Student Blog: A Day in the Life of a First Year BFA Student

March 26, 2022

Shea Hancock performing alone on stage.

Shea Hancock (BFA '25) at the Fall 2021 Cypher Celebration | Photo by Rose Eichenbaum

As I am wrapping up my first year as a BFA dance major, I am able to reflect on all of the incredible experiences I have had.  I am so grateful for the people and memories USC Kaufman has bought into my life and I cannot wait for the next three years. Here is a rundown of a day in my life as a first-year BFA student!

My days are pretty jam-packed, and I normally begin them by waking up between 6:45-7:00 a.m. I live at Cardinal Gardens Apartments, which is right across the street from USC Village and therefore very close to the Glorya Kaufman International Dance Center. On Mondays, I walk over to the USC Magnet School a block from campus with one of my fellow dance majors, Amanda Peet. We teach hip-hop to a third-grade class through Kaufman Connections, a community outreach program led by Professor Tiffany Bong. I also work for the Dance Operations Team at USC Kaufman, so other mornings I help prepare the building for the long day of classes ahead.

Technique Block

The first- and second-year students begin our technique block at 9:00 a.m. For the first half of the block, we have the choice of taking five days of ballet or three days of ballet with a cross-technique on the other two days. Both semesters, I chose to take three days of ballet with the cross-techniques, which were African, Afro-Cuban and Drumming the first semester and Vernacular Jazz the second semester. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to explore these forms of dance. Cross-techniques and Repertory and Performance are the only classes within the BFA core curriculum that combine first- and second-year students. The remainder of our core courses are cohort-based.

The second technique class was either Funkamental Medikinetics with Professor d. Sabela grimes, Taylor with Professor Patrick Corbin, Dunham with Professor Anindo Marshall or Classical Partnering with Professor Bruce McCormick. I love working with my classmates to build trust among each other within this course.

Dancers wearing masks in studio

Members of the Class of 2025 in rehearsal with Professor Patrick Corbin | Photo by Mary Mallaney

Academic Courses

After technique classes, I head to one of my academic courses or go upstairs to work a shift as a student worker for the USC Kaufman Student Services Team. All first-years are required to take a general education seminar course, or GESM, which I took in the first semester. We’re also required to take a writing course, which I took in the second semester. My GESM class was called Kurosawa’s Cosmos, which dove into the mind of Japanese filmmaker Kurosawa Akira. In this class, we analyzed his works as well as those of his early inspirations.

My writing class was Education and Intellectual Development. We discussed common themes and issues within different systems of education and what should or shouldn’t be done about it. I also took a super fun Creativity Workshop class through the School of Occupational Therapy. For lunch, I usually mobile-ordered a meal from the Ronald Tutor Campus Center. I would pick up my food and eat with some classmates before my afternoon classes begin.

Afternoon and Evening Classes

Some afternoons, we had Improvisation and Composition, taught by Professor Bret Easterling during the first semester and Professor d. Sabela grimes during the second semester. Our class loved this course. Watching each other dance organically as individuals and as a collective brings us as much joy as dancing ourselves. Two days a week in the afternoons, during the first semester, we also had Conditioning for Dancers with Professor Gillian Finley. Professor Finley taught us effective ways to assist with injury prevention and overall health as a dancer.

Second semester, we had Dance Science with Dr. Marisa Hentis. Dr. Hentis dove deeper into the muscles and bones utilized while dancing, how they work and what we should do to take care of them. Having Dr. Hentis, our physical therapist at USC Kaufman, as the teacher of this course is beneficial beyond explanation. It allows us to gain knowledge about how to best care for our bodies in this career. Three days a week, we then have our Repertory and Performance course. In this class, we work with various artists, including our phenomenal USC Kaufman professors and incredible Artists in Residence, who choreograph or set works on the students.

Students dancing in front of green background

BFA students perform at the Fall 2021 End of Semester Showing | Photo by Benjamin Peralta

In the evenings during the first semester, we had World Perspective on Dance Performance with Professor Achinta S. McDaniel once a week. This course provided us with historical perspectives of various dance forms and the roles they played through time in the areas of expression, revolt and cultural identity. We also discussed how we see these dance forms live on today.

Elective Courses

I also chose to maximize my units both semesters, filling them up with USC Kaufman elective courses. I took Mindfulness for Dancers with Professor Bruce McCormick. It was a wonderful way to wind down at the end of the day and learn helpful tips for how to nurture mind, body and spirit. I also took Breakin’ with Professor Danté Rose. I never thought I would have the opportunity to take this class. Many of us were extremely nervous going into this class on the first day. By the end of the semester, the whole class had a new confidence about our breaking abilities. This semester, I am also taking Intermediate/Advanced Tap with Professor Jason Rodgers. Tap brings me so much joy because tap it always been one of my favorite styles.

After the day of classes is complete, I head to one of the three dining halls on campus with my USC Kaufman family. At dinner, we have an opportunity to talk about any life updates or reflect on what we learned or discussed in classes during the day. Then, we head back to our respective living quarters to complete work and get a good night’s sleep. Though I kept very busy during my first year, I am so overjoyed to have opened myself up to the immense opportunities USC provides. I am forever grateful for all those who help me continue to evolve each day.

By Shea Hancock (BFA ‘25)