Ballet Training

A Day in the Life of a Dance Major: Jackie Schiffner, University of Southern California

Jackie Schiffner rehearsing onstage for the BFA Spring Dance Performance. Photo by Carolyn DiLoreto, Courtesy USC.

Pointe caught up with three college dancers last spring to see what it's like juggling ballet, academics and a social life on campus. Here's Jackie Schiffner, a student at the Glorya Kaufman School of Dance at the University of Southern California getting her BFA in dance with a concentration in dance performance.

Schiffner with friends during USC's Trojan Family Weekend. Photo by Justina Gaddy, Courtesy USC.

Jackie Schiffner grew up in Huntington Beach, California, training in everything from ballet to hip hop. Now a junior at University of Southern California's Glorya Kaufman School of Dance, she was drawn by the school's mission to develop "hybrid artists." "Even at the audition, we were required to do contemporary, hip hop, improv. And the faculty was so focused on each of us as individuals, which has definitely carried over into my experience here," Schiffner says. Her teachers' influence has already inspired Schiffner's future goal. "After I graduate, I definitely want to join a company, but then get my MFA in dance to teach at the collegiate level."


5 am: Schiffner commutes an hour each way from home in Huntington Beach, so she hits the road early. "We have amazing gym facilities at USC, so I go there to warm up and do some cardio before class."

8–9 am: Yoga or weight-training class

Shiffner getting ready for the show. Photo by Mary Mallaney, Courtesy USC.

9–10:30 am: Ballet technique, either with all the sophomores or separate women's pointe class

10:30–noon: Contemporary, jazz, hip hop or partnering

Noon–2 pm: Dance history or administrative work. "Three days a week I intern in the Kaufman administrative office. I'm behind the scenes for all the events that happen here and welcome newly admitted students."

Lunch: "Somewhere in there I eat lunch! I'll either bring something from home or go to my favorite place off-campus, Amazebowls."

Schiffner goofing around with her fellow dance majors backstage before a performance. Photo by Mary Mallaney, Courtesy USC.

2–5 pm: Repertoire and performance class. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, Schiffner has composition class focusing on the techniques of USC's artistic advisor, William Forsythe, who regularly coaches students in his works. "Being coached by Forsythe himself is not something you get anywhere else," says Schiffner.

5–8 pm: Rehearsals, electives and study time. In addition to a big performance at the end of each semester and two in-studio showings, USC dancers perform every few weeks at events both on- and off-campus. Three days a week, Schiffner also takes an elective ballroom class before making time for studying and heading home. "There's a collaborative work space in the dance building just for the BFA majors where I like to hang out and do my reading," she says. "And we do have weekends off, to rest our bodies!"

Want more? Check out a day in the life of dance major Elizabeth Abbick, a student at Jordan College of the Arts at Butler University, here.

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