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What is a Dancer?

Dancers use movements to express ideas and stories in performances. There are many types of dance, such as ballet, contemporary, tap, jazz, and hip-hop.

How compatible are you with this career?

Would you make a good dancer? Sokanu's free assessment reveals your exact compatibility with this career, your strengths, and any unique areas of interest.

What does a Dancer do?

Dancers spend years learning dances and perfecting their skills. They normally perform as part of a group in a variety of settings, including the ballet, musical theater, and modern dance companies. Many perform on TV or in music videos, where they also may sing and act. Many perform in shows at casinos, theme parks, or on cruise ships. Some people with dance backgrounds become dance teachers.

Dancers typically do the following:

  • Audition for a part in a show or for a job with a dance company
  • Learn complex dance movements that entertain an audience
  • Spend several hours each day in rehearsals to prepare for their performance
  • Study new and emerging types of dance
  • Work closely with instructors or other dancers to interpret or modify choreography
  • Attend promotional events, such as photography sessions, for the production in which they are appearing

How to become a Dancer

Dance takes a toll on a person’s body, giving dancers one of the highest rates of nonfatal on-the-job injuries. Many dancers stop performing by their late thirties because of the physical demands dancing makes on the body. Nonperforming dancers may continue to work as a choreographer, director, or dance teacher.

Dancers’ schedules vary, depending on where they work. Some spend most of the day in rehearsals and have performances at night, giving them long workdays.

Education and training requirements vary with the type of dancer; however, all dancers need many years of formal training. Many begin training when they are very young and continue to learn throughout their careers. Ballet dancers usually begin training the earliest, usually between the ages of 5 and 8 for girls and a few years later for boys. Their training becomes more serious as they enter their teens, and most ballet dancers begin their professional careers by the time they are 18. Modern dancers normally begin formal training while they are in high school. They attend after-school dance programs and summer training programs to prepare for their career or for a college dance program.

Many universities offer a bachelor’s or master’s degree in dance, typically through departments of theater or fine arts. Most focus on modern dance but also include courses in jazz, ballet, hip hop, and other forms. Most entrants into university dance programs have previous formal training. Even though it is not required, many dancers choose to earn a degree in an unrelated field to prepare for a career after dance, because dance careers are usually brief. Teaching dance in a university, high school, or elementary school requires a college degree. Some dance studios or conservatories prefer instructors who have a degree, but may accept performance experience instead.

Some dancers take on more responsibility by becoming a dance captain in musical theater or a ballet master/ballet mistress in concert dance companies, by leading rehearsals, or by working with less-experienced dancers when the choreographer is not at practice. Eventually, some dancers become choreographers.

Successful dancers must have excellent balance so they can move their bodies without falling or losing their sense of rhythm. They must be agile, flexible, coordinated, and musical. They also need artistic ability and creativity to express ideas through movement. They are often physically active for long periods, so they must be able to work for many hours without getting tired. Most dance routines involve a group, so dancers must be able to work together to be successful. They must commit to years of intense practice. Finally, they need to be able to accept rejection after an audition and continue to practice for a future role.

What is the workplace of a Dancer like?

Dancers’ schedules vary, depending on where they work. Some spend most of the day in rehearsals and have performances at night, giving them long workdays. Some work part time at casinos, on cruise ships, or at theme parks.

External Reading

  • 15 Truths About Being A Professional Dancer www.theportlandballet.org

    The world of dance today is akin to an extreme sport. Natural ability and talent will only get us so far.

  • Work Life: Teneisha Bonner, Dancer www.stylist.co.uk

    A one-day diary from morning latte to lights out.

  • A Day In The Life Of A Ballet Dancer diabloballet.wordpress.com

    Deborah Bull, a former dancer with the Royal Ballet and currently the director of Cultural Institute at King’s College in London, wrote in her book, “The Everyday Dancer”, that the day of a professional ballet dancer is more or less 12 hours of working, 6 days a week.

  • Making It On Broadway dancenews.capezio.com

    To land a Broadway gig is to land a dance dream job. With eight shows a week offering much performance experience on big, historic stages and with significant compensation, its no wonder so many dancers are after this gig.

  • But What I Really Want To Do Is Dance! www.danceadvantage.net

    There’s one email that I get quite a lot. Though it comes with a variety of backstories, it goes a little something like this...

  • How To Become A Professional Dancer – 3 Things You Should Do First www.dancesaveslives.org

    To be a professional dancer is to live a dream. Whether you are dancing as a back up dancer to a huge named artist performing on stage in front of sold out stadiums or traveling the 7 seas as a dancer for a cruise line.

  • Becoming A Dance Professional www.artsalive.ca

    Have you attended a dance performance you can't forget? Do you love to dance and hope to make it your career? If you want to become a part of the fascinating world of professional dance, read on!