If you’re been pirouetting since you were a preschooler and look forward to each new season of Dancing With the Stars or So You Think You Can Dance, you may be in prime form to make dance a career option. Dancers aren’t required to pursue postsecondary education to live out this particular dream—in fact, many are already turned pro by the time they’re 18 after longtime training—but others strive for a bachelor’s (and even a master’s) degree to increase their exposure to different dance genres, make contacts, and learn more about movement and choreography.
What do dance majors study?
If you do go the dance major route, expect to take courses in contemporary dance, choreography, dance theory, the history of dance, ballet, dance notation, and specialized classes in a variety of dance techniques from around the world. You’ll approach the topic of dance from a variety of angles, including the physical, cultural, aesthetic, scientific, even the religious, offering you a well-rounded overview of the subject that you love.
Where you can dance is almost as varied as the types of dance you can do.
Ballet, jazz, modern dance, hip-hop, Broadway—whatever your personal style is when it comes to how you move, there’s a dance form for you to pursue. And you may end up under the spotlight as a member of a touring dance troupe or performing arts company, an entertainer on a cruise ship or at a theme park, a cast member in TV or film productions, or a performer in an educational group, such as an organization that travel to schools to teach children about dance.
You can carve out a decent niche with the right positioning.
It’s true that dancing isn’t known for guaranteeing a big paycheck, unless you become a principal dancer or otherwise well-known performer. And many worry that once they’re past a certain age, their earning ability will decrease as their body starts to slow down and not be able to move like it used to. But there are many different ways, with additional training, to parlay your dance background and education into other roles (some well-paying) that will put your skills to good use after your dancing feet start to slow down, including:
- Artistic director
- Dance therapist
- Arts educator
- Dance company owner or manager
- Theater manager
- Marketing/promotions professional for a theater or dance company
You likely won’t work a traditional 9-to-5.
As a professional dancer, many of your performances will likely take place in the evenings. Of course, not all do, and you’ll still need to carve out time to practice or audition during daylight hours, but if you’re a night owl or someone who thrives on a nontraditional schedule with staggered hours (three hours one day, eight the next), this might prove an exciting career path for you, where every day is different from the last.
It’s a career that can pay you back not only in cash, but in health benefits.
While others may end up in careers where they’re sitting in front of a computer all day, you’ll constantly be on the move—and as long as you don’t overdo it or suffer injuries, that can offer huge advantages for your health and well-being. You’ll likely enjoy improved heart and lung function thanks to the aerobic exercise, better muscle tone, a healthy weight, and increased flexibility and coordination, among other benefits. This type of activity can offer mental perks, too, such as enhanced brain functioning, a boost in self-confidence, and better spirits overall.
You may have the chance to travel.
It depends where you end up dancing, but many dance companies end up taking the show on the road, both around the US and even internationally. The same applies to cruise ship performers. On your off time, you’ll have the chance to explore new cities and meet new people—a definite plus over being stuck in a cubicle if you’re an extrovert with a taste for adventure.
It’s a rare chance to have a creative outlet that also offers a paycheck.
Dance is a form of expression, and those who are passionate about dance would be doing it whether or not they were getting paid for it. But why not earn a salary while you’re doing what you love? So many people can’t claim that. A career in the dancing industry, whether as a dancer or in any of the related careers you can pursue with a dance major, will likely leave you feeling inspired and fulfilled.