Dancer Choreographer

What is this job like?

Dancers and choreographers use dance performances to express ideas and stories. There are many types of dance, such as ballet, tango, modern dance, tap, and jazz.

Dancers spend years learning dances and perfecting their skills. They usually perform as part of a group and know a variety of dance styles, including ballet, musical theater, and modern dance. In addition to traditional performances in front of a live audience, many perform on TV, in videos on the Internet, and in music videos, where they also may sing or act. Many dancers perform in shows at casinos, theme parks, and on cruise ships.

Choreographers create original dances and develop new interpretations of existing dances. They work in theaters, dance companies, and movie studios. During rehearsals, they typically demonstrate dance moves, to instruct dancers in the proper technique. Many choreographers also perform the dance routines they create. Some choreographers work with performers who are not trained dancers. For example, the complex martial arts scenes performed by actors in movies are arranged by choreographers who specialize in martial arts.

How do you get ready?

Education and training requirements vary with the type of dancer; however, all dancers need many years of formal training. Nearly all choreographers began their careers as dancers.

How much does this job pay?

The median hourly wage for dancers was $14.31 in May 2014.

How many jobs are there?

Dancers and choreographers held about 20,100 jobs in 2014. About 1 in 7 were self-employed.

What about the future?

Employment of dancers and choreographers is projected to grow 5 percent from 2014 to 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

A growing interest in dance and in pop culture may provide opportunities in dance schools and in fields outside of dance companies.

However, dancers and choreographers face intense competition, and the number of applicants is expected to vastly exceed the number of job openings.

Some information on this page has been provided by the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics.

More details ⇣: 

Overview:

Dancers and choreographers use dance performances to express ideas and stories. There are many types of dance, such as ballet, tango, modern dance, tap, and jazz.

Dancers typically do the following:

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

Dancers spend years learning dances and perfecting their skills. They usually perform as part of a group and know a variety of dance styles, including ballet, musical theater, and modern dance. In addition to traditional performances in front of a live audience, many perform on TV, in videos on the Internet, and in music videos, where they also may sing or act. Many dancers perform in shows at casinos, theme parks, and on cruise ships.

Choreographers typically do the following:

  • Put together moves in a sequence to create dances or interpretations of existing dances
  • Choose the music that will accompany a dance routine
  • Audition dancers for a role in a show or within a dance company
  • Assist with costume design, lighting, and other artistic aspects of a show
  • Teach complex dance movements
  • Study new and emerging types of dance to design more creative dance routines
  • Help with the administrative duties of a dance company, such as budgeting

Choreographers create original dances and develop new interpretations of existing dances. They work in theaters, dance companies, and movie studios. During rehearsals, they typically demonstrate dance moves, to instruct dancers in the proper technique. Many choreographers also perform the dance routines they create. Some choreographers work with performers who are not trained dancers. For example, the complex martial arts scenes performed by actors in movies are arranged by choreographers who specialize in martial arts.

Some dancers and choreographers hold other jobs between roles to make a living. Some people with dance backgrounds become dance teachers.

Work Environment:

Dancers and choreographers held about 20,100 jobs in 2014. About half of dancers and choreographers worked in schools and performing arts companies in 2014. About 1 in 7 were self-employed.

Schedules for dancers and choreographers vary, depending on where they work. During tours, dancers and choreographers have long workdays, rehearsing most of the day and performing at night. Some work part-time at casinos, on cruise ships, and at theme parks.

Choreographers who work in dance schools may have a standard workweek when they are instructing students. They also spend hours working independently to create new dance routines.

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. Although choreographers who work in dance schools may have a standard workweek when they are instructing students, they spend many hours on their own coming up with new dance routines.

Education and Training:

Education and training requirements vary with the type of dancer; however, all dancers need many years of formal training. Nearly all choreographers began their careers as dancers.

Many dancers begin training when they are young and continue to learn throughout their careers. Ballet dancers 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.

Leading professional dance companies sometimes have intensive summer training programs from which they might select candidates for admission to their regular full-time training programs.

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.

Some dancers and choreographers pursue post-secondary education. Many colleges and universities offer bachelor’s and/or master’s degrees in dance, typically through departments of theater or fine arts. In March 2015, there were about 85 dance programs accredited by the National Association of Schools of Dance. Most programs include coursework in a variety of dance styles, including modern, jazz, ballet, and hip-hop. Most entrants into college dance programs have previous formal training.

Some choreographers work as dance teachers. Teaching dance in a college, high school, or elementary school requires a college degree. Some dance studios and conservatories prefer instructors who have a degree but may accept previous work, in lieu of a degree.

Nearly all choreographers begin their careers as dancers. While working as dancers, they study different types of dance and learn how to choreograph routines.

Some dancers take on more responsibility if they are promoted to dance captain in musical theater or a ballet master/ballet mistress in concert dance companies. They lead rehearsals or work with less-experienced dancers when the choreographer is not present.

Eventually, some dancers become choreographers. Dancers and choreographers may also become theater, film, or television producers and directors.

Skills to Develop:

Athleticism: Successful dancers must have excellent balance, physical strength, and physical dexterity, so they can move their bodies without falling or losing their sense of rhythm.

Creativity: Dancers need artistic ability and creativity to express ideas through movement. Choreographers also must have artistic ability and innovative ideas, to create new and interesting dance routines.

Interpersonal skills: Dancers and choreographers may find job opportunities by networking within their communities.

Leadership skills: Choreographers must be able to direct a group of dancers to perform the routines that they have created.

Persistence: Dancers must commit to years of intense practice. They need to be able to accept rejection after an audition and to continue to practice for future performances. Choreographers must keep studying and creating new routines.

Physical stamina: Dancers are often physically active for long periods, so they must be able to rehearse for many hours without getting tired.

Teamwork: Most dance routines involve a group, so dancers must be able to work together to be successful.

Job Outlook:

Employment of dancers is projected to grow 5 percent from 2014 to 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Employment of choreographers is projected to grow 6 percent from 2014 to 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

Large dance companies are not expected to add many jobs over the decade, so dancers may find positions in smaller companies, or in companies that stage professional dance competitions. There may be better opportunities for dancers and choreographers in large cities, such as New York and Chicago, or for dancers who join a traveling company.

A growing interest in dance and in pop culture may provide opportunities in fields outside of dance companies, such as TV or movies, casinos, theme parks, or as judges in dance competitions. Many dancers and choreographers, nonetheless, struggle to find opportunities to express themselves; dance companies rely on word-of-mouth, grants, and public funding. However, public funding and grants for dance performances can be highly competitive.

The growing interest in dance in pop culture is expected to lead more people to enroll in dance schools, and growing enrollment should create more jobs for choreographers and dancers who provide lessons.

Earnings:

The median hourly wage for dancers was $14.31 in May 2014. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $8.52, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $34.44.

The median hourly wage for choreographers was $21.28 in May 2014. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $9.06, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $48.96.

College Courses: 

Sample courses that might be required for a degree in Dance:

Dance Technique Courses

  • Ballet
  • Modern
  • Jazz
  • Pointe and Pas de Deux

Dance Choreography

  • Improvisation
  • Structure Solos
  • Group Forms
  • Environmental

Dance Performance Courses

  • Ballet
  • Musical Theatre
  • University Dance Company

Dance Theory/History/Courses

  • Rhythm and Music Structure
  • World Dance
  • Ideokinesis (an approach to the improvement of human posture and body movement)
  • Video for Dance
  • Dance for Children
  • Dance History

Colleges will also require you to take some core undergraduate courses in addition to some electives. Required core courses and electives will vary from college to college. Here are a number of examples:

Arts and Humanities

  • Arts
  • History
  • Languages
  • Literature
  • Music

Math

  • Algebra
  • Calculus
  • Computer Science
  • Logic
  • Statistics

Natural Sciences

  • Astronomy
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Environmental Science
  • Physics

Social Sciences

  • Anthropology
  • Economics
  • Government
  • Psychology
  • Sociology