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Job Photographs

  • A female dancer is doing the splits, while a male dancer looks on.

    It is important to warm-up effectively.

  • A woman and man are facing each other at the side of a theatre stage.  The man is gesticulating.

    Receiving guidance from the Ballet Master.

  • A blurred shot of a male and female dancer against a bright red background demonstrates their movement.

    Lighting and music help give life to a rehearsal.

  • A woman is sitting on the floor, looking through the pages of a well-filled binder.

    Doing some research into the role being performed.

  • A woman and man are at the side of a theatre stage.  The woman is performing a dance move, while the man observes.

    Using the Ballet Master's guidance to help develop a move.

  • Numerous male and female dancers are performing on a stage.

    Dancers often perform as part of a group.

  • Two male dancers are rehearsing a move against a bright blue background.

    Dancers perform together in any number of combinations.

  • Dancer

  • Dancer

Dancer

Introduction

As a Dancer you will move your body to music, to interpret a character or story for your audience, or simply to entertain. You may specialise in a particular type of dance, such as classical ballet, contemporary dance and modern stage dance.

Also known as

  • Ballerina
  • Ballet Dancer
  • Dance Artist
  • Performing Artist
  • Tap Dancer

Video: - Simone: Dancer

Work Activities

As a Dancer you will perform in a range of settings, from theatres to nightclubs, hotels to holiday centres, cruise liners to Christmas pantomimes.

Many professional Dancers have had dance lessons from an early age. They usually learn several techniques, and then specialise in one area.

Because you use movement to tell a story, you must be able to interpret the music and choreography effectively. Sometimes you will do some research into your role, to help you understand the character you are portraying.

You might need to be multi-talented, sometimes using acting or singing skills during a performance. Your performances can be in a group with other dancers or as a solo or duet role.

You will spend a lot of time rehearsing. You'll also exercise regularly, so that you are fully fit at all times. While on tour, you will stay in temporary accommodation and may spend weeks away from home.

Whether working or not, you'll spend hours practising and learning new steps. Sometimes, you might rehearse for two shows - the one in production currently and the one following - as well as performing in the evening.

Some Dancers combine their work with teaching, notation, choreography or dance therapy.

Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.

Personal Qualities and Skills

As a Dancer, you need to be:

  • Physically fit and agile.
  • Versatile, with a good sense of rhythm.
  • Extremely committed and determined.
  • Self-confident and able to take rejection.

You should have:

  • Good concentration skills.
  • The ability to remember complicated steps and routines.
  • The commitment to get through long, sometimes painful, practice sessions and rehearsals.

Some dance styles, such as classical ballet, have specific physical requirements.

Pay and Opportunities

Pay

Salaries for Dancers vary depending on the type of dance and the company you are with.

Equity, the performers' union, recommends minimum wage levels for all types of Dancer.

Details are available on their website www.equity.org.uk.

The pay rates given below are approximate.

Dancers in a contemporary dance company can earn around £23,000 a year. Those working in theatres, clubs and so on, can earn around £340 - £500 a week, depending on where they are employed.

Many dancers face long periods without work. To help, you may be able to claim benefits. Take a look at our information article on Universal Credit to see if you might qualify.

Hours of work

In theatre, dancers sometimes perform two shows a day (matinee and evening). Dancers in film and television sometimes have to do early starts, late finishes, weekend work and work on public holidays.

Where could I work?

Dancers work in theatres, clubs, holiday camps, and on cruise ships. Some work in film and television.

Opportunities for Dancers occur at venues in towns, cities and leisure resorts throughout the UK.

Self-employment

Many dancers are self-employed.

Where are vacancies advertised?

Vacancies are advertised:

However, new entrants normally have to promote themselves by contacting promoters, agents, theatres and concert organisers.

Entry Routes and Training

Entry routes

Most professional Dancers have had dance lessons from an early age, with further training later. Many have passed a graded set of dancing exams.

Training

There are some specialist dance schools, which train talented young dancers. These schools often develop skills in dance, singing and acting as a general preparation for a career as a performer.

Ballet schools offer specialist training, with the ultimate aim of joining an adult ballet company. Only a few entrants are successful.

A list of full-time accredited dance schools/colleges offering training courses is available on the Council for Dance Education and Training (CDET) website. Most courses run for three years, with entry by audition.

After qualifying, most people audition for jobs with dance companies or shows.

Some Dancers become performers after completing an academic course that contains elements of performance training. Dance and performing arts degrees can develop dance potential, but these courses are not primarily intended as training courses for performers. Aspiring dancers should consult their dance teacher.

Work Experience

Previous experience gained in community dance troupes, cabaret, musical theatre shows and local amateur dance companies would be really useful for this career.

Progression

Some experienced Dancers move into choreography.

Qualifications

Entry requirements vary between dance schools - check their websites very carefully. There will usually be an audition and interview. Potential performance ability, physique and personality are more important than exam passes.

However, useful subjects to study include dance, drama, music, performing arts and biology. It is also useful to get as many academic qualifications as possible, should your dancing career not work out (due to injury, for example).

A BTEC level 2 or Level 3 qualification in dance, or performing arts, will help you to stand out from the crowd.

Adult Opportunities

Age limits

It is illegal for any organisation to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits.

Experience

Most successful dancers have taken lessons from an early age.

Relevant skills and abilities can be gained in community dance troupes, cabaret, musical theatre shows and local amateur dance companies.

Courses

Some forms of dance training, such as contemporary dance, are available for talented adults.

Many colleges and dance schools relax entrance requirements for applicants with substantial paid or unpaid dance/movement experience.

Funding

Dance and Drama Awards (DaDAs) are available to a limited number of talented dance and drama students each year.

Further Information

ScreenSkills

Skills for the creative industries

Email: info@creativeskillset.org

Website: www.creativeskillset.org

Creative Choices

Publisher: Creative & Cultural Skills

Email: info@creative-choices.co.uk

Website: www.creative-choices.co.uk

Creative & Cultural Skills

Skills for craft, cultural heritage, design, literature, music, performing arts and visual arts

Email: london@ccskills.org.uk

Website: ccskills.org.uk

Get into Theatre

Email: info@getintotheatre.org

Website: www.getintotheatre.org

Creative Scotland

Scottish enquiries

Email: enquiries@creativescotland.com

Website: www.creativescotland.com

Arts Council England

Tel: 0845 3006200

Website: www.artscouncil.org.uk

Arts Council of Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland Enquiries

Tel: 028 9038 5200

Email: info@artscouncil-ni.org

Website: www.artscouncil-ni.org

Equity

Tel: 020 7379 6000

Email: info@equity.org.uk

Website: www.equity.org.uk

Equity (Scotland)

Scottish enquiries

Tel: 0141 2482472

Email: scotland@equity.org.uk

Website: www.equity.org.uk

Federation of Drama Schools (FDS)

Tel: 020 7529 8794

Email: info@dramauk.co.uk

Website: www.dramauk.co.uk

Council for Dance Education and Training (CDET)

Tel: 020 7240 5703

Email: info@cdet.org.uk

Website: www.cdet.org.uk

National Resource Centre for Dance (NRCD)

Tel: 01483 689316

Email: nrcd@surrey.ac.uk

Website: www.surrey.ac.uk/library/nrcd/

One Dance UK

Tel: 020 7713 0730

Email: info@danceuk.org

Website: www.danceuk.org

Dance Ireland

Irish enquiries

Tel: 01 8558800

Email: info@danceireland.ie

Website: www.danceireland.ie

Ballet Ireland

Irish enquiries

Tel: 046 9557585

Email: anne@balletireland.ie

Website: www.ballet-ireland.com

National Theatre Wales (Welsh Enquiries)

Tel: 029 2035 3070

Email: info@nationaltheatrewales.org

Website: nationaltheatrewales.org

Equity (Wales)

Address: Third Floor, 1 Cathedral Road, Cardiff, CF11 9SD

Tel: 029 2039 7971

Email: wales@equity.org.uk

Website: www.equity.org.uk

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