Are you sure that you could out-dance those contestants on the hit show Dancing with the Stars? Then let the music move you into this dynamic and dazzling career. If you love expressing yourself through movement to music, a career as a professional dancer is calling you.
What They Do
Dancers are performers who move their bodies to music or rhythms using any of the many different styles of dance, including ballet, tap dancing, jazz or modern dancing, or other cultural or traditional styles.
Professional dancers work onstage in dance productions, as well as in TV shows, movies, commercials and music videos. They also find employment with theme parks, dinner theaters, cruise ships, large nightclubs or trade shows.
Highly trained dancers may join professional dance companies like the National Ballet of Canada. Many dancers are also talented singers or actors, and combine these talents in musical theater productions that tour the country. Some dancers, especially those hoping to work on stage, in TV, film, or music videos, have agents who look for job opportunities for them.
Dancers audition to win dance roles, then they rehearse their role with the rest of the dancers and/or actors until they are ready to perform. Most dancers move from project to project once a production or project wraps up, although there are some opportunities for full-time employment, including teaching dance classes, or as a choreographer.
As a dancer you may do some or all of the following:
- Rehearse and learn new dance routines
- Exercise and train to stay in peak physical condition
- Attend auditions for dance roles
- Perform before audiences
- Teach or choreograph other dancers
- Travel with a touring company
- Look for or meet with an agent
Who is Likely to Succeed
Professional dancers have physical stamina, perseverance, and an ability for artistic expression. It is also important to be graceful, coordinated, and have good balance. Dancers need an extraordinary level of concentration, discipline, and a lot of patience to practice routines for hours at a time.
If you are interested in a touring dance company, you should have the personal freedom and desire to be away from home for weeks or months at a time. You should also be the kind of person who loves to be in front of an audience and perform.
How to Learn It
Start by taking several dance classes in different styles to get an overview of dance as a medium. The graceful movements and stretching routines of ballet, for example, will help you build the strength and coordination needed as a basis for all other types of dance. While some professional dancers do work towards degrees in dance, a degree isn’t a necessity for most professional dance work.
When you are ready, look for a training environment designed for those who hope to move from amateur dancer to professional dancer. The National Association of Schools of Dance (lnasd.arts-accredit.org) is a great source of information for those who are looking to break into a dancing career.
To learn by doing, look for audition opportunities in the “trades” a term for the show business newspapers available to performers that list auditions for shows. Get several of these trade papers and search for paying dance gigs regularly in them. You can also look for auditions listed in your local arts and entertainment weekly.
Professional associations are also a great source of career information and advice on accredited training programs. Dance/USA (www.danceusa.org) advances the art form of dance by addressing the needs, concerns and interests of the professional dance community.
Fab Fact: Dancer, choreographer and singer Paula Abdul (of American Idol fame) started her entertainment career as a dancer/cheerleader for the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers. Paula became a highly sought-after choreographer in the 1980s, most notably for her work with singer Janet Jackson.