Stanford ballet community flourishes despite lack of dance major

April 10, 2023, 9:02 p.m.

Stanford does not offer a dance major, but in spite of this, highly skilled dancers and choreographers who teach at and attend Stanford foster a thriving dance scene on campus through campus organizations.

Among them, the Cardinal Ballet Company (CBC) is a campus favorite, holding annual sold-out performances of “The Nutcracker,” a spring production and workshops taught by world-renowned ballet dancers. 

“CBC has not only given me the opportunity to continue dancing throughout my college experience, but it’s also just an unbelievably welcoming community,” Nadia Chung ’26 told The Daily. Chung began dancing with the company this fall, playing the friend of the protagonist Clara and a part of the Snow Corps in the 2022 production of “The Nutcracker.”

Chung hopes to pursue law in the future and is currently planning on majoring in political science. She started taking ballet classes at around 13 years old. 

Throughout middle and high school, ballet was incredibly valuable to her as a way to relieve stress, express herself and find a community. The CBC offered opportunities for her to further this passion.

“I never imagined how important ballet would be to me in college,” said Chung. “I really look up to the other individuals in this company. They make ballet so, so fun.”

Bradley Moon ’25, featured as the Nutcracker prince in the 2022 production, also described the CBC’s community as one of its leading attributes. “The best part is the people — everyone’s really motivated to dance, and everyone really loves what they do,” Moon told The Daily.

Moon previously studied at the Marat Daukayev School of Ballet and was selected as a New York finalist at the Youth America Grand Prix, the world’s largest non-profit international student ballet competition.

However, Moon — like Chung — did not see himself pursuing dance as a career.

“It ends very early. It doesn’t pay well, and it’s very difficult to find a job,” said Moon. However, he was especially grateful that the CBC enabled him to continue dancing throughout college.

Last May, Moon played The Prince in the CBC’s production of “Sleeping Beauty.” Though Moon is content with his opportunities to dance on campus, he said the absence of a dance major could impact students who are looking for an enriching college dance experience along with their more academic studies. The Daily has reached out to the University for comment but has not obtained a response.

“My younger sister is very serious about dancing,” Moon said. “And she’s actually very discouraged by the idea of coming to Stanford because of my experiences here — that Stanford does not offer many opportunities to dance besides clubs.”

Chung, however, didn’t find the lack of a dance major to impact her directly. She took a large amount of ballet classes on campus and found the dance clubs on campus to be very robust.

“There are several clubs for contemporary dance, hip hop, jazz, ballet, cultural dances, et cetera,” Chung said. “People can choose to be super involved in the dance community if they’d like to, but they can also choose to have less involvement if that fits their schedule better.”

Under the TAPS dance minor, there are currently 65 dance courses available, both academic and practical. Various advanced dance classes are offered, such as Ballet III (Advanced Ballet), Contemporary Modern III and Contemporary Modern: Advanced Comparative Techniques.

Alex Ketley, a lecturer in the dance department, believes that Stanford dancers’ commitment to dancing is just one facet of their diverse and rich experience during college. According to Ketley, though there are only two Advanced Ballet classes a week (far fewer than what ballet dancers would see in a more professional context), students that attend Stanford have many passions and academic interests aside from ballet.

“What you would gain in going to a program with a dance major is certainly more focused time for dancing, but those institutions lack the world class academics that Stanford offers,” Ketley wrote to The Daily.

Ketley is a 2020 Guggenheim fellow, a former classical dancer at the San Francisco Ballet and director of The Foundry, a multimedia dance company he co-created in 1998. As the lecturer for several upper-level dance classes including Advanced Ballet, he received feedback from students (who include former professional dancers) that his classes were challenging and enriching.

“I certainly haven’t worked with any dancers that find the classes easy!” Ketley wrote.

Mira Brock is a high school writer in The Daily's Winter Journalism Workshop. Contact her at workshop 'at'

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