You twist, turn and glide. You jump and feel the air on your face as you pass through space. This is the life of a dancer. Although dance allows you to express yourself physically, choosing dance as a career is not a simple matter of loving the art. You have to take a step back and systematically determine whether you can meet the demands of the career and find the resources that you’ll need.
Evaluate your physical fitness. Dance of any type requires flexibility, agility, speed, strength and endurance. If you’re male, employers will expect you to be able to lift a dance partner. If you’re female, employers will expect you to be light enough to lift fairly easily. Keep in mind that dancers have one of the highest rates of non-fatal injury of any profession and therefore don’t dance much past their 30s, as reported by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)–even if you go for a dance career, you should have a plan for what you will do after you dance.
Consider your soundness of mind. Dance is extremely competitive and you must be able to handle the resultant stresses. You also should be able to deal with performance jitters
Contact local dance theaters and see if you can sit in on a professional rehearsal. Many rehearsals are private because companies don’t want to reveal the show until opening night, but some dance companies will let you into full dress rehearsals for discounted rates or even for free.
Look at the schools and colleges for dance available to you. Contact their admissions chairperson and get information on the requirements for entry. Ask yourself if you would be able to meet the entry criteria, pass a dance audition and pay for the expensive training. A degree in dance is not absolute necessity, but completion of a dance program will prove to employers you have the thorough knowledge of dance they require.
Network with people from your local dance theaters. Set up a one-on-one interview with both a director and a dancer. Talking to both people in both dance positions will give you a more well-rounded view of what employers will demand and what the dancer’s life is like. Join an amateur dance company to gain experience.
Review the dance market. If you see that there is only a small percentage of new dancers entering the field each year, then you’ll know you’ll have to be extremely dedicated to be successful. This review also will indicate where the most dance positions are available–for example, if fewer people are professional tap dancers than ballet dancers, you may want to concentrate on tap since it will be less competitive, even though it may be harder to find a professional tap company. Ask yourself if you’re prepared to live on low wages as you dance–most dancers work low-paying jobs as they train and live in expensive cities. Once you’re hired as a dancer, you still won’t be raking in the dough–the BLS reports that, based on 2008 data, professional dancers have a median salary of just over $12, not including supplemental benefits like room and board that some companies pay.
Keep an open mind about careers related to dance so you have a big picture of the field. Even if you don’t dance professionally, you still can get a job in areas such as choreography, body work, dance criticism and education. Make a list of these peripheral jobs that appeal to you. If most do, then dance probably is suitable for you.
- Chapman University: Why Choose Dance as a Major?
- Aboutdanceschools.com: How to Choose a Dance School
- Howtochooseacareer.com: Choosing a Career
- Rutgers: Career Opportunities for Majors in Dance
- United States Bureau of Labor Statistics: Dancers and Choreographers