Graduates with a degree in dance customarily receive their degree as part of a normal bachelor’s degree program or as a major in a fine arts degree program. There are a host of careers for graduates deriving their degree in dance via either route, most of them interesting and demanding. Performance centered careers for graduates with a degree in dance may be somewhat concentrated in urban areas with performance venues. But the many other careers for graduates with a degree in dance are scattered throughout the country. If dance is your passion and you are a graduate with a degree in dance you are half way home to establishing yourself in a career that is dance related.
Performing Many graduates with a degree in dance began their course of study starry eyed with dreams of becoming the next diva to hit the New York Ballet. Somewhere in their undergraduate days many of those who eventually become graduates with a degree in dance recognize the stiffness of the competition and the scarcity of positions and opt to use their dance knowledge without ever performing again. But others, perhaps more talented, more tenacious or just plain more stubborn decide to try their luck, at least initially in landing that performance career that they have always dreamed about.
The fact is there are performance jobs for graduates with a degree in dance. Naturally you will need more than a piece of paper or the degree it announces to land a performance job. You will need ability and competitive amateur experience. Every year musical theater performances on and off Broadway engage hundreds of professional dancers to fill their cast. Professional dance troupes, theater companies, movie companies and dance companies all are comprised of trained, skilled dancers. An amazing number of dance performers find work on cruise ships, at amusement parks, in nightclubs and in independent entertainment venues. Graduates with a degree in dance are not guaranteed to land any of these jobs, but the fact that you have spent four or more years preparing for a professional position and that you can certify this work with a degree in dance certainly will gain the attention of the hiring authorities. Still the reality is in the performance world you must be able to back up your credentials with solid technique and performance skills.
If you are fortunate enough to be hired to dance professionally your career as a graduate with a degree in dance is only just beginning. The major drawback for dancing professionally is that your career years are necessarily limited. Your ability to hold a performance job can depend on your ability to stay in top physical and dancing shape and to maintain your youthful looks. But the rewards for graduates with a degree in dance who actually get a chance to work as performers are , according to the testimony of those who have made it, worth every bit of energy expended. The pay, the exposure, and the sheer joy of dancing before a live or movie audience are things that some graduates with a degree in dance would never trade.
Choreographer While some graduates with a degree in dance know that they can never be happy unless they perform there are others who because they are more realistic , less gifted or simply have different dance related skills recognize early on in their training that they don’t want to perform they want in a sense to “direct” the dancing that will take place. In the dance world this effectively means that some graduates with a degree in dance feel drawn to a career in choreography.
Certainly there are some graduates with a degree in dance who do both, they dance and they do their own choreography. Some graduates with a degree in dance begin as dancers and then as years pass and they become a little less limber they segue into second careers in choreography. Some graduates with a degree in dance decide that they simply enjoy the directing more than the performing and chose choreography from the start.
Those who work as choreographers need of course to be skilled in dance, need to know what dancers are capable of doing but they also benefit from a strong musical and theater background. This allows them to blend the steps and moves they know as graduates with a degree in dance with the music and the dramatic themes that are being used in a given production.
In terms of total numbers of available careers for graduates with a degree in dance what applies to theater applies to dance. Just as you need fewer directors than you do actors, there is less demand for choreographers than for dancers. The upside is that the graduate with a degree in dance who lands a choreography job is likely to land a much bigger pay check than the dancer who appears in only one or two numbers of a performance.
Dance Teacher There is some truth in the adage “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.” Certainly some undergraduate dance students will have a major encounter with competitive reality while pursuing a degree in dance. Recognizing their own personal performance limitations may drive some students into the arms of a totally different major or it might just convince them to pursue a career as a graduate in dance in a non-performance occupation. Other dance teachers come from the ranks of graduates with a degree in dance who knew from the first day they attended their own ballet class as a pre-schooler that what they really hope to do one day was to become a dance teacher and possibly own their own studio.
Looking across the country in small towns and large cities, dance studios for girls and boys flourish now as perhaps never before. Graduates with a degree in dance who enjoy working with children can find a career as a full time dance instructor working with individuals and groups from ages as young as two through to young adult dance enthusiasts. More and more dance studios and performing arts centers offer programs during the school year and dance camps during the summer providing graduates with a degree in dance year round employment.
The current craze over adult dancing classes has also opened up career opportunities for graduates with a degree in dance who like to teach but prefer adult students. Whatever your specialty, ballroom, square dancing, line dancing or all of the above you will find a ready and waiting clientèle in almost every state in the nation.
Salaries and benefits accruing to dance teachers and studio owners is to a large degree dependent upon the student pool or the involvement of other sponsoring agencies like municipal arts associations. Possessing a degree in dance from an accredited college or university provides the graduate with a bargaining chip when salaries are being negotiated.
Dance Therapy Dance involves the fully coordinated use of arms, legs body and muscles but it also calls upon the dancer to be creative, to let their body express feelings and emotions. Because it involves so many human aspects dance is frequently a powerful tool used by specialists for both physical and emotional therapy.
There are an increasing number of careers available for graduates with a degree in dance who choose to use their professional knowledge of dance to assist others in using dance to build coordination skills, overcome emotional difficulties or simply to grow as fuller, happier children or adults. While some additional training in therapy techniques may be required, graduates with a degree in dance can approach a career in dance therapy with confidence.
Dance Critic There are even careers for graduates with a degree in dance who happen also to have well developed skills or professional training in writing. Just as magazines and newspapers employ theater or music critics , in metropolitan centers many publications also employ dance critics. Who better to critique dance performances or the dance aspects of musical theater than someone who is a graduate with a degree in dance. Such critics, while they may occasionally offer comments reflective of personal tastes, can be relied upon to substantiate their opinions on the basis of their degree in dance and the professional training for which that degree was awarded.
Writing about dancing of course is a step further away from dancing itself. But a career as a dance critic allows a g graduate with a degree in dance to continue to connect directly with the world of dance and perhaps to enrich or explain that experience to others who have no such background.
From the time children are coordinated enough to move arms and legs together, dancing is a part of our human existence. We dance for joy. We embrace those we love in dance. We see our human emotions played out in the dancing of others. For graduates with a degree in dance, Shakespeare was right “all the world is a stage” there are careers for graduates in dance all over the world. l