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How Can I Become a Professional Dancer?

Research what it takes to become a professional dancer. Learn about training requirements, salary and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you.

What Is a Professional Dancer?

Professional dancers practice and perfect their dancing ability for years. They often specialize in a particular style of dance, such as ballet, hip-hop or modern dance. Professional dancers often have to undergo numerous auditions to find work. Once they earn a role they must learn various dance numbers and participate in rehearsals. They work closely with other dancers, choreographers and directors to deliver the best performances possible. Professional dancers often participate in different promotional events for their shows. If you're curious about the training and experience required to become a professional dancer, check out the table below. You'll also find employment projections and other career info.

Training Required Several years of formal training, often beginning at a young age
Key Skills Physical strength, dexterity and stamina; artistic creativity
Job Growth (2018-2028) 1%*
Median Hourly Wage (2018) $16.31*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Kind of Dancer Could I Be?

There are many styles of dance, including ballet, jazz, modern, hip-hop and folk, and different opportunities await dancers of different genres; for example, you don't see many ballerinas in pop videos. If your dream is to dance for a renowned company, you'll need a strong foundation in 'classical' styles of dance, such as ballet, jazz and modern. On the other hand, if you want to be a backup dancer for a musician or musical group, you might focus on contemporary or hip-hop dance. Keep in mind that successful dancers tend to be well-rounded, with skills in a variety of genres. Being able to switch from jazz to tap to ballroom could help you secure regular work.

What Are the Training Requirements?

While you can have a career in dance without formal education, a training program can provide an opportunity to learn different styles from professional instructors. It also could give you the background needed to teach dance.

Most professional dancers begin learning the craft between the ages of 5-15. Starting early is important because it can take years to develop the muscle strength and technique needed to turn dance into a profession. Formal training opportunities are available with dance companies and conservatories, or you could pursue a bachelor's or master's degree in dance at a college or university.

How Do I Get Experience and Land Jobs?

Relocating to a city where entertainment is a major focus might offer you more chances to get hired as a professional dancer; however, theater, ballet and dance are performed nearly everywhere. You might start by investigating the arts community in your area and volunteering to dance at festivals and shows.

You also can search for auditions through newspapers, online job sites and professional dance sites. Show up at auditions with a resume and head shot; you also might want to provide a demo reel. Additionally, you may want to look into getting representation. An agent may be able to get you more exclusive auditions, as well as providing you with information and opportunities you wouldn't have otherwise known about.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Some similar careers in the performing arts include actors, musicians and singers. Actors typically receive some college education, but do not require a degree. They embody different characters to tell a story for audiences. They may perform live, such as in theatre productions, or be filmed for television or movie productions. Musicians and singers may also perform for live audiences, or record their music in a studio. Singers perform vocally while musicians play different instruments. Musicians and singers do not require any formal education, but some may pursue degrees.