Boston Conservatory at Berklee’s L.A. KCON Performance Illustrates Why the School Is a Standout for Commercial Dance Training

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Opening for K-pop stars at a major venue is a bucket-list item for many dancers—something most would have to strive towards for years to even get the opportunity, let alone achieve it. Thirteen dance students from Boston Conservatory at Berklee, however, were able to add this career-changing performance to their resumés before even graduating from the renowned program. During the weekend of August 19–21, the dancers traveled to Los Angeles for the city’s iteration of KCON, an annual convention celebrating K-pop music and culture, at the Crypto.com Arena (formerly the Staples Center). In front of a crowd of thousands, they danced before a lineup of artists including ATEEZ, ENHYPHEN and Kep1er took the stage.

A group of dancers performing for a full stadium at L.A. KCON.
Boston Conservatory at Berklee dancers performing Jennifer Archibald’s work at L.A. KCON. Photo by Vince Trupsin, courtesy Boston Conservatory at Berklee.

“Opening up at the Crypto.com Arena for all these amazing bands was easily the most fun I’ve ever had onstage,” Pete Pierantozzi, a rising senior at Boston Conservatory at Berklee, says of the performance. “The crowd gave us so much energy, I could not stop smiling.”

Though the dancers who performed at the event are all enrolled in the school’s contemporary dance BFA program, the experience is also deeply illustrative of the types of performances dancers enrolled in the newly launched commercial dance BFA program can expect too. Welcoming its first class this fall, Boston Conservatory at Berklee’s commercial dance BFA is a three-year program that will provide graduates with all the necessary skills, experience and industry connections to thrive in the fast-paced, shape-shifting world of commercial dance.

Boston Conservatory at Berklee dancers in an excerpt from Jennifer Archibald’s KCON. Video by Glass Ink Media, courtesy Boston Conservatory at Berklee.

A Focus on Resumé Building

Though the KCON experience was undoubtedly life-changing for the dancers, it’s not the only similar opportunity Boston Conservatory at Berklee students are afforded. In fact, the program takes pride in its focus on bolstering student’s resumés with real-world dance experience, while still giving them the full resources and support of a conservatory environment.

“Dancers get to audition throughout the semester and especially over the summer when we have breaks,” says Nicaya Wiley, a rising senior in the Boston Conservatory at Berklee’s contemporary dance BFA program. “When we get hired for these jobs, we can actually experience working, as well as continuing to get our education. Now, I’m a little bit more prepared for my career outside of the school.”

A group of dancers performing for a full stadium at L.A. KCON. One is doing a split leap.
Boston Conservatory at Berklee dancers performing Jennifer Archibald’s work at L.A. KCON. Photo by Vince Trupsin, courtesy Boston Conservatory at Berklee.

Wiley will be joining Philadanco! during the upcoming 2022–23 season, while finishing her degree and graduating on time with the class of 2023, thanks to the Dance Division’s unique Professional Transition Program, which allows students to launch their careers before they graduate. Incoming students in the commercial dance BFA program will also be given similar opportunities to audition for and accept professional jobs while not falling behind in their studies.

Honoring Individuality

Another unique element of Boston Conservatory at Berklee’s curriculum is the ability for students to “choose their own adventure,” says Pierantozzi. The accelerated three-year commercial dance BFA program is specifically structured so students have few core requirements, but are instead able to select from a variety of genre-specific modules that align with their career goals. The modules are imaginative and wide-ranging, so students can choose anything from circus and Las Vegas arts to Broadway dance to hip hop.

“While we have a few requirements, we really want the commercial dance majors to be able to choose their curricular focus early on,” explains Mila Thigpen, Boston Conservatory at Berklee chair of dance. “I think the ultimate goal with all of our courses is to give students a strong foundational experience in a variety of dance types, so then they can start to reimagine or genre-bend for themselves.”

A group of dancers in black shoes and clothing do a synchronized dance in a tight formation.
Boston Conservatory at Berklee dancers performing Jennifer Archibald’s KCON on campus. Video still by Glass Ink Media, courtesy Boston Conservatory at Berklee.

For Pierantozzi, the individualized element of the school’s approach is what drew him to the program—and a large part of the reason why he’s felt so encouraged and supported during his time at the school.

“All the faculty really look at you as an individual, rather than just another person in the program,” he says. “It’s very rigorous in the best way possible, but you are able to define that rigor and choose how you want to spend your years here in the way that is most beneficial for you personally.”

Star-Studded Connections

Boston Conservatory at Berklee’s recent performance opportunity at KCON is also an example of how the school’s connections are leveraged to open doors for the students. The KCON performance was made possible by a generous sponsorship by the CJ Cultural Foundation and CJ Entertainment, fostered by Boston Conservatory at Berklee board member and vice chairwoman of CJ Group, Miky Lee. 

A group of dancers in black shoes and clothing do a synchronized dance in a tight formation.
Boston Conservatory at Berklee dancers performing Jennifer Archibald’s KCON on campus. Video still by Glass Ink Media, courtesy Boston Conservatory at Berklee.

KCON, the original 10-minute piece performed by the school’s dancers at the convention, gave the students another sought-after opportunity: the chance to work with esteemed choreographer Jennifer Archibald. Archibald is well-known in both commercial and concert dance, and has worked for Nike, Tommy Hilfiger and MAC Cosmetics, as well as with companies like Cincinnati Ballet, Ballet West, Atlanta Ballet and Ailey II. “Jennifer Archibald taught me a lot about how to present myself in an audition room and throughout a residency process in order to radiate confidence and flexibility. She pushed me to be fearless in showing what I had to offer,” says Boston Conservatory at Berklee dance student Ali Cederholm. “I especially appreciated her willingness to give me advice on navigating both the contemporary and commercial industries.”

Boston Conservatory at Berklee students are also able to develop professional and personal connections with the school’s highly knowledgeable faculty, too, like former Limón Dance Company member Ruka Hatua-Saar White, who served as the rehearsal director for KCON.

Boston Conservatory at Berklee dancers in an excerpt from Jennifer Archibald’s KCON. Video by Glass Ink Media, courtesy Boston Conservatory at Berklee.

Over the years, students have chosen Boston Conservatory at Berklee for the opportunity to work alongside some of the dance world’s biggest names, in an environment invested in their future success, with the assurance that they’ll be armed with real-world experience to hit the ground running when they graduate. If you think Boston Conservatory at Berklee might be the right next step for your dance career too, browse the school’s website and take its helpful quiz to determine whether the commercial or the contemporary BFA program would be a better fit.

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