October 1, 2013 by Nicole
At some point, every dance student asks themselves “what happens next?” You know you love dance and maybe you’re already sure you want to make it part of your professional life, but what are your options? Particularly if you’re not interested in pursuing a performance career?
There are many ways to a career in dance, often starting with a personal passion for the art form and taking off from there. Some require specific skill sets, experiences and/or exposure, while others can require a degree or advanced study. There’s no way I could list every single possible career opportunity or break down every possible pathway into them…but I’ve always found it helpful to break things down into more manageable sections when facing overwhelming questions.
With that in mind, here are 5 larger categories I found when researching possible career opportunities in dance: Performance/Production, Education, Arts Management/Administration, Media and Medicine/Therapy.
This one may seem like the most obvious – for the most part, careers in this category are what we think of when we think “professional dancer”. Performing and performances are at the heart of this category and include dancers who are paid to perform, as well as the choreographers and any consultants (brought in to stage, coach and/or rehearse a piece). These artists could be employed by ballet or other dance companies, cruise ships, theme parks, TV & movie studios, touring companies/productions, and freelance opportunities.
Branching out from there, this category also includes all those responsible for the performance elements like costuming and production design. Perhaps you grew up sewing your own Halloween costumes…companies require seamstresses as well as costume designers to create and execute their designs. Or maybe you’ve always enjoyed dancing, but you’re really interested in pursuing sound design and mixing as a trade. Those skills can be put to use within the world of dance as well.
This one may be a little more out of the box than you think. Of course, dance schools need teachers….but so do colleges, universities, K-12 public and private schools, community/recreation centers and private individuals. Requirements to teach vary, but most public K-12 institutions will require a Bachelor’s degree as well as certification to teach. Colleges and universities may require advanced degrees, depending on your experience.
If you’re a big brother/big sister to young dancers around you or have found that you really enjoy mentoring, this could be a career avenue that keeps you dancing and connects you with your passion for helping the next generation of artists.
These tend to be career areas where you can blend your passion for dance with other skill sets and fields of study. You could be an Executive Director, the Artistic Director, Ballet Mistress or Studio Manager for a dance school/company or an Arts Council Director, responsible for promoting and supporting all kinds of artistic endeavors in your community.
This area is a great fit for students who intend to graduate college with a 4-year degree. Concerned that your school doesn’t offer an Arts Management degree or you’re not comfortable majoring in Dance? That’s ok. Arts management and administration also covers jobs like public relations managers, booking agents, grant writers, social media/bloggers, press manager/spokesperson or even the business manager for a dance company, convention, competition, etc.
It is absolutely possible to combine your personal passion for dance with your education, whether that’s English, Communications or if you got your MBA. In an interview scenario, you’ll just need to be able to relate your skill set with the job at hand.
I felt this one deserved a mention as a category of its own, but it also has a lot of overlap with some of the career opportunities I listed in Arts Management & Administration. While there’s been much discussion & hand-wringing about the fate of journalism in general, there are still ways to earn a living writing about dance. That could mean as a reviewer for a paper – local or even the New York Times – or as a feature writer for a national magazine like Dance Magazine, Dance Spirit Magazine or Dance Track Magazine, just to name a few. All of those publications also have their own social media accounts, websites and/or blogs, which require content/writers. It’s a niche market, but opportunities do exist.
This is another professional field that will typically require an advanced degree. Dance Medicine and Dance Therapy are fields of study that can be applied in a wide variety of settings. Dance Medicine is usually found under the Sports Medicine specialty and is focused on enhancing the overall health and well being of dancers, as well as injury prevention and rehabilitation. They typically work in private practices and/or in conjunction with universities and other research centers.
We’re not the only ones who believe dance is for everyone. Dance Therapy is an approach to stress management, improving self-esteem and body image, communication skills, problem solving among a multitude of other goals patients may be working toward. Dance/movement therapists may work in schools, private practices, nursing homes, counseling centers, psychiatric and/or rehabilitation facilities, wellness and alternative care centers and many other settings.
Again, there’s no way I could anticipate every single way to find yourself a career in the dance world…I’ve found in my own experience that sometimes you carve the path and sometimes it just appears in front of you. But I think it’s encouraging and comforting to know that even if you don’t want to perform forever, there are opportunities to stay professionally connected to the dance world in ways that are meaningful to you.
What out of the box opportunities did I miss? What career paths are you interested in pursuing?