Dance ED Tip #113: Providing Career Advice for Your Dancers

October 06, 2020 - Sarah Horne

The world needs dance artists even when it doesn’t know it or show it. As teachers and studio owners, we know that having a career in dance can be difficult but certainly not impossible. That said, besides developing talent and working on technique, there is a third part to being in the dance industry that we usually dismiss: building sustainable skills.

Careers in dance can take many forms. This article is to help promote positive career growth in dancers and to encourage them to develop their skills in areas surrounding dance. Why? Because this will make them more intelligent artists as well as desirable employees in the future workplace!

3 Tips to Encourage Positive Career Paths

Dancers can build a sustainable career in the dance industry, no matter their level or ability. And how is that possible? Because there are so many versions of success on top of different types of career paths. This mentality isn’t always considered in our industry, so here are a few ways we can help change it:

1. Think Like an Entrepreneur

Dancers are inherently creative people and this is a skill that is extremely useful across all careers and life paths. They are also inquisitive, intelligent, and hyper self-aware. They question their surroundings and find an optimal path forward -- this is an entrepreneurial mindset that dancers can capitalize on. Encouraging students to see opportunities and find solutions in their dancing can translate into the same thought-process/habit in the “real world”.

2. Find a Way to Develop Your Skills

Besides being in the studio to hone their dance skills, what else are your students interested in? Where else do they like to be? Who are they outside of the studio? Do they love writing or are they great with people? Those skills can become tangible assets once developed and paired up with their passion for dance. At the same time, their love of dance can help influence their career choice... It all depends on the goals of the student. Internships are wonderful opportunities and can help students see if a certain career path is right for them! If it makes sense for you, considering creating a work study program or mentorship program at your studio (i.e. a program that works one-on-one with students to understand the behind the scenes work of running a studio or writing class lessons).

3. Always Consider Yourself a Student

The more we consider ourselves lifelong students, the more fulfilled we are. There is always going to be something new to learn, no matter how good we are at something, so it’s important to spark the love of learning in students. The willingness to learn will only become an asset for them throughout their lives.

Careers in Dance that Dancers Should Consider

There are obvious career choices for dancers like performance, choreography, direction, and education. However, there are more obscure parts of the dance world that dancers should know about, especially if they love dance but their goal isn’t to be on the stage, or they want to fall back on something after a performance career! The descriptions below are short and sweet but include many areas that students can consider:

Marketing 

Jobs in marketing include areas like social media, graphic design, ticket sales, subscription services, advertising, branding, and audience development. If you have a keen eye and are an organizational wizard, consider these career options.

Development

Fundraising areas like individual giving, grant writing, corporate sponsorships, and special event planning fall under the category of development when working at a large company or performing arts institution.

Programming

If a student has an eye for curating, developing themes, and showcasing talent, and also has great event management skills and likes to develop artist relationships, then this is a fun area to work in.

Agency Work

Booking agencies are the bridge between artists and the stage. If students like advocating for others and knowing the ins and outs of a production, then this is for them.

Health Sciences/Bodywork

Physical therapy, dance therapy, massage therapy, yoga and pilates instructors, and other popular fields like these are led by natural movement enthusiasts. If your students like to know the anatomy of, as well as the benefits behind, movement, then this is an exceptional field to be a part of.

Lighting, Stage Design, Costuming and Tech

“Lights, Camera, Action” isn’t just a saying. Performers wouldn’t be what they are today without the behind-the-scenes folk making every production possible. If your student likes a supporting role and is good with their hands or tech - this one’s for them!

Many of the areas above are essential in keeping performing arts centers, arts agencies, and companies thriving. These workplaces also understand the pivotal role artists play and will likely create flexible schedules for artists that are also arts administrators!

 

Let’s encourage our students to find career paths that keep dancing close. Just because they don’t want or can’t have a performance career doesn’t mean they have to leave the industry!


Sarah Horne is a guest speaker, artist, consultant and arts administrator. She is also an unrelenting optimist dedicated to the contemporary dance field! She received her BFA in Dance from SUNY Brockport and her MA in Performing Arts Administration from New York University. Sarah has worked with, and consulted for, organizations like New York City Ballet, NYU’s Skirball Center, Gibney Dance Center, and Cadenza Artists. She has an unusual combination of experiences and skills that gives her a unique perspective on living a life in dance. She is the founder of RahDanceWorks (rahdanceworks.com) and co-founder of Role Call: A College Admissions Guide for Dancers (rolecallprep.com), a great place where students can begin to find the right level of higher education for themselves, whether they want to pursue dance in college or just use their dance experience to apply to school.

She has two free upcoming webinars that may be of interest to studios/dancers:

Get a Performance Ready Mindset: Audition Prep for Dancers An Interview with Dancer and Peak Performance Coach, Megan Levinson Saturday, October 10th at Noon (EST) Link to Register

For Dancers: A Walk through the College Admissions and Audition Process A Webinar with Role Call Co-Founders, Suzanne Jeffrey and Sarah Horne Tuesday, October 20th at 2pm (EST) Link to Register