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Making Dance

Becoming a Dance Professional

Options & Ideas for Getting There

Have you attended a dance performance you can't forget? Do you love to dance and hope to make it your career? If you want to become a part of the fascinating world of professional dance, read on!

Planning and perseverance are needed to make a successful transition from high school student to working professional in dance. There is a lot to discover about training and career options. This section provides ideas and information to help you prepare for a future in dance.

Career Options in Dance

There are many ways to pursue a professional career in dance. Perhaps you see yourself negotiating the challenging life of an independent modern dance artist. Or you hope to become a dancer in a large ballet company with year-round employment. For some, the desire to choreograph surfaces early on, while for others it comes after first being established as a performer.

Beyond the roles of dancer or choreographer lie a vast array of opportunities you may not have even thought about pursuing. You might discover a gift for teaching, a talent for arts management or community animation, or a desire to be your own boss and operate a private dance studio. Theatre production and creation jobs like stage management and costume and lighting design are also possible career choices that can involve dance.

As you gain knowledge of new possibilities and experience with how the professional world operates, you may find your current interests and plans evolve. A person determined on a career as a dancer may realize that a different path (perhaps in dance therapy) is better suited to his or her personality and life goals.

Bear in mind that many professional dancers enter into second careers after their performing days are over; therefore, some of these other ideas may be useful later in life. The Dancer Transition Resource Centre (DTRC) is an organization that, among other things, assists dancers with retraining within and outside of the dance profession. Through on the MOVE, an annual conference on career planning, the DTRC also helps to welcome and educate emerging artists as they enter the world of professional dance. Another service offered is access to a network of dance professionals who are part of a mentorship program to help with the transition into a dance career.

Get Involved Today

There is no doubt that a career in the often-competitive world of dance involves hard work and determination. It is equally certain that many different paths can lead to success. That is why it's important to keep an open mind to new dance possibilities and to cultivate a healthy curiosity about all aspects of the art form. Whether you've trained from a young age or have more recently discovered dance, you need to be as creative and flexible in your thinking as you aim to be with your body.

Even before you graduate, expand your horizons by discovering the range of what's on offer in your community and beyond:

  • Attend as many dance performances as you can and keep an eye out for television documentaries and films on dance. Read about dance in newspapers, magazines, books and on the web.
  • Broaden your skill base. Discover new ideas and approaches by trying classes with a different teacher taking classes with different teachers. Explore other dance forms, too. If you're a hip hop or jazz dancer, gain skills by taking classes in ballet or bharata natyam, and vice versa.
  • Training in yoga and martial arts can provide excellent grounding for a career in dance. Some dancers start their interest in movement through gymnastics or other athletic pursuits.
  • Take advantage of any dance training your high school has to offer, either within the physical education program or through noon-hour and after-school clubs. Try something new, like music or drama, to round out your performing skills.
  • You can never have too much performance experience. If there's a youth ensemble in your area, such as the Canadian Children's Dance Theatre in Toronto, find out when auditions are held. Auditions are great experience! Make your own opportunities for performance, too.
  • Don't forget about summer programs. They are wonderful opportunities for exploring different kinds of dance, for experiencing intensive technical development and for networking. Many schools and companies offer them, so call around or visit the websites of companies you admire to see who offers what. You may even decide to travel to a different city or country to attend a summer intensive workshop.

Build a rich background of knowledge to help you come into your own as a young artist or other dance professional.

After High School

What about after high school graduation?

If you're eager to join a company as a dancer, you may decide to enter a conservatory-style or pre-professional school where you'll concentrate on developing technique and performance skills. Or you may want the academic credentials earned by studying dance at a college or university. Having a degree can really help if plans change and once the notoriously short career of a dancer ends.

Before making a decision about what's right for you, spend some serious time doing research. If you're searching for the right conservatory or university, keep the following in mind:

  • What is the focus and objective of the program?
  • What is the program curriculum?
  • What diplomas or degrees are offered and how long does it take to earn them?
  • What facilities, such as studios, gyms and change rooms with showers, are there? Is there access to computers and other technology?
  • What is the background of each faculty member?
  • Who are the guest artists?
  • What kinds of performance opportunities are there?
  • What have alumni gone on to accomplish?
  • Where is the school located? You may want to study close to home to save on travel and living expenses, or residing in another city or country may be exactly the stimulation you crave.
  • Be clear on admission requirements and costs.

Remember to begin the application process well in advance of audition and interview dates, which take place months before the course starts.

Useful Links

Below are some useful links to consult as you consider your options after high school. Look for the opportunities that fit your needs - the ones that will help you follow your dreams.

Pre-professional contemporary dance programs in Canada:

Serious ballet students will want to check out:

Canadian universities and colleges offering dance programs :

In Québec, post-secondary education starts at a cégep (collège d'enseignement général et professionel). Here are a few with dance programs:

A list of cégeps from across Québec can be found on the Fédération de cégep's site

The Banff Centre in Banff, Alberta has an Aboriginal Dance Training and Performance Program, as well as professional ballet programs.

Provincial funding bodies that assist with post-secondary education:

To spark your imagination, here are a few options for attending a school outside of Canada:

For resources on training in the United Kingdom, visit the Council for Dance Education and Training

A list of university dance programs in the United States

Summer programs in the United States include:

Many dance festivals around the world run workshops, and offer training opportunities. Search for more information on Dance Festival website

Career Resources: