Career Guide


Uni Compare  · Nov 30th 2021

Can’t stop moving your feet or feeling the rhythm when any piece of music comes on?


Well, being a dancer sounds like the right thing for you to pursue! It’s a fantastic career for talented individuals who are obsessed with all things dance. It offers a real chance for you to express yourself with body movement and non-verbal communication. Sound perfect? Read our guide below for everything you need to know!

Dancer Career Guide

What is a dancer?

The dancer job description reveals to us it’s a role that tells a story through performance, by entertaining, informing or engaging the audience. Having talent, determination, and a strong work ethic is vital for a dancer who wants to make their hobby a career. Dancers use movement, body language and gestures to portray a character, tell a story, bring a situation to life or show an abstract concept. In most cases, they will dance to a piece of music, with or without lyrics, and interpret the work of a choreographer, but in some instances, they’ll need to improvise. If you want dancing to be your career, you’ll need to work in a variety of genres, from ballet and contemporary dance to modern stage and street dance. Learning other styles, like African and Asian dance, will help your prospects in auditions. There are also opportunities within the television, film and music industries.

How to become a dancer?

What qualifications do you need to be a dancer? First of all, if you’re looking to enhance your dance artist CV, particular things can make you stand out from the crowd - and in this career competition is fierce. Having dance work experience is critical, the more shows you’ve been featured in, the better, whether that is at school, college or university level or through a dance group, you joined outside of learning.

All these experiences can help you perform that number, particular style or choreography. In the means of dance qualifications in the UK, there are various options. Most dancers, whether they’re backing dancers or street dance actors, began from a young age, especially ballet. Many others start their journey in their teenage years or while at university, so don’t feel that you’ve missed the boat if you weren’t strapping on your ballet shoes as a toddler.

West End salary can be around £570 to £700 depending on the size and popularity of the performance

Casting directors look for a high level of training in at least one form of dance, and it’ll depend on the style of the job, i.e., modern stage dance, classical ballet, contemporary dance, African, Asian, or street dance. Most choose to train in more than one area as they can complement or inspire moves and transitions in a performance, so don’t think you only need to do one. Dance qualifications in the UK are offered in dance colleges or programmes in non-specialised institutions.

The Council for Dance, Drama and Musical Theatre (CDMT), the national standards body of the industry, provides information on colleges offering vocational training, some of which offer undergraduate and postgraduate-level degrees. Ensure your course is highly-valued within the sector or is accredited by the CDMT to receive proper training and support. You can study courses in ballet, contemporary dance, commercial, music theatre, jazz and street. Most qualifications last around three years and vary in style and aims, therefore research each one thoroughly before applying.

After training, most CDMT-accredited institutions offer the Trinity College London Professional Performing Arts Diploma in Professional Musical Theatre or Professional Dance at levels 5 and 6. Dancers can convert the level 6 diploma into a BA Professional Practice in Arts at Middlesex University after completing a conversion course.

The conversion course, which usually takes a year, allows individuals to dance professionally while completing a portfolio and project. Other universities offer dance degrees or courses which include dance, but may also study the theory behind the skill and other performance-related modules.

Another option is to apply for dance apprenticeships in the UK at either universities or dance studios. These apprenticeships may be competitive, and you should showcase your best styles and level of training through auditions and showreels. Through the scheme, you will learn various styles of dance, increase your ability and talent and spend time working as a backing dancer in performances or supporting shows.

Dancer Career

How to become a professional dancer?

Studying and training in dance as well as having substantial dance work experience is not the only thing you need. Dancers deed to be flexible - not just physically - determined and hardworking. You’ll need to practice every day, even when you haven’t got a performance for that evening, and be able to learn quickly.

A professional dancer’s career can be short, down to talent, skill, injury or through being able to keep up with the fast-paced and sometimes devastating industry. It’s a career that is highly rewarding, and most dancers do it down to the love of the arts, but it isn’t easy. Due to the exhausting nature of the job, physical fitness and planning is crucial in case an injury occurs - which is common to feet, legs and the back, and could impact a performer’s career.

Many dancers teach part-time to make a living if they do not have a steady number of roles through auditions, others choose to work for regional dance groups, tours or work on cruise ships and in holiday parks on a seasonal basis. The dream may be for West End dance opportunities, but you’ll need to be at the top of your game and be willing to audition more than once to obtain that goal. It’s highly competitive, and you may not get that call back the first time round.

The best preparation for a dancer career involves attending auditions and casting sessions, rehearsing for performances, keeping fit, having practice for performing for TV, film and music productions and studying and creating choreography.

Having talent, determination, and a strong work ethic is vital for a dancer who wants to make their hobby a career.

Having other related skills like acting and singing can help you book that role in musical theatre or casting looking for multi-disciplined individuals. Performers may look after costumes and equipment as well as have basic knowledge of health and safety and first aid, in case there is an incident or injury on stage or in rehearsal.

You should also be personable and have strong communication skills for networking within the industry. Whether that be to leave a good impression with a casting director or to promote yourself on social media, be polite and memorable, so they want to book you again.

What qualifications do you need to be a dance teacher?

Most dancers teach after a career in the performing arts, either through starting up a dance school in the community or teaching at established institutions. For this, you’ll need to have experience with choreography, production, dance teaching and possibly theatre work depending on the role or performance.

Dance teachers can work with performers of any age, from toddlers to teenagers who are working towards their big break. You’ll need to be able to choreograph dances and offer support for their relevant age and their abilities.

To teach at university or college level, you’ll need a professional qualification or evidence of a professional dancing profile - some providers ask for both. To establish yourself privately, you can undergo a teacher training qualification at dance schools which combine the two. When parents and young performers are looking for local dance teachers they search for someone with experience and knowledge in the style that interests them, so you can either choose to be specialised or offer the styles you know.


What skills are useful for dancers?

What qualities do you need to be a dancer? Dancer jobs, as different as each audition can be, require many of the same talents from potential candidates. From creativity and resilience to confidence and discipline, it doesn’t matter what job you’re going for; they’re all classed as benefits. Dancing skills, whether it is knowledge of a particular dance or being able to work with one or more other dancers, are typically demonstrated in auditions and showreels.

Casting directors will look for motivation, physical fitness, stamina, self-belief and how well you communicate through your body. Dancers should be adaptable across various disciplines, like TV, film and theatre, listen and follow instruction, and be able to work as part of a team. Being able to network and promote your current job is vital to the dancer career as self-promotion is key to helping you secure more roles.

How much do dancers get paid?

The trade union for performing arts, Equity, has established a minimum weekly dancer salary with the Independent Theatre Council (ITC). For commercial theatre dancing jobs in London, the pay can be between £360 to £500, depending on the capacity of the venue. Wages may differ in regional areas or smaller productions.

West End salary can be around £570 to £700 depending on the size and popularity of the performance. Performers in film work can earn about £800 per week, or as high as £2,000 depending on the film budget, the individual’s experience and the role. Wages can be supplemented by accommodation and travelling for touring dance shows. Earnings for non-Equity work can be lower and is set by the individual companies themselves; some may offer substantially lower wages or none at all.

A dance teacher salary depends on whether it is at a university or dance school, or if you are self-employed. Institutions will set their pay grades, and if you run an independent dance group, you can select your rates.

It’s a career that is highly rewarding, and most dancers do it down to the love of the arts, but it isn’t easy.

Where to find work as a dancer?

Firstly, you can search for dance jobs abroad if working overseas is a big goal for you, from cruise ships, holiday reps to a touring dance show. You can look for a dance advert on job boards at your local university, online or at theatres and dance halls. If you’re searching for specialist roles, like club dancer jobs, it’s best to look within companies who are putting on performances for these events or to approach the club itself.

Try auditioning for performing dance jobs in London as there are a lot of opportunities in the city. Other options are to respond to ‘dancers needed’ adverts in cabarets, music theatres and community dance organisations. When applying to ensure your CV has recent experience and examples of where and who you danced for. Showreels should be updated regularly to reflect your ability as well as the styles where you have extensive knowledge and skill.

Private dance schools look for qualified dance teachers, as well as schools, further education colleges and higher education providers. Sometimes local authorities and the four Arts Councils employ dancers and dance officers. You can also earn by running workshops for the community, teaching dance, working on dance promotion and development or by undertaking administrative or stage work between auditions.

What are the prospects for a dancer?

There is no structured career progression for a dancer, but most start as dancers or alongside performance and then move into a related area. Many move into teaching - either in the public or private sectors and run dance classes or set up a franchise with a health and fitness club. Others may progress to choreography, by starting as an assistant choreographer and then choreography or work as a dance notator.

Individuals may enjoy writing about dance or working on the logistical side and administrative tasks of a dance organisation. Some dancers work as dance movement psychotherapists after studying a Masters qualification. This type of therapeutic process helps address issues and allows individuals to develop through dance and movement. In contrast, others may move away from dancing totally and begin a new career.

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