What is this job like?
Dancers express ideas, stories, rhythm, and sound with their bodies. Some dance in ballet; others perform modern dance. Dancers work in musical shows, in folk, ethnic, tap, and jazz dances. Opera, musical comedy, television, movies, music videos, and commercials often include dancing as well. Many dancers sing and act, as well as dance. Dancers often work as a group. A few stars dance solo. Many dancers also teach or choreograph dances.
Choreographers create new dances. They may also add changes to older dances. Some teach dancers to get the results they want. They may also audition dancers for a particular production.
Dancing is hard work. Rehearsals often are long and usually take place daily. Many rehearsals take place on weekends and holidays. Weekend travel is common when a show is on the road. Dancers must also work late hours and practice during the day.
Because dancing is hard work, most dancers stop working by their late thirties. Sometimes they become dance teachers and coaches.
How do you get ready?
To become a dancer, one must be agile, flexible, have good body tone, and a supple body. Training begins at age 5 to 8 in ballet, usually by private teachers and in ballet schools. Boys often start training later than girls. Students who are good by their early teens get more advanced training. Training by leading dance schools, for those who are serious about dancing, also takes place in the summer. Most dancers have their professional auditions by age 17 or 18. By then dancers usually focus on a specific style of dance. Dancers normally spend 8 hours a day in class and rehearsal, keeping their bodies in shape and preparing for performances.
Education in music, literature, history, and the arts can help you understand the mood and ideas of a dance.
A college degree can help a dancer who retires early get another kind of job. It is also very important if the dancer wants to teach in elementary or high school. Dance studios usually want teachers to have been performers. Choreographers are usually experienced dancers as well.
As dancers get better, they often get more jobs, bigger and better roles, and higher pay. Dancers must constantly be motivated and prepared to go on many auditions.
Source: The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
See also: Notable Dancers and Choreographers.