A MA Dance Student Performing at the London School of Contemporary Arts

Unleashing creativity: How these 4 arts schools nurture artistic growth in unconstrained environments

Music, dance, theatre — these art forms have made up the backbone of human society for millennia. With each year, they have sparked the joy that comes with human expression paired with seemingly ethereal strength and skill. 

Artistic growth has always thrived in unconstrained environments, where creativity can flourish and boundaries are challenged. These are necessary for emerging dancers, musicians and artists to truly find their voices and individual contribution to the world — and there are no better environments than those presented by institutions specialising in the arts. 

The best schools not only foster the development of undergraduate students but also offer specialised programmes tailored to the needs of graduate-level artists. Innovative approaches are adopted to encourage the pursuit of artistic excellence beyond the boundaries of traditional education. At the same time, all students are given room to explore their own passions without restriction. 

The result? Bold and driven visionaries who are determined to shape the future of artistic expression as we know it. Here are four schools leading this charge: 

London Contemporary Dance School

Part of The Place, London’s leading centre for dance creation, education and performance, London Contemporary Dance School champions new ideas, embraces artistic innovation and enables extraordinary experiences for you to realise your full potential as a dance artist. All degrees are validated by UAL University of the Arts, London and last December, LCDS successfully secured world-leading specialist provider funding from the Office for Students (OfS), which reflects The Place’s legacy of being at the forefront of dance for over 50 years, developing students into global artists with significant impact on local and international communities.

The three-year BA (Hons) in Contemporary Dance blends the study of dance practices, choreography, performance, contextual and professional studies, and dance science — a combination which develops you as a versatile artist with all the tools and skills for a prolific career in dance and the creative industries. Taught by experienced and internationally renowned teachers, lecturers and guest artists, you will be able to make your mark amongst a community of future makers, leaders, educators, and performers.

The MA Dance: Performance offers not only advanced dance training, but also a variety of experiences in performance with industry professionals whose work ranges from repertory dance work to performance for fashion, music videos and AR/VR. The MA Expanded Dance Practice pushes students to experiment, provoke and interrogate their dance and choreographic practice, bringing dance in dialogue with other art forms and into non-traditional performances spaces, from museums and clubs to natural landscapes and the urban environment.

Then there’s the MA Screendance fusing dance and filmmaking. Led by filmmaker and pioneer Dr. Katrina McPherson, it’s the only MA of its kind in the world. The MA Dance: Participation, Communities, Activism, led by award-winning artist Jo Parkes, is the school’s newest and perhaps boldest offering, uniting participatory dance and arts activism to meet the urgencies of our times. Predominantly delivered online, with in-person residencies in London, it’s a unique chance to develop activist practices in your own communities. Learn more about the London Contemporary Dance School at The Place.


Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance

A Mercury Prize nominee. A composer for some of Hollywood’s best-loved films. The president of EMI Records. An internationally renowned violinist. Award-winning musicians, producers, and instrumentalists. They all trained at the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance.

Music education at this leading London institution is more than just a degree-seeking venture – it’s an experience that will take you places. One of the world’s leading centres of music and contemporary dance, with a long and illustrious history that goes back to 1872, today, it continues to spearhead exciting opportunities for collaboration between musicians, composers, dancers and choreographers.

At Trinity Laban, students are prepared for the industry from the get-go. They learn from a teaching staff of highly respected musicians and dance artists — from performers and widely-known composers to principals from the UK’s major orchestras, chamber and jazz ensembles. They’re encouraged to branch outside of the classroom through 500 performances scheduled yearly, from critically-acclaimed operas to daily lunchtime concerts and recital opportunities. South London is their playground. They thrive in a creative hub that’s renowned for its artistic impact, surrounded by a dynamic, diverse community. That’s not to distract from the facilities they have at their disposal — an award-winning contemporary dance centre and a music faculty in a world heritage site being some. It’s the ideal space to inspire talent and art in its purest form.

The University of Illinois Urbana–Champaign

The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign has been pioneering disruptive programmes that have a real impact on the world. Its College of Fine and Applied Arts is no different. Spanning the realms of the performing, visual and environmental arts and design, it is fostering daring collaborations within the scope of fearless artists, researchers and educators. Its goal? To create art that transcends boundaries and confronts the most pressing challenges of society. 

The college boasts an impressive range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees across a breadth of studies, including architecture, dance, music, sustainable design and theatre. For example, the Department of Dance’s Master of Fine Arts allows graduate students to design a course of study in line with their choreographic interests. They work with faculty members in a close partnership, gaining valuable advice and insight into the industry along the way. 

The School of Music offers just as much versatility. Programmes in vocal and instrumental performance, composition, musicology, technology and more give students room to explore every element that makes up the profound wonder of music. Alumni have gone on to become  Grammy award-winning composers, gold medalists in international competitions, and principals in national orchestras

San Francisco Conservatory of Music

A rewarding career in music — that’s what the San Francisco Conservatory of Music promises its graduates. With over 100 years of experience, the conservatory has been educating aspiring musicians to fully express themselves in their art. 

Here, there is no limit to what one can pursue. Majors range from Brass and Technology and Applied Composition to Roots, Jazz, and American Music — the latter being a first-of-its-kind programme that prepares the next generation of jazz artists through exposure to an award-winning jazz concert venue. Students get to embrace their individuality, guided by educators who have a deep love for their craft. 

Facilities are world-class. From spectacular concert halls to recording studios with the latest in music technology, the conservatory gives students every resource necessary to cultivate their talent. It’s a space that emboldens a musician to be imaginative and daring in their pursuit of greatness. 

What sets the conservatory apart is its ideal location in the heart of the San Francisco music scene. Partnerships with artist-management companies Opus 3 and Askonas Holt ensure students get first-hand insight into the industry at hand. At the same time, they gain the opportunity to form networks with musicians and artists across a dynamic and vibrant city centre. 


*Some of the institutions featured in this article are commercial partners of Study International