What does it take to be a Professional Dancer?

What does it take to be a Professional Dancer?

Whether your speciality is hip-hop, tango, tap or ballet, a dancer uses movement and gestures to tell stories and captivate audiences. Dancers commit to years of learning, practising and perfecting their dance skills, to one day turn pro. But what exactly does a professional dancer’s career look like?


Key Responsibilities – The tasks a dancer is required to perform vary depending on the style of dance and their company and/or contract. However, before they even get a job/contract and in between jobs there is lots of hard work to be done and individual responsibilities can include:

  • Preparing for and attending auditions and casting sessions
  • Preparing for performances by rehearsing and exercising
  • Performing for live audiences, for television, film and music videos
  • Studying and developing individual unique choreography
  • Learning complimentary skills (such as acting and singing), in preparation for roles in musical theatre
  • Monitoring the health and safety of yourself and your fellow dancers (which requires knowledge of physiology and anatomy, as well as the safe use of equipment) this helps reduce the risk of injury.
  • Undertaking administrative, promotional or stage management work. Some touring companies may require you to uphold multiple roles so it’s handy to have extra skills in these areas. 
  • Self-promotion. This can include: sending out your CV, photographs and footage, delivering presentations, running dance workshops or attending auditions and meetings in an attempt to be recognised or hired by desirable companies or casting directors.


Working Hours – For professional dancers, hours tend to be long and unsocial. Training and rehearsals typically take place during the day, followed by evening performances when on contract.  After years of training at a high level dancers are used to these hours, and have spent most of their childhood in the dance studio so Friday & Saturday nights as well as weekends have always been taken up with dance classes, it’s all part of the fun.

The majority of dancers in Musical Theatre or in the Commercial dance industry work on a freelance basis, on short, fixed-term contracts.  Shows or contracts may run for 6 days, 6 weeks or even 6 months.  However, there are opportunities for full-time employment with dance companies mainly ballet or contemporary companies from right around the world. 


What to Expect

  • Many jobs are based in capital and major cities (i.e. Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney, etc.) however, there are also opportunities to join regional dance companies and organisations, as well as fantastic opportunities with touring companies
  • Dancers are required to practice daily (even when not performing) and must be able to pick up choreography quickly and adapt to new styles and routines.
  • A dancer’s career can be relatively short, seldom lasting beyond age 40. Injuries – particularly to the feet, back and legs – can affect the length of a dancer’s career. Therefore, maintaining physical fitness and career planning are vital.
  • Dancers who understand the importance of career planning often combine their professional dance role with teaching and administrative duties to stay in touch with the community and keep busy in between contracts.
  • National and international travel is a major part of a professional dancing career. This may necessitate frequent travel with your dancing company or organisation, or even permanent relocation for work. You can also expect lengthy stints away from home when touring. Cruise ships are an amazing way for dancers to travel and continue performing.  With more and more opportunities opening up for dancers on the high seas each year. 

Our team at Dance Desire are mainly ex professional dancers, so next time you’re in the store, please feel free to ask any questions you may have.

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