Becoming a Professional Dancer

So you’ve taken classes for a few years and now you’re ready to take the stage as a career. …Or are you? Like any career in the arts, dancing is a long, difficult road to success. Ask any one of our dancers and you’ll find that just about every one of them started out with tons of failed auditions, menial part-time jobs and just plain frustration.

We can’t guarantee that you’ll become a professional dancer right away after reading this article. But we’ll go over the most basic essentials every dancer should have when pursuing a dance career:

1. Make Money

Dollar Symbol

Okay starving artist, “selling out” your creative vision for a few bucks isn’t appealing. But beginning a career as a professional dancer is expensive: you need a place to live, transportation to rehearsals, classes, leotards, FOOD. All of that costs money. But many dance contracts for dancers who are just starting out barely cover a few month’s rent. So many dancers must find part-time jobs that fit their eclectic rehearsal schedules, such as:

  • Coffee shops like Starbucks offer earlier hours that allow dancers to be available for most rehearsals, classes and auditions. Some even offer health insurance.

  • Teachinghas great perks, such as keeping in shape on the job, flexibility and free studio time.

  • Freelance work: doing master classes, choreographing

  • Nannyingis a lot like teaching, but even more relaxed. There’s a lot of flexibility, free food and often great pay in cash.

  • Acting: commercials, extra-work on movies where dancers are needed.

And remember to save, save save! Because dancing produces such an inconsistent income, you have to be ready for anything.

2. Stay Healthy

Ironically, in a profession that depends on body shape, health insurance is a luxury. Stay healthy by eating right, laying off the booze and exercising regularly both on and off the stage.

3. A Strong Education

Although picking a great dance program is imperative to a dancer’s future well being, it shouldn’t be your only skill. There’s always the chance that something would happen and put a professional dancing career to a screeching halt–losing interest, having a family or a serious injury. Don’t forget to have a practical back-up plan that you enjoy, such as a foreign language, business or education.

4. A Positive, Goal-Oriented Attitude

In this business you need to be able to bounce back quickly and brush off failures. Being the best in your college dance program doesn’t mean a lot when you’re auditioning with the best from other college dance programs. Be aware of the competition, assess your weaknesses and grow.

5. Friends and Family

Networking with other dancers is important, but don’t forget about the people who really matter to your success. They’re you’re biggest fans, the people who come to all of your shows and tell you how wonderful you are no matter how terrible you thought you looked. Don’t underestimate the value of having someone to gripe to after a bad rehearsal or audition, because you can’t afford a therapist anyway.

Dancing’s a tough profession. But talent, a good attitude and a little common sense will get you far in your career. Just ask our dancers!


2 Responses to “Becoming a Professional Dancer”

  1. October 14, 2009 at 3:34 pm

    Thanks for sharing this 🙂

    I have an 11-year old son who is already dreaming of being a professional dancer when he’s grown. Some of this advice is vital now; other advice is ‘back burner’ info. This dance mama thanks you for all of it.

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