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Performing arts

Dancer

Dancers use movement to perform for live audiences or in recorded performances.

Annual Salary

variable

Average UK salary in 2019 was £30,378
(source Office for National Statistics)

Working hours

28 to 30 irregular

You could work: evenings / weekends / bank holidays; away from home

What's it all about?

Day to day tasks

You’ll specialise in a form of dance, like:

  • classical ballet
  • contemporary dance
  • modern stage dance, like jazz, tap, and musical theatre
  • African or Asian dance
  • street dance

You’ll spend time:

  • rehearsing
  • preparing for and going to auditions
  • going to dance classes
  • promoting yourself and finding work

Working environment

You could work at a TV studio, on a cruise ship, in a hotel, in the community, at a film studio or in a theatre.

Your working environment may be physically demanding and you may spend nights away from home.

You can get into this job through:

  • a university course
  • a college course
  • applying directly
  • specialist courses run by private training organisations
University

You'll usually need a degree or diploma in professional dance or musical theatre. These take 2 to 3 years to complete and are offered by dance schools and universities.

Academic qualifications may not be essential if you show enough talent at audition.

You could get a Dance and Drama Award to help with fees and living costs.

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

  • 2 to 3 A levels, or equivalent, for a degree
  • to pass an audition
For more information
College

There is no set entry route to become an dancer but it may be useful to do a relevant subject like:

  • Level 2 Technical Certificate in Performing Arts
  • Level 3 Extended Diploma in Performing Arts - Dance

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

  • 2 or more GCSEs at grades 9 to 3 (A* to D), or equivalent, for a level 2 course
  • 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, for a level 3 course
For more information
Volunteering and work experience

Dancing is very competitive and you'll need to develop your skills by getting as much practical experience of dancing as possible. You could do this through:

  • amateur dance clubs
  • college and university dance societies
  • student dance festivals and competitions

This can also help to put you in touch with people in the dance profession, who could be useful contacts when looking for work.

Direct application

You can apply directly to become a dancer, if you have a high level of training and ability in at least one form of dance.

Other routes

Most professional dancers start taking dance classes from a young age. You can take graded exams from awarding bodies like:

More information

Career tips

Classical ballet dancers start training very young, usually at 10 or 11 years old. It's possible to make a career in contemporary dance if you start at a later age, if you're prepared to work hard and put in a lot of training.

Professional and industry bodies

You could join One Dance UK and Equity for professional development and to make industry contacts.

Further information

You can find out more about becoming a dancer from:One Dance UK; Council for Dance, Drama and Musical Theatre

You can also get more details about working in creative careers from Discover Creative Careers.

With experience, you could move into choreography or dance teaching.

Skills required and how your skills match up

What skills are required?

You'll need:

  • the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure
  • knowledge of the fine arts
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • persistence and determination
  • ambition and a desire to succeed
  • the ability to use your initiative
  • physical skills like movement, coordination, dexterity and grace
  • physical fitness and endurance
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • to be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device
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