Jobs in the Dance Industry

Sally Painter
Dance career

If you love to dance and you're looking for a career that will enable you to challenge your body physically while also using your creativity, you may be interested in pursuing a career as a professional dancer or in a related field. Becoming a dancer isn't easy, as preparing for dance jobs requires investing many years into practice, rehearsals and dance performances followed by auditions and more hard work.

Types of Dance Jobs

You may first decide to pursue a dance job when you are in your teens and twenties, but you don't have to limit yourself to only working in dance early in your career. Many dance instructors, choreographers and even professional dancers can continue to work in the field until they decide it's time to retire. Unless otherwise noted, the meridan job rates are courtesy of the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Professional Dancer

Dance jobs are extremely competitive, with only the most talented dancers finding regular work. Many dancers begin their formal dance training at a very early age, some as young as five years old. They may have their first professional audition in their mid-teens. Dancers usually stop performing by their late 30s, but some remain in the field as choreographers or teachers.

Employment Opportunities

Whether the job is as a ballet dancer, Broadway show dancer, or a cruise or theme park dancer, the hours are long and the pay is typically low. Employment is often short-term and irregular, with jobs that may last as little as a day or a week. It is extremely rare for dancers to have guaranteed employment that exceeds three to six months.

Education and Salary

A college education is not essential for a professional dancer, but it would be important to qualify to teach dance in a formal education setting. Many college and universities offer degrees in dance techniques, composition, history and analysis. The median hourly rate for professional dancers is around $16.

If you want to work as a professional dancer, you can find auditions on websites like:

  • Backstage: Scroll through casting calls and dance auditions. Create and post a profile for those searching for talent.
  • DancePlug: This website features listings for dance jobs, auditions and castings calls.
  • Dance.net: You can find dance jobs, competitions, upcoming shows, workshops/classes and more.
  • Stage Door Access: You can search by city, show name or choreographer name on the dance calendar for available auditions.

Choreographer

Many professional dancers turn to choreography as their next career step. Choreography jobs are scarce, so the field is very competitive. As with other professional dance jobs, the hours are long and the employment can be short term. Local theater companies usually have a choreographer on staff. Some theme parks and cruise ships hire choreographers if the dance troop does not come with its own established choreographer. Often, dance instructors double as choreographers for their own dance classes, and this type of instruction can help lead to other choreography gigs. The median hourly rate is around $23.

Dance Instructor

If you want to work as a dance instructor, you'll probably want to pursue a degree in dance, with an option for a teacher's certificate. Dance instructors can work at high schools, colleges and private dance studios. Dance studios may not require a degree, but high schools and colleges will. Dance instructors work with students on technique and skill, preparing them for performances in a wide variety of settings. To find dance instructor jobs, you can canvas your local dance studios to determine whether any of them are hiring, or you can search listings at school districts and colleges. The median hourly rate is around $21.

Gentleman Dance Host

Luxury cruise lines often invite two to six men on every cruise to function as gentleman dance hosts. Their roles involve dancing, interacting with guests and sharing in the activities aboard the ship. They ask the men to attend ship activities, social functions and shore excursions, where they act as goodwill ambassadors for the cruise line. They also serve as partners for unescorted women on the dance floor.

Cruise Line Employers

The cruise lines look for single, divorced or widowed men who are mature, in good health, with positive attitudes, flexible schedules and excellent dance and social skills. Many of the hosts are semi-retired or retired professionals with backgrounds in law, business, travel, finance, medicine, military and education.

Knowledge of Dance Genres

Dance hosts must be able to dance all of the ballroom and Latin dances including the waltz, rumba, foxtrot, swing and cha-cha. This is not a paid position, but dance hosts receive free cruises, room and board. However, some cruise lines charge dance hosts around $30 a day, which is still a small cost for a cruise.

You can find gentleman dance host positions and other cruise line dance jobs on the cruise line websites:

  • Royal Caribbean: You can check the job search page for any open positions.
  • Carnival: Carnival Corporation includes Carnival Cruise Lines, Princess Cruises, Holland America Line, Cunard, AIDA, Costa, P&O Cruises, Seabourn and P&O Australia.
  • Disney Cruise Line: You can search the current Disney job openings for shipboard positions.

Belly Dancer

Belly dancing is ancient form of dancing. It's roots are found in Asian countries, Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean regions. Classical Egyptian style as Raqs Sharqi (Egyptian cabaret) is different from other forms of belly dancing.

Job Opportunities and Salary

You will need professional training to master the moves of the style you choose to learn. Professional belly dancers have years of training and practice. You can dance at special events, at ethnic restaurants, weddings, or you may choose to teach classes. The pay is determined by the type of venue where you perform. According to BizFluent, you may earn up to $130 a night for an event, or around $40 to $80 an hour teaching belly dancing.

Dance Fitness Instructor

It's best to become certified dance fitness instructor if you wish to find a job with a fitness center or gym, since most of these types of fitness groups only hire certified instructors. The certifications are typically offered for basic fitness education along with specialty areas, such as dance fitness.

Dance Fitness Instructor Certifications and Salary

There are several popular dance fitness programs you can become certified to teach. Each type offers instruction certification. The ASFA (American Sports and Fitness Association) offers a general dance fitness hip-hop aerobics certification, while a Zumba instructor must go through Zumba Instructor Training and receive a license (renewable in six months). Depending on the type of employer, the median hourly rate is around $15 to $20.

Dance Competition Judge

The dance competition companies need judges. This can be a rewarding and fun job for an experienced and trained dancer. Many studio instructors move into this type of position. Some dance companies hire judges full time and pay their traveling expenses. However, many companies hire judges under per event contracts. Some companies hire the same judges each year.

Education, Qualifications and Salary

Having experience in performing is usually a plus for becoming a dance competition judge. Dance instructors and dance coaches are usually good candidates since they are accustomed to evaluating and judging student performances.

  • You'll need to have knowledge of different genres, choreography, theatric productions, and dance techniques.
  • Impact Dance Adjudicators hire judges to work throughout competition season on the east and west coasts of America.
  • The USASF (US All Star Federation) provides Dance Category Judge Certification that includes mini-courses, training on genre skills and panel judge preparation.
  • The annual salary can average around $54K. A secondary part-time job will pay around $15K. Hourly rates range from $30 to $50 an hour. According to Indeed, most contractors earn around $200 a day.

Getting Started

Starting a profession dance career begins with many hours of dance lessons at a very early age. As with all sports-related activities, practice and dedication are key to honing your skills. A successful professional audition could open the door to a chance to try out for a dance or theater company or continue as a teacher.

Jobs in the Dance Industry