What Does A Dancer Do?

"I would like to become a professional dancer someday. Can you please give me an idea as to what their typical day is like? What do dancers do?"

asked by Harriett M. from Bartlesville, Oklahoma

Professional dancers use the movement of their bodies to tell a story or express an idea. They portray different steps depending on the type of dance being performed. While some dancers specialize only in one particular type of dance such as ballet or jazz, most are adept at performing all kinds of dances, ranging from tango to tap to modern.

Dancers usually start learning the art and science of dancing early on. Most ballet dancers start training as early as five years old. This does mean that they already have dancing in mind as a career when they grow older. It is only much later, when they realize how fun dancing is and how passionate they have become in honing their craft that they decide to go professional.

A good portion of the day in the life of professional dancers is dedicated towards rehearsing. They have to perfect their steps and move with grace without stumbling or falling. Dancers are prone to injuries because of the nature of their job but staying fit and exercising regularly minimizes the risk that they will land on the wrong foot and suffer an ankle injury.

Freelance dancers often have to do a lot of auditioning for jobs. Through their knowledge of the industry and their contacts, they watch out for upcoming stage productions, musical performances, television shows, advertisements and movies where dancers are needed. They then attend auditions and wait for callbacks to see if they are able to get the role.

Dancers who are fortunate enough to work for performing arts companies may not have to audition as much. They may find themselves traveling for a good part of the year if they have shows that are set to be performed in different parts of the country. Some may even travel internationally. Those who are employed at theme parks, casinos and cruise ships may have to perform in the evenings because these are usually the times when shows are scheduled.

It’s an accepted fact in the dancing industry that no one grows old to become a dancer forever. Old age or one serious injury is all it takes for a professional dancer to lay his or her dancing shoes to rest—on the performing stage, at least. The good thing is that retired dancers are still able to find jobs in schools and other firms as teachers or choreographers. The work is not as physically demanding because they only teach forms and moves to new dancers or choreograph a set of movements for a show. They also audition new dancers for a production.

Some dancers go on to start their own dance studios. When they run their own business, they also do non-dance related tasks such thinking of ways to get more students to enroll, deciding on the tuition to charge, arranging the schedules, deciding if there is a need to hire more teachers and managing the books.

Career Spotlight: Dancer

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