Job profile

Dancer

Dancer Job Profile

What is a Dancer?

To be a successful dancer you will need talent, determination and the ability to tell a story through the power of performance. 

You will use body movement, gesture and language to choreograph or perform a dance for an audience where you are trying to portray a story or concept. This will usually be accompanied by music. You may also be required to improvise, otherwise known as dancing on the spot influenced by an inner feeling. 

There are a number of dance forms including ballet, tap, hip hop, contemporary, salsa, etc. Dances will be choreographed with the intention of being performed however, this may not always be to a live audience, sometimes these can be recorded performances.  Many dancers will also be involved with additional roles within the industry such as teaching or administrative work for a dance company. 

Responsibilities

  • Prepare for and attend auditions and casting sessions
  • Get ready for performances by rehearsing and exercising
  • Perform to live audiences and for television, film and music video productions
  • Study and create choreography
  • Discuss and interpret choreography
  • Learn and use other skills such as singing and acting – many roles, for example in musical theatre, require a combination of performance skills
  • Look after costumes and equipment.
  • Taking care of the health and safety of others. This requires knowledge and observation of physiology and anatomy, as well as safe use of premises and equipment.
  • Carry out self-promotion activities – this can include sending out your CV or photographs and footage, delivering presentations, running workshops or attending auditions and meetings.

Salary

This is only a guide. According to Glassdoor, the national average salary is £27,535.

There is a weekly pay rate for dancers as negotiated by the trade union for performing arts.

    • The minimum weekly pay rate is £367.20 to £497.25 – this will depend on the capacity of the venue where you are performing. 
    • You can earn morn for West End theatre performances depending on the size, but this will typically range between £583.38 to £834.49.
    • If you are doing a recorded performance, you can earn a minimum of £882 per week but this might rise to £2,234.40 depending on the film budget.

       

Working hours 

You can expect to work unsociable hours. Training and rehearsals can be long and will often take place in the evening. When you are performing, it can run over several days and you may have to do a matinee and evening performance. 

Many dancers work on a freelance basis on short, fixed-term contracts. However, there are some opportunities for full-time work with dance companies.

What to expect

  • Many jobs are based in London but opportunities are also available with regional dance companies and organisations, as well as with touring companies.
  • You’ll need to practise daily, even when you aren’t performing, and must be able to learn new steps and styles quickly.
  • A dancer’s career can be short, rarely lasting beyond the age of 40. Injuries, especially to the feet, back and legs, can have an impact on the length of a performance career. Physical fitness and career planning are therefore crucial. Many dancers combine their dance roles with teaching or administrative duties to make a living in dance.
  • It’s likely you’ll need to travel to different venues and you may also tour within the UK or overseas; which may mean long periods away from home. Relocation may be necessary for work opportunities.
  • There’s a range of opportunities for employment abroad.

Qualifications

Dancers will often find a passion for dance when they are young and training can start from a young age. However, you can pick up dancing at any age. While some dancers may be versatile and train in various forms of dance, others will choose to specialise in one genre. Most dance courses last three years and will vary in content. 

Skills

must have skills:
  • Thorough knowledge of dance and its related issues
  • Physical fitness, stamina and perseverance
  • Motivation and discipline
  • Communication and interpersonal skills
  • Creativity
  • Resilience
  • Confidence and self-belief
  • Adaptability to the different disciplines of TV, film and theatre
  • The ability to work as part of a team
  • The ability to make contacts and promote current work.

Work experience

You can join a local dance company or school to gain experience and build your skillset – these can be found through local community groups. You may also want to consider shadowing a dance teacher or doing a vocational program.

Employers
  • Performing dance companies
  • Clubs, cabarets and cruise ships
  • Musical theatre, either in London’s West End or on tour
  • Community dance organisations
 

Dance jobs aren’t easy to find. Usually, they will be sought through your experience in the industry working and performing with different dance schools and organisations or through your network. You will need to be proactive in seeking out opportunities. 

Professional development 

To progress, dancers need continued training as the industry is always evolving and developing. Even the most experienced dancers will attend additional classes and workshops. A successful dancer will be able to take direction and constructive criticism but should also be able to offer their own creative ideas and choreography.  Being open to feedback from other dancers will help you learn. 

Other areas of training that will help you develop and gain more industry knowledge are:

  • Choreography
  • Community theatre work
  • Dance administration
  • Dance teaching
  • Notation
  • Singing
  • Acting
  • Fitness activities such as yoga, Pilates and the Alexander Technique, with a view to teaching.

Career prospects

There are no hard and fast rules to getting a career in dance. While most will start their career in dance, it is common for them to branch out and combine this with similar fields such as singing and acting.

This will open you up to the possibilities of working in several fields, you could even consider setting up your own dance school or theatre performance company. The possibilities are very much open and it is down to you to choose the direction you would like them to take. 

Related Courses

This programme is designed to help you become a creative, critical thinker who’ll make a positive impact in the workplace. This 4-year full-time course will help you explore performance critically and practically. The masterclasses led by leading industry staff and professionals will enhance your learning and provide insights into contemporary performance industries.

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