|Think you can dance for a career?
|By Jay MacDonald Bankrate.com
So you think you can dance? To make it as a professional, you're going to need talent, dedication, training and versatility, not to mention a solid plan B for stayin' alive after you hang up your dancing shoes.
Forget fame. Definitely forget fortune. Neither is
likely to be within your grasp unless you're a genetic match for
Rudolph Nureyev or the sibling of a single-monikered pop star.
"The vast majority of dancers cannot make a living
off of dancing alone as a performer," says John Munger, director
of research and information for Dance/USA,
an American dance service organization. "I believe less than 3,000
actually do in the entire nation."
By Munger's estimate, there are roughly 2,000 to 2,500
legitimate dance companies in the United States. Of those, just
150 to 200 have budgets of $100,000 or more, and only 20 have budgets
exceeding $1 million.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational
Outlook Handbook, 38,000 people worked as dancers or choreographers
in 2004. While even the BLS won't estimate average annual incomes
due to the wide variation in hours worked and length of employment
(from a day to a year), the median hourly earnings for a dancer
was $8.54; the lowest 10 percent averaged $5.87, the upper 10 percent
Choreographers and dance instructors don't waltz off with big bucks either, earning an average $33,670 and $34,090 respectively.
"It's not a profession where you say, 'I want to make
$70,000 a year, so I'll be a dancer," says Deborah Allton, eastern
counsel for the American
Guild of Musical Artists, the dance affiliate of the AFL-CIO.
Larry Rhodes, director of dance at The Juilliard School, agrees.
"In my experience, people in dance are never working
because they are looking for financial reward. They choose this
profession because they love it, they want and need to do it," he
says. "Dance is simply a part of their lives and to do without it
would be a great loss to them."
The good news is, the future for dancers is on the
up-kick in America; the BLS expects dance-related jobs to increase
by 9 percent to 17 percent through 2014. The bad news is, only the
most talented will make a living at it in this intensely competitive
So you think you can dance? You'll have to stay on your toes to tango your way through this unconventional profession.
Old dance, new steps
Munger says the ancient art of dance is actually a relative newborn
as a popular art form in America; the Ballet of the Metropolitan
Opera was formed in 1895, Martha Graham established the first American
dance company in 1926, and the ballets of San Francisco and Atlanta
followed in 1930. Of 405 dance companies he surveyed, less than
one-fifth (72) were founded before 1970.
America's current dance fever, fueled by the summer
TV hit "So You Think You Can Dance?" and the fall return of "Dancing
with the Stars," grew from a clever concept: combine professional
dance (dancer partners and choreographers from ballet, modern, contemporary
and hip-hop) with participatory dance (amateur dancing we all can
do, however clumsily) in an atmosphere of friendly competition.
Both shows actually teach a solid fundamental about
the dance field today that professional aspirants would be wise
to heed: If you want to win, be versatile.