Career Detail

Dancers & Choreographers
“Nice Footwork”
From ancient times to the present, dancers have expressed ideas, stories, and rhythm with their bodies.
The Job
Dancers work with choreographers, who create original dances and develop new interpretations of existing dances. Because few dance routines are written down, choreographers instruct performers at rehearsals to achieve the desired effect. In addition, choreographers usually are involved in auditioning performers. Dancers use a variety of dance forms that allow free movement and self-expression, including classical ballet, modern dance, and culturally specific dance styles. Dancers perform in a variety of settings, including opera, musical theater, and other musical productions, and may present folk, ethnic, tap, jazz, hip-hop, and other popular kinds of dance. Dancers also perform in television, movies, music videos, and commercials, in which they also may sing and act. Dancers most often perform as part of a group, although a few top artists perform solo. Many dance companies tour for part of the year to supplement a limited performance schedule at home. Dancers often work very long and late hours.
Work Environment
Dancers who perform in musical productions and other family entertainment spend much of their time on the road, in nightclubs or on cruise ships. Most dance performances are in the evening.
College Majors
Many colleges and universities award bachelor's or master's degrees in dance, typically through departments of dance, theater, or fine arts.
Minimum Qualifications
Most dancers need long-term on-the-job training to be successful. Some earn a bachelor's degree or attend dance school, although neither is required. Becoming a choreographer usually requires years of dancing experience.
Personality traits helpful for this career
self-discipline, higly motivated, patience, perseverance, and devotion, able to except rejection, able to function as part of a team
Quick Facts
  • Many dancers combine performance work with teaching or choreography.
  • Most dancers stop performing by their late thirties because of the physical demands on the body.
  • Some continue to work in the field as dance teachers and coaches, or artistic directors.
  • Tight competition and the number of applicants will continue to vastly exceed the number of job openings.
  • More Info: National Association of Schools of Dance, Internet:
Compensation and Outlook
Median hourly wages of dancers were $12.22 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $8.03 and $18.82. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $7.28, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $27.26. Median annual wages of salaried choreographers were $38,520 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $25,320 and $55,360. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $17,880, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $67,160.
Comments and Updates
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