How to Become a Dancer or Choreographer
Most dancers begin training at a young age.
Education and training requirements vary with the type of dancer; however, all dancers need many years of formal training. Nearly all choreographers began their careers as dancers.
Education and Training
Many dancers begin training when they are young and continue to learn throughout their careers. Ballet dancers begin training the earliest, usually between the ages of 5 and 8 for girls and a few years later for boys. Their training becomes more serious as they enter their teens, and most ballet dancers begin their professional careers by the time they are 18.
Leading dance companies sometimes have summer training programs from which they sometimes select candidates for admission to their regular full-time training programs.
Modern dancers normally begin formal training while they are in high school. They attend after-school dance programs and summer training programs to prepare for their career or for a college dance program.
Some dancers and choreographers pursue postsecondary education. Many colleges and universities offer bachelor’s and/or master’s degrees in dance, typically through departments of theater or fine arts. The National Association of Schools of Dance accredits more than 70 dance programs. Most include coursework in a variety of dance styles, including modern, jazz, ballet, and hip-hop. Most entrants into college dance programs have previous formal training.
Some choreographers work as dance teachers. Teaching dance in college, high school, or elementary school requires a college degree. Some dance studios and conservatories prefer instructors who have a degree but may accept previous work, in lieu of a degree.
Work Experience in a Related Occupation
Nearly all choreographers began their careers as dancers. While working as dancers, they study different types of dance and learn how to choreograph routines.
Athleticism. Successful dancers must have excellent balance, physical strength, and physical dexterity, so they can move their bodies without falling or losing their sense of rhythm.
Creativity. Dancers need artistic ability and creativity to express ideas through movement. Choreographers also must have artistic ability and innovative ideas, to create new and interesting dance routines.
Interpersonal skills. Dancers and choreographers may find job opportunities by networking within their communities.
Leadership skills. Choreographers must be able to direct a group of dancers to perform the routines that they have created.
Persistence. Dancers must commit to years of intense practice. They need to be able to accept rejection after an audition and to continue to practice for future spots. Choreographers must keep studying and creating new routines.
Physical stamina. Dancers are often physically active for long periods, so they must be able to rehearse for many hours without getting tired.
Teamwork. Most dance routines involve a group, so dancers must be able to work together to be successful.
Some dancers take on more responsibility by becoming a dance captain in musical theater or a ballet master/ballet mistress in concert dance companies by leading rehearsals, or by working with less-experienced dancers when the choreographer is not present. Eventually, some dancers become choreographers.
Dancers and choreographers may also become producers and directors.