Dancers may perform in a variety of different settings including musical theater, opera and other musical productions. They may present tap, jazz, ethnic, folk and other types of dance. Dancers may perform in music videos, movies, television and commercials in addition to acting and singing. Dancers typically perform in a group, although some may perform alone or solo.
Dance and Choreography Job Responsibilities
Choreographers create dances that are original as well as developing new interpretations for existing dances. They may work in dance schools, theaters, movie studios, dance studios and fashion shows. In addition, they may be involved in auditioning dancers for parts. Choreographers are responsible for instructing performers by demonstrating techniques. In addition, choreographers may assist in coordinating lighting and costume design.
Dance can be quite strenuous. As a result, it is not uncommon for many dancers to stop performing by the time they reach their late thirties due to the physical demands that are placed on the body. Some may continue to work as artistic directors, choreographers, dance coaches and teachers. Others may transition into administrative positions or company managers.
Dance companies usually tour for part of the year to supplement limited performances at home. It is not uncommon for dancers who perform in productions to spend a lot of time on the road. Some work on cruise ships or in nightclubs. Most dancers work in the evening, with practice and rehearsals taking place during the day. Consequently, dancers typically work long, late hours.
Dancers and choreographers may work in a variety of different industries including dance schools and studios, performing arts companies and recreation venues. Approximately 14% are self-employed. Employment within this field is expected to grow more slowly than average for other occupations. Limited funding from private and public organizations is not generally expected to allow for extensive employment opportunities. Competition for jobs in the fields of dance and choreography is typically intense due to the large number of people who would like to make a career of being a dancer or choreographer. Only the most talented dancers and choreographers are usually able to obtain regular employment.
Dance and Choreography Training and Education Requirements
Dancers must have on-the-job training in order to be successful in their career. Most dancers begin formal training sometime between the ages of 5 and 15. Dancers will typically have a professional audition by age 17 or 18. Some may attend dance school or earn a bachelor’s degree. Becoming a choreographer typically requires years of training and experience.
Training will vary according to the type of dance and may be a continuous part of the career of a dance. There is a common belief that dancers should begin with a solid foundation in classical technique before choosing a specific style. Ballet training may begin between ages 5 and 8 for girls through an independent ballet school or private teacher. Boys may begin training between ages 10 and 15. Students who show potential in their early teens may seek more advanced and intensive professional training. At this point, students may begin to focus their training on a specific style.
For most professional dancers, training is an essential part of their careers. Dancers usually spend 8 hours per day in class as well as rehearsals in order to keep their bodies in shape.
Many universities and colleges offer bachelor and master’s degree in dance, usually through departments of dance, fine arts or theater. 74 accredited dance programs are offered through the National Association of Schools of Dance. Programs usually concentrate on modern dance but others may include courses in ballet, jazz or classical techniques.
It is not essential to obtain a college education in order to pursue a career as a professional dancer. The completion of a college program is necessary in order to become qualified to teach dance.
Individuals interested in becoming dancers or choreographers must have patience, self-discipline, devotion and perseverance. In addition, it is essential to have good physical stamina and health as well as agility, flexibility, grade, coordination, sense of rhythm and creativity. Choreographers must possess the same attributes along with being able to plan and coordinate productions. Due to the fact that performances are often part of a group, it is important to be able to work well with others.
Dance and Choreography Salary and Wages
In 2008, the median hourly wages of dancers were $12.22 per hour. Due to the fact that the hours worked by dancers can vary widely and many jobs are short-term in nature it can be difficult to obtain annual wage data for this career field. Dancers employed by performing arts companies typically earn more money. In 2008 the median annual wages of salaried choreographers were $38,250. Dancers who tour will typically receive an extra allowance for room and board. Most salaried choreographers and dancers are covered by union contracts to receive paid sick leave as well as health and pension benefits.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Dance and Choreography Certifications
Certification is usually not necessary for success in this career field.
Dance and Choreography Professional Associations
Professional associations for dancers and choreographers include the National Association of Schools of Dance.