Dancers and Choreographers

Career, Salary and Education Information

Top 3 Dancer Jobs

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Top 3 Choreographer Jobs

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    Experience in musical theater is a must. This is a paid position. Please contact Director Linnea Mace immediately 413-717-1006 , Listing from New

  • Dance Choreographer - Timberlane Regional School District - Plaistow, NH

    Must be NH Certified or certifiable in 0350 Education Technology Integration. Per diem rate $193.99, no

  • Dance Instructor/Choreographer - Gift of Dance Academy - Fredericksburg, VA

    Looking for qualified, well rounded teachers for spring/summer 2017. Please send your resume teaching/choreography experience along with with styles

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What Dancers and Choreographers Do[About this section] [To Top]

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.

Duties of Dancers and Choreographers

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 for Dancers and Choreographers[About this section] [To Top]

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.

Injuries and Illnesses

Dance takes a toll on a person’s body, so on-the-job injuries for dancers are common. Many dancers stop performing by the time they reach their late thirties because of the physical demands of their work. Nonperforming dancers may continue to work as choreographers, directors, or dance teachers.

Dancer and Choreographer Work Schedules

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.

How to Become a Dancer or Choreographer[About this section] [To Top]

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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.

Dancer and Choreographer Education and Training

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 postsecondary 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.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

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

Advancement for Dancers and Choreographers

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.

Important Qualities for Dancers and Choreographers

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.

Dancer and Choreographer Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median hourly wage for dancers was $14.44 in May 2015. 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 $8.56, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $33.03.

The median hourly wage for choreographers was $22.09 in May 2015. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $9.24, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $45.72.

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.

Job Outlook for Dancers and Choreographers[About this section] [To Top]

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.

Dancers and Choreographers Job Prospects

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

Dancers who attend schools or conservatories associated with a dance company may have a better chance of finding work at that company than other dancers.

Employment projections data for Dancers and Choreographers, 2014-24
Occupational Title Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24
Percent Numeric
Dancers and choreographers 20,100 21,100 5 1,100
  Dancers 13,000 13,600 5 600
  Choreographers 7,100 7,500 6 400


*Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. Used by permission.

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