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
- Ballet Dancer
- Dance Artist
- Performing Artist
- Tap Dancer
Video: - Simone: Dancer
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
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
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.
Many dancers are self-employed.
Where are vacancies advertised?
Vacancies are advertised:
- on The Stage web site www.thestage.co.uk
- on the StarNow website www.starnow.co.uk
- on the The Mandy Network web site www.mandy.com
However, new entrants normally have to promote themselves by contacting promoters, agents, theatres and concert organisers.
Entry Routes and Training
Most professional Dancers have had dance lessons from an early age, with further training later. Many have passed a graded set of dancing exams.
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.
Previous experience gained in community dance troupes, cabaret, musical theatre shows and local amateur dance companies would be really useful for this career.
Some experienced Dancers move into choreography.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Dance and Drama Awards (DaDAs) are available to a limited number of talented dance and drama students each year.
Skills for the creative industries
Publisher: Creative & Cultural Skills
Creative & Cultural Skills
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Get into Theatre
Arts Council England
Tel: 0845 3006200
Arts Council of Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland Enquiries
Tel: 028 9038 5200
Tel: 020 7379 6000
Tel: 0141 2482472
Federation of Drama Schools (FDS)
Tel: 020 7529 8794
Council for Dance Education and Training (CDET)
Tel: 020 7240 5703
National Resource Centre for Dance (NRCD)
Tel: 01483 689316
One Dance UK
Tel: 020 7713 0730
Tel: 01 8558800
Tel: 046 9557585
National Theatre Wales (Welsh Enquiries)
Tel: 029 2035 3070
Address: Third Floor, 1 Cathedral Road, Cardiff, CF11 9SD
Tel: 029 2039 7971