Dancers and Choreographers Career Description


Dancers and choreographers use dance performances to express ideas and stories.

What they do

There are many types of dances, such as ballet, tango, modern dance, tap, and jazz.

Dancers typically do the following:

  • Audition for a part in a show or for a job within a dance company
  • Learn complex dance movements that entertain an audience
  • Rehearse several hours each day to prepare for their performance
  • Study new and emerging types of dances
  • Work closely with instructors, choreographers, or other dancers to interpret or modify their routines
  • Attend promotional events, such as photography sessions, for the production in which they are appearing

Dancers spend years learning dances and perfecting their skills. They usually perform as part of a group and know a variety of dance styles, including ballet, tap, and modern dance. In addition to traditional performances in front of a live audience, many perform on TV, in videos on the Internet, and in music videos, in which they also may sing or act. Many dancers perform in shows at casinos, in theme parks, and on cruise ships.

Choreographers typically do the following:

  • Put together moves in a sequence to create new dances or interpretations of existing dances
  • Choose the music that will accompany a dance routine
  • Audition dancers for a role in a show or within a dance company
  • Assist with costume design, lighting, and other artistic aspects of a show
  • Teach complex dance movements
  • Study new and emerging types of dances to design more creative dance routines
  • Help with the administrative duties of a dance company, such as budgeting

Choreographers create original dances and develop new interpretations of existing dances. They work in dance schools, theaters, dance companies, and movie studios. During rehearsals, they typically demonstrate dance moves, to instruct dancers in the proper technique. Many choreographers also perform the dance routines they create. Some choreographers work with performers who are not trained dancers. For example, the complex martial arts scenes performed by actors in movies are arranged by choreographers who specialize in martial arts.

Work Environment

Dancers may rehearse several hours each day to prepare for their performance.  Some dancers work in performing arts companies or are self-employed. Choreographers may work in dance schools, and others may work as self-employed choreographers.

How to become a Dancer and/or Choreographer

Education and training requirements vary with the type of dancer; however, all dancers need many years of formal training. Nearly all choreographers began their careers as dancers.

Many dancers begin training when they are young and continue to learn throughout their careers. Ballet dancers begin training the earliest, usually between the ages of 5 and 8 for girls and a few years later for boys. Their training becomes more serious as they enter their teens, and most ballet dancers begin their professional careers by the time they are 18.

Leading professional dance companies sometimes have intensive summer training programs from which they might select candidates for admission to their regular full-time training programs.

Modern dancers normally begin formal training while they are in high school. They attend afterschool dance programs and summer training programs to prepare for their career or for a college dance program.

Some dancers and choreographers pursue postsecondary education. Many colleges and universities offer bachelor’s and/or master’s degrees in dance, typically through departments of theater or fine arts. As of March 2016, there were about 75 dance programs accredited by the National Association of Schools of Dance. Most programs include coursework in a variety of dance styles, including modern dance, jazz, ballet, and hip-hop. Most entrants into college dance programs have previous formal training.

Some choreographers work as dance teachers. Teaching dance in a college, high school, or elementary school requires a college degree. Some dance studios and conservatories prefer instructors who have a degree; however, they may accept previous work in lieu of a degree.


The median hourly wage for choreographers was $22.27 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $10.48, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $48.90.

Job Outlook

Overall employment of dancers and choreographers is projected to grow 6 percent from 2019 to 2029, faster than the average for all occupations. However, projected employment growth varies by occupation.

Employment of dancers is projected to grow 2 percent from 2019 to 2029, slower than the average for all occupations. Many of the new jobs for these workers are expected to be in private dance schools. Employment in performing arts companies, the largest industry employer of dancers, is projected to go down.

Employment of choreographers is projected to grow 14 percent from2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. However, because it is a small occupation, the fast growth will result in only about 800 new jobs over the decade. Most of these new jobs are expected to be in private dance schools, the largest industry employer of choreographers.

Similar Job Titles

Ballerina, Ballet Company Member, Ballet Dancer, Ballet Soloist, Belly Dancer, Company Dancer, Dancer, Latin Dancer, Performing Artist, Soloist Dancer, Artistic Director, Ballet Director, Choreographer, Dance Director, Dance Maker, Musical Choreographer

Related Occupations

Art, Drama and Music Teacher-Postsecondary; Middle School Teacher (except Special and Career/Technical Education); Talent Director; Music Director; Recreation Worker; Actor; Self-Enrichment Education Teacher; Umpires, Referees and Other Sports Officials; Musician-Instrumental; Tour Guides and Escorts

More Information

The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field.  Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas.  As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.

Magazines and Publications



Video Transcript


Like poetry in motion, dancers use movement and rhythm to create performances that express ideas, emotions, and stories… whether they use the language of ballet, hip-hop, or ballroom dance. Dancers spend years learning dance technique and movements, and must maintain their conditioning and skills continuously throughout their career. They need to be ready at any time to audition for a show, and have the stamina to rehearse several hours each day for performances. Learning skills are also essential, to pick up complex choreography, and study emerging forms of dance. The rigors of dance takes a toll on the body, so injuries are common. Many dancers stop performing by the time they reach their late thirties, and may move into choreography, directing, or teaching. Dancers work in dance schools, theaters, performing companies, TV or movie studios, at casinos, on cruise ships, and at theme parks. When on tour, dancers have long workdays, rehearsing most of the day and performing at night. Self-employment, and part-time dance work is common. All dancers need many years of formal training; many start when they are young —ages 5 to 8 for ballet— and continue to learn throughout their careers. A later start is typical for some dance styles. Teaching dance in a college, high school, or elementary school requires a bachelor’s degree. Dance studios and conservatories’ requirements vary; some require a degree, while others may accept work experience.


Whether it’s a school recital or a professional performance, dancers follow a carefully orchestrated sequence of moves. The artists who create those sequences are called Choreographers. Typically, choreographers are experienced dancers themselves. Some may have gone to college to earn fine arts degrees. Whether through education or years of practical experience, it is important to have a good knowledge of musical theory and techniques. Even with formal training, writing down a dance sequence is a difficult process. For this reason, many choreographers prefer to demonstrate the steps themselves. Rehearsals can be grueling, demanding coordination, flexibility and stamina. However, not all choreographers, especially as they get older, are physically capable of fully performing the sequences they design. Therefore, they need to be able to express their ideas to other dancers so they can properly execute the choreography. Part of the job involves auditioning dancers. You will be expected to be able to make decisions, even if it means disappointing hopeful candidates. Choreographers find work in dance companies and studios. They are also hired for the theater, movies, music videos and school programs. While these positions are steadily available, competition is intense. But if you have the passion and the talent, as a choreographer, you can help put poetry into the motion of dance.

Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH,
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