How to become a Dancer

Dancers are performers who entertain audiences by dancing as soloists, with a partner or as members of a group. There are many styles of dance, including ballet, contemporary, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, folk, jazz, ballroom and tap. Dancers may perform using a variety of styles, or they may specialise in one particular dance style.

Personal requirements of a Dancer

  • Discipline, dedication and perseverance
  • Physically flexible and well-proportioned
  • Good sense of rhythm
  • An appreciation of music
  • High-level technical and interpretive skills
  • Good general health and an ability to reach high levels of fitness
  • Good communication skills

Education & Training for a Dancer

To become a dancer you usually have to complete a VET qualification in dance. As subjects and prerequisites can vary between institutions, you should contact your chosen institution for further information. In many cases, a natural ability in dance is more important than formal qualifications. You can also become a dancer by completing a degree in arts, applied dance, creative arts or fine arts, with a major in dance, dance performance or a related field. To get into these courses you usually need to gain your Senior Secondary Certificate of Education with English. You may also be required to attend an audition or interview. Some courses offer intensive training for a performance career, while others qualify graduates to teach dance or provide a background that will enable graduates to take up other dance-related careers such as choreography and community arts work. A number of institutions in Australia offer degrees in these areas. Institutions have different prerequisites and some have flexible entry requirements. Contact the institutions you are interested in for more information.

Duties & Tasks of a Dancer

Dancers may perform the following tasks:

  • attend auditions
  • rehearse dance steps and movements under the direction and instruction of a choreographer
  • develop their own interpretation of a role
  • train daily to maintain or improve technical standards, fitness and flexibility, and to help reduce the risk of injury when rehearsing or performing
  • perform styles of dance as the company, project or choreographer requires
  • sing or act as part of a performance
  • apply their own make-up for performances
  • choreograph dance works or routines.

Working conditions for a Dancer

Most professional classical dancers have studied ballet from a young age. However, some modern dancers, particularly men, begin training as late as 16. Working as a dancer is physically demanding. Rehearsal and performance hours can be long and unpredictable.

Employment Opportunities for a Dancer

Employers of dancers in Australia include the Australian and state ballet companies, contemporary dance companies, independent choreographers, musicals, television studios and some opera companies. Opportunities to perform, teach choreography and manage dance projects also exist for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people trained in traditional dance styles. All performance positions require an audition and interview with the director of the company or project. Although some dancers are employed on a permanent basis with dance companies, many perform in small companies or as independent artists and acquire roles in shows or video clips that require their particular dance skills. Freelance dancers must audition for roles as they come up. Some dancers have agents who inform them of available auditions, but most look for audition advertisements or join the professional association, Ausdance. Competition for performance work is very strong. Accomplished dancers may teach once they have had sufficient experience and training. Skills in acting and singing, or experience in film and video production, may improve employment options. Many dancers progress to areas such as arts administration, theatre management, public relations, technical backstage work, production, wardrobe and costume-making.

Specialisations:


Choreographer

A choreographer creates original dances and dance programmes, offering suggestions as to how the dancer should interpret and perform them.


Community Dance Worker

A community dance worker works with communities to facilitate the expression of that group's ideas in dance.


Dance Teacher

A dance teacher may teach in their area of specialisation in private dance studios or run their own dance school. Dancers with appropriate qualifications can teach in secondary schools or tertiary institutions.


Dance Therapist

A dance therapist specially trained to use dance as part of a therapy programme. These programmes may be used with a wide range of people, including the elderly, children and adults with special needs or specific movement disabilities.

Additional Information
The Australian Ballet School and the National Aboriginal Islander Skills Development Association (NAISDA Dance College) conduct auditions in most states and territories for their diploma programs each year. See www.naisda.com.au for more information.
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