding area, and balancing work with pleasure. The student body of Kaufman is an overall hardworking, supportive, positive, and loving group of people. I could not ask for a better class of dancers to be working alongside, and I am beyond excited for the next class of freshman to join the family next year!
What one recommendation do you have for current applicants?
Keeping in mind my application process, and knowing how stressful this time can be, some advice I would give anyone applying for schools is this: gather all the information you can and educate yourself when it comes to dance programs. Talk to people you trust, whether that be your parents, mentors, or teachers; let them help you uncover what you really desire out of a dance program. Once you have listened to them, listen to yourself.