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Career in being a Dancer


Dance is a performing art form consisting of purposefully selected sequences of human movement. This movement has aesthetic and symbolic value, and is acknowledged as dance by performers and observers within a particular culture. Dance can be categorized and described by its choreography, by its repertoire of movements, or by its historical period or place of origin.

An important distinction is to be drawn between the contexts of theatrical and participatory dance, although these two categories are not always completely separate; both may have special functions, whether social, ceremonial, competitive, erotic, martial, or sacred/liturgical. Other forms of human movement are sometimes said to have a dance-like quality, including martial arts, gymnastics, cheerleading, figure skating, synchronised swimming, marching bands, and many other forms of athletics.

A dancer is someone who uses movements to express ideas and stories in performances. There are many types of dance, such as ballet, contemporary, tap, jazz, ballroom and hip-hop. Dancers commit to years of learning, practicing and perfecting their dance skills. Some people with dance backgrounds become dance teachers or choreographers.


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

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 need to be able to accept rejection after an audition and continue to practice for a future role. Some dancers take on more responsibility by becoming a dance captain in musical theatre 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.

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


There are various requirements for a Dancer that they need to fulfil to pursue a career in being a Dancer. The requirements are classified under three heads –


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 five and eight 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 years old.

Many universities offer a bachelor’s or master’s degree in dance, typically through departments of theatre or fine arts. Most focus on modern dance but also include courses in jazz, ballet, hip-hop, and other forms. Entrants into university dance programs typically have many years of 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 usually requires a degree, but may accept performance experience instead.

Training to become a dancer often starts from a very young age, particularly for classical ballet, but many other dancers start training in their teens or even when they're at university.

It's vital to have a high level of training and ability in at least one form of dance, for example:

  • classical ballet

  • modern stage dance

  • contemporary dance

  • street dance

  • African or Asian dance.

The national standards body of the dance industry, the Council for Dance, Drama and Musical Theatre (CDMT), provides information on dance colleges offering vocational training, some of which also offer degree and postgraduate-level courses.

Courses offered by CDMT-accredited schools cover a range of disciplines, including:

  • ballet

  • commercial

  • contemporary dance

  • jazz

  • musical theatre

  • street.

Most courses last three years and vary widely in style, content and aims, so do your research before applying.

For those who have successfully completed their training, most CDMT-accredited schools also offer the Trinity College London Professional Performing Arts Diploma in Professional Dance (or Professional Musical Theatre) at Levels 5 and 6. It's also possible to convert the Level 6 Diploma into a full BA Hons Professional Practice in Arts from Middlesex University. The conversion course lasts a year and allows you to continue your professional activities while completing a professional portfolio and practice-based project.

A number of universities offer dance courses or degrees with an element of dance. For details, see the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). Check the content of courses before applying to make sure the ones you choose to apply for meet your career needs.

Postgraduate or vocational study isn't essential, but it could be help further your career once you have gained a few years' experience in the industry.

The most common degree held by dancers is Fine Arts, held by 6% of dancers. Other common degrees include Dance.

Dancers often have similar levels of education. 47% of dancers have no education, with the second most common being a high school diploma at 35%.


Dancers have distinct personalities. They tend to be artistic individuals, which means they’re creative, intuitive, sensitive, articulate, and expressive. They are unstructured, original, nonconforming, and innovative. Some of them are also realistic, meaning they’re independent, stable, persistent, genuine, practical, and thrifty.

Dancers tend to be predominantly artistic individuals, meaning that they are creative and original and work well in a setting that allows for self-expression. They also tend to be realistic, which means that they often enjoy working outdoors or applying themselves to a hands-on project.

As a dancer, you'll use movement, gesture and body language to portray a character, story, situation or abstract concept to an audience, usually to the accompaniment of music. This typically involves interpreting the work of a choreographer, although it may sometimes require improvisation.

You can work in a variety of genres including classical ballet, modern stage dance, contemporary dance, street dance and African or Asian dance. You may perform to a live audience or take part in a recorded performance for television, film or music video.

Many dancers follow portfolio careers, combining performance with teaching, choreography or administrative work in a dance company.


As a dancer, you'll need to:

  • prepare for and attend auditions and casting sessions

  • get ready for performances by rehearsing and exercising

  • perform to live audiences and for television, film and music video productions

  • study and create choreography

  • discuss and interpret choreography

  • learn and use other skills such as singing and acting - many roles, for example in musical theatre, require a combination of performance skills

  • look after costumes and equipment

  • take care of the health and safety of others, which requires knowledge and observation of physiology and anatomy, as well as safe use of premises and equipment

  • carry out self-promotion activities - this can include sending out your CV or photographs and footage, delivering presentations, running workshops or attending auditions and meetings.

Depending on your particular interests, you may also do some or all of the following:

  • teach dance, either privately or in the public sector

  • work in dance development and promotion, encouraging and enabling people, especially children, to become involved in dance and to understand and appreciate it

  • run workshops in the community, for example with groups of disabled people

  • undertake administrative, promotional or stage management work - particularly if you work for yourself or are employed in a small company

  • liaise with arts and dance organisations, theatres and other venues regarding funding and contracts.

Dancer Tasks

  • Perform in stage events including musicals, dance shows and concerts, movies, videos, commercials, or community or entertainment events.

  • May assist with choreography.

  • Express narrative and rhythm of dances through body movements.

  • Train and attend rehearsals.


The average salary for a Dancer is ₹ 1,732 per day in India. Salary estimates are based on 5 salaries submitted anonymously to Indeed by Dancer employees, users, and collected from past and present job advertisements on Indeed in the past 36 months.

The Average ‘Yearly’ salary for a Dancer in India is ₹305,209.


Dancers’ schedules vary, depending on where they work. Most dancers spend the day in rehearsals and have performances at night, giving them long workdays. Dancers may perform as part of a group in a variety of settings, including the ballet, musical theatre, and modern dance companies. Many perform on TV or in music videos, where they also may sing and act, or perform in shows at concerts, casinos, theme parks, or on cruise ships.

CareerExplorer rates dancers with a D employability rating, meaning this career should provide weak employment opportunities for the foreseeable future. Over the next 10 years, it is expected India will need 7,600 dancers. That number is based on 600 additional dancers, and the retirement of 7,000 existing dancers.

Dancers will continue to face intense competition for jobs, as the number of applicants is expected to vastly exceed the number of openings. Only the most talented dancers find regular employment with major dance companies. A growing interest in dance and pop culture, however, should provide opportunities with smaller regional or traveling dance troupes; casino and theme park shows; cruise lines; music video channels; and dance schools. Fluctuations in funding for the arts by public and private organizations will play a considerable role in determining overall demand and employment prospects in the field. While the most sought-after positions will be found in large cities with noteworthy entertainment industries, such as New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, the highest number of job seekers will also be located in these centres. Candidates who have attended a conservatory affiliated with a recognized dance company or who have trained at a prestigious school like Juilliard will be highly coveted. Novice dancers often spend several years in dance choruses before advancing to solo numbers or prominent roles. After their performing careers some dancers become choreographers, producers, or directors. Others continue to work in the field by forming their own dance companies. Those whose experience is in ballet may aspire to the esteemed position of ballet master or mistress.

As it turns out, dancers rate their career happiness 4.0 out of 5 stars which puts them in the top 8% of careers.


Training continues throughout a dancer's career, with even the most experienced dancers attending daily classes. Out-of-work dancers still need to continue to attend open classes in order to maintain and develop skills.

Details of courses are available from CDMT.

You must be willing to take direction and constructive criticism as well as contributing your own ideas and suggestions in collaboration with the director or choreographer. Being open to such feedback will enable you to develop your skills.

You’ll need to maintain a healthy body in order to keep fit and stay in work. The Healthier Dancer Programme (HDP), run by One Dance UK, provides advice, events and conferences on health, fitness and injury prevention. Dance UK also provides information on training and networking opportunities in the independent sector.

Training in other areas related to dance may help increase your income and allow you to develop a portfolio or second career. Popular areas include:

  • choreography

  • community theatre work

  • dance administration

  • dance teaching

  • notation

  • singing

  • acting

  • fitness activities such as yoga, Pilates and the Alexander Technique, with a view to teaching.

Some dancers undertake further training to work in complementary therapies or to lead fitness classes such as yoga, pilates and the Alexander Technique. Another option is to become a personal trainer.

Short courses in IT and project management may be useful when seeking temporary work or work in dance administration and development.


There is no clearly defined career path for a dancer. Most will start their careers as dancers, or combine another aspect of dance with performance, and then move out of performance into a related area.

Many dancers progress into teaching, either in the private or the public sector. CDMT provides details of the range of dance teaching qualifications available. Following this route, you could opt to run your own dance courses, or consider running a franchise within a health and fitness club.

Other career options include moving into choreography (as an assistant choreographer and then choreographer), working as a dance notator, writing about dance, or managing the administrative side of a dance organisation.

Some dancers go on to become dance movement psychotherapists, which requires a relevant MA. This therapeutic process helps people address their problems or develop personally through dance and movement.

If you later decide to move away from dancing into a totally unrelated profession, you can access support and guidance with regard to retraining from Dancers Career Development (DCD)


Joining a local dance company or dance school can help build your experience of performing.

Work shadowing a dance teacher can also be useful. Seek out local opportunities in your area or holiday programmes. You may also want to consider setting up your own company.

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