Development Series, RA Dance Blog

Development Series: Turning Dance into a Job

For many people dance is seen as a hobby. You go to class once or twice a week for a bit of fun or exercise. It’s nothing more than an hour or two of escape from daily life. But for others this hour each week may turn into a passion that could only be satisfied by increasing the number of hours you spend on it. Once you’ve honed your skills you then even feel inclined to become part of the dance world full-time. This would mean finding a way to turn dance into your job. During this post I’ll outline a few ways in which you can make this possible.

As with many sectors of entertainment there will always be those who don’t think having a job in the arts is sustainable. While this may be true for some, you won’t know this unless you try. One of the most important reasons why it becomes unsustainable, is through injury. So I encourage that for all of these job roles you look after your body appropriately in order to keep you dancing for longer.

Performer – If you’re passionate about dance and love being on stage as a dancer this is a good role for you. Within this role you can work with many experienced choreographers or on shows that you really enjoy. But this role does require a lot of stamina and so is often occupied by those who are young and have a lot left to give. One of the best ways of getting into this side of dance is to be where the dance happens. For us in the UK this tends to be London. Being in the city gives you much more excess to auditions, classes and workshops. The best bit of advice for this role, is to go to everything you can, even if you don’t think you’d want the job if they offered it to you. By going to auditions you’re getting in more practise and can learn to become a better candidate by watching others that go through, if you don’t. Even if you don’t think you need to become a better audition-ee, you could think of the audition as a class and the more classes you get into the more connections you’ll build up. Even if you don’t get the job that time, years down the line they may be in contact about another opportunity. Stay hopeful and make sure that the jobs you do take pay you well, because working for free will not help you pay your bills, especially if you are in London. This role can be versatile, if you want to travel, try and find a touring company or cruise ship that are hiring that way you’ll be able to be paid while traveling.

Choreographer – To become a choreographer you need to have strong ideas that the public enjoy watching. I think the best way to do this is to initially form a company of like minded dancers who enjoy performing your work. For many that go into this role from further study the first piece they tour is their dissertation, so make sure it really explores your movement style and it’s something you are proud of. Being able to also organise your company will also help as you’ll be able to be in control of the finding the funding and knowing how much you have available. Which in turn will inform you about which ideas are feasible given the funding you’ve received. For this role determination and dedication are definitely key characteristics to have, as it may take you a while to become established as a choreographer and feel comfortable in the role.

Teaching – Being a teacher you need to have the skills to engage with an audience on a more personal level, and have enough knowledge about your style to correct your dancers and inform them about how to improve. While there isn’t a set qualification you need to start teaching dance, there is a number of qualifications you could get that would prove your experience, more will be covered in a future post. Again with this role it’s about taking what you can before you’re in a position to say no to opportunities or openings. Everyone wants teachers to have experience before they start teaching, which is a tricky position to be in. Emailing or calling around asking to shadow dance teachers in the area is a good way to start, they may even see potential in you and want to take you on as a teacher in your own right. With teaching they’ll be a mix of roles you’ll need to fulfil from admin to choreography and understanding these before you make a full time commitment will be essential.

There are also a number of roles that don’t directly see you dancing but are related to the dance world; Arts Management, Physiotherapy, Theatre Administrator, are just a few. I urge anyone with a passion for dance to go onto further study in order gain a wider appreciation for the roles out there as well as being able to gain the skills needed for employment in the long term.

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