Unless your child was dancing "Swan Lake" at age 7 and doing summer camp at ABT as a tween, most people think of a dance major as a path to unemployment - or a gig in Las Vegas. But contrary to those arts major misconceptions, there are many career paths and jobs open to dance majors, whether they're into ballet, hip hop or Tommy Tune. Dance majors bring a wealth of workplace skills besides pointe work and jazz hands to the table. The very nature of their training translates to strong communication and non-verbal skills, problem solving skills and teamwork. They're organized, detail oriented and highly disciplined. And they know the arts world inside and out.
Performance is the obvious career path for dance majors, and the list of arts organizations hiring dancers these days goes far beyond New York's Lincoln Center or Las Vegas' Bellagio. Every arena of the entertainment world, from MTV music videos to cruise lines and theme parks, employs dancers, not just ballet companies and Broadway theaters. But a quarter of the dance-related jobs out there are in choreography, an area that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects to see grow by an astonishing 24% over the coming years, fueled by pop culture interest in music and dance. Some dancers go into a specialized field of choreography and become dance notators, recording and preserving choreography and repertoire for the future, using Benesh or Laban notation methods, which take special training.
And some dance majors parlay their knowledge of the arts world into a job in arts management or arts administration, running operations, finance or the marketing arms of existing arts organizations. They may manage other dancers or performers, or handle press for them, or build and run websites for dance or arts organizations.
Arts administration jobs typically require bachelor's degrees, whereas performance jobs value experience and training over diplomas, although getting a bachelor's or Master of Fine Arts degree from a highly respected performing arts school not only increases one's skills and experience, it's also invaluable in networking.
Dance is not a field that commands large salaries, though. Arts organizations are typically non-profits and wages reflect that. For performers, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics put the median salary at $15.97 per hour in 2010, and noted that they had one of the highest on-the-job injury rates. Professional dance companies offer slightly better wages. In 2008, for example, dancers at New York City's Joffrey Ballet earned $829 per week for the 38-week season, or $31,500 per year. The Houston Ballet paid $1,036 per week for a 44-week season, or roughly $45,600.
Want all these tips wrapped up in a tidy "Top 15 Jobs for Dance Majors" list? Here you go:
- Dancer in a major arts organizations, such as a ballet company, opera house or musical theater company
- Choreographer for those same organizations
- Notator to preserve the choreography and repertoire for those companies
- Dancer in a large-scale theme park or Las Vegas production, or smaller productions on a cruise line
- Dancer for music videos and commercials
- Choreographer, trainer or coach for music videos
- Marketing and public relations for a dance company
- Web design and social media management for a dance company
- Grant writing, development and finance for arts organizations
- Artist management and representation
- Arts facilities operations
- Special events planner for a ballet company or arts organization
- Dance teacher at a dance studio or school
- Dance or movement therapist
- Sports trainer or Pilates instructor